New York Theatre: 1st IRISH FESTIVAL (Origin Theatre Company)

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by Frank Arthur on December 28, 2020

in Film,Theater-New York,Theater-Regional,Virtual


New York’s Origin Theatre Company is bringing you a three-week celebration (Jan. 11-31, 2021) of contemporary Irish culture with its 13th Annual 1st Irish Festival, the world’s only festival dedicated to showcasing the work of contemporary Irish writers. There are 20 virtual events, which include: Filmed theatrical productions from some of the most acclaimed theatre companies, in both New York and Ireland; cutting edge films, documentaries and theatre created by Irish artists in New York and Ireland during the pandemic; and one-of-a-kind panel discussions featuring Irish artists, experts and cultural leaders in unique fields and areas of interest. Taking over from Festival founder George C. Heslin), the festival this year is co-curated by two of New York’s leading Irish theatre figures, actors Michael Mellamphy and Sarah Street. At the Welcome Party Live on Zoom (Mon Jan 11 at 3pm ET), you will meet notable Irish theater artists from around the world. For tickets ($5, films, to $10, plays), visit the Festival’s Calendar page.

Eva O'Connor in Mustard. Photo by Jassy Earl.


Mustard: Produced by the great Fishamble company in Dublin, Eva O’ Connor’s solo play about heartbreak, madness and how condiments are the ultimate coping mechanism.

The Scourge: Written and performed by Michelle Dooley Mahon, adapted from her autobiographical novel, this deeply affecting one-woman play chronicles the personalities and history of an ordinary Irish small-town family slowing losing their mother to Alzheimer’s. Directed by Ben Barnes.

The Gifts You Gave to the Dark: Directed by Caitríona McLaughlin, and written specifically for digital media in reaction to the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis, Darren Murphy’s story is of a man in Belfast on his last call with his mother in Dublin.

Michelle Dooley Mahon in THE SCOURGE. Photo by Carol Rosegg

Under the Albert Clock: Origin commissioned five of Northern Ireland’s most inventive female playwrights (Emily Dedakis, Gina Donnelly, Sarah Gordon, Fionnuala Kennedy and Alice Malseed) to write five monologues for women inspired by Belfast’s iconic landmark, the Albert Clock, and to imagine their stories taking place in the year 2050. The Lyric Theatre in Belfast produced the new works as a collection of radio plays this past summer.  

Transatlantic Tales: About Face Ireland in Dublin produced this series of eight original plays written to be performed live on Zoom, each pairing actors in Ireland and the United States. Featuring many familiar faces on either side of the Atlantic the project made fast friends across an ocean while providing striking evidence of both the cultural connections and disconnects that have always characterized Irish-American relations.

Stay Home and Stay Safe: Origin also commissioned these new short plays by four distinguished Irish playwrights — Geraldine Aaron, Honor Molloy, Derek Murphy and Ursula Rani Sarma — exploring the topic of domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kevin Collins and Darina Gallagher in Transatlantic Tales.


Spa Weekend: In Maureen O’Connell’s hilarious road comedy, a down on her luck actor desperate for a break, goes down her list of friends and finds that no one is available to celebrate her birthday and go camping. Her only taker is an old actor friend she hasn’t seen in a while who is equally down on his luck and who finds her promise of a “spa weekend” to be very enticing. Little does she know that her friend is not just available for a getaway, but he’s being followed by his drug dealer/landlord to whom he owes a year’s worth of hash and rent money.

Maureen O'Connell and Steven Neeson in Spa Weekend.

Misty Button: After being asked to place a $10,000 bet on a race horse, James and Eoin make the fatal mistake of pocketing the money.  The two Irish emigrees face a crisis when Misty Button comes in and wins at 35-1. Seanie Sugrue wrote and directed this feature film.

Scene from Misty Button.

The Devil’s Doorway: The riveting story of two priests sent by the Vatican to investigate a miraculous event in an Irish home for “fallen women.” What they uncover is much more horrific than they ever imagined. Utilizing found-footage techniques writer/director Aislinn Clarke‘s 77-minute feature, set in 1960, recreates the real-life horrors of the infamous Magdelene Laundry, a forced labor home for homeless and indigent girls that, like many similar borstals and orphanages, created a living hell for its residents, often under the direction of the Church.

 The Devil's Doorway (2018)

A Fragile Peace: Inside Brexit and Belfast: A new documentary short film in an advance screening at 1st Irish.  Writer/director Rory Duffy‘s film, narrated by Sarah Street, follows a local farmer, a politician from Derry and two young political activists as they navigate through the uncertainty of Brexit.  The screening is followed by a talk-back hosted by NYU historian John Waters at Glucksman Ireland house with actors John Duddy and Geraldine Hughes, and writer Colin Broderick.

The Burning of Cork: This doc, written and directed by Conal Creedon, marks the centennial of a monumental event in Irish history, which took place on Dec 11, 1920, by telling the story of that fateful night and the events leading up to it.

The Burning of Cork archival photo.

To the Western World: The US premiere of Margy Kinmonth’s fascinating dramatized documentary reconstructs a journey made by John Millington Synge and Jack B. Yeats when they were sent to document living conditions in Western Ireland for the Manchester Guardian. Their article, which appeared in 1905 and written before either man had achieved notoriety in their respective artistic fields, reported on the “Congested Districts,” the barren, overpopulated and most poverty-stricken stretches of Connemara. Full of insight, remarkable people and captivating stories, the original articles disappeared in the newspaper’s archives after publication. Filmed on location in the district itself, something of a ruin drained of its population by continuous emigration, the production features an exceptional cast and is narrated by John Huston. Followed by a panel talk produced by the noted theater writer and curator Turlough McConnell.


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