Brown University News Bureau

The Brown University News Bureau

1998-1999 index

Distributed March 24, 1999
Contact: Glenn Hare

Brown theater to offer première of sharp Irish drama in April

A sharp new play will have its première at Brown University April 15-18 and April 22-25 in Leeds Theater. An Irish Play is the story of seven amateur actors who come together to read a new drama by an American writer, during which old rivalries are re-ignited and jealousies come to a head.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- A biting and sometimes witty new drama will have its première at Brown University when the Department of Theater presents An Irish Play April 15-18 and April 22-25 in the Leeds Theater of the Catherine Bryan Dill Center for the Performing Arts, 77 Waterman Street.

The production is set in a community pub-theater in Cork City, Ireland, where a group of amateur actors convenes to read a new play by a mysterious American author. As the troupe struggles toward an understanding of the enigmatic play, bitter rivalries re-ignite, old jealousies come to a head and family secrets are revealed.

Written by Dan O'Brien, a Brown graduate student in the creative writing program, the play captures some of his experiences while living in Ireland.

"A couple years ago I received a fellowship to conduct research in Ireland. I had proposed to write a play on Brian Boru, a high king of Ireland who ruled from 1002-1014 and was killed during the legendary battle of Clontarf. My project was called `Playwright's Quest for Brian Boru,'" said O'Brien. "But once in Ireland, by way of research, I drank a lot, acted some, and generally felt very lonely. The one place I felt at home was a pub-theater in Cork City, much like the setting of this play. My friends at the theater were always asking me, `How's your Irish Braveheart coming?'"

When I came home after a year, I realized that my Brian Boru play had little to do with my experience in Ireland," O'Brien said. "So I chucked that one and began a new play about some actors in present-day Cork, getting together one night to begin rehearsal of a play about Brian Boru, written by a well-meaning but mostly clueless American playwright.

"It's a pointedly funny and sharp production with rich dialogue and some powerful dramatic turns that showcase the ebb and flow of Irish life and the effects of American culture in Ireland," said director John Emigh, professor of theater and English.

"It should also be noted," adds Emigh, "that being set in an Irish pub-theater, the play has strong language and is not intended for children."

An award-winning playwright, O'Brien has received recognition for his work from the American Theater Critics Association, for his play Lamarck. He is the winner of the 1996 National Student Playwriting Award and also a writer of fiction and poetry. O'Brien's work is featured in the Doubletake/Norton anthology, 25 and Under: Fiction.

According to Emigh, who has taught at Brown since 1967, this production is the first time that a play written by a MFA student has been fully produced as a part of the faculty directed season. "Although the faculty has staged dramas by former students, annually sponsors student production of new musicals, and has in the past worked with the Program in Creative Writing to present stripped-down versions of new plays in festival form, this is a first for us."

Tickets are available at the Dill Center Box Office: $13 for the general public, $9 for senior citizens and Brown employees and $5 for students. Box Office hours are Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and one hour before each performance. For more information or to make reservation, call (401) 863-2838.