Origin Theatre Co. to Host International Spring Benefit, 6/4

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Origin Theatre Company kicks off its twelfth season of producing the American premieres of plays by emerging European playwrights at its annual spring benefit on Wednesday June 4, at 6:30pm. Hosted by Mutual of America, 320 Park Avenue, the evening features a smorgasbord of international pleasures, including an appearance by the cast of "The International," rollicking musical entertainment, and appearances by a colorful cross-section of local and visiting theatre luminaries, business leaders and supporters of the arts.

The evening honors Noel Kilkenny, Ireland's popular outgoing Consul General in New York (and his wife Hanora), and David P. Michaels, president of the Foreign Press Association.

Participating in the celebrity auction are Irish late-night television star Ryan Tubridy; Downton Abbey stars Brendan Coyle, Lesley Nicol; author Malachy McCourt; and Game of Thrones Aidan Gillen, among others.

Since arriving in New York in 2010, Noel and Hanora Kilkenny have demonstrated a commitment to the arts and artists that goes well beyond the pro-forma. "They care deeply about our community," says Origin artistic director George C. Heslin. "They are passionate, well-informed and persuasive promoters of Irish contemporary culture. What loyal friends of the arts they are!" Kilkenny's career in foreign affairs has included postings in Holland, Bosnia, London, Estonia, Moldova and Washington DC.

A native of the U.K., David P. Michaels is the newly elected president of the Foreign Press Association, which represents approximately 400 members of the foreign media based in the United States. He is also the founder and president of Humanity Without Borders, an educational foundation that acts as a catalyst for opening new doors and initiatives for conflict resolution, and defusing racial, religious and cultural hatreds.

"We are very pleased that our own growing Origin community, focused as we are on fostering dynamic cultural exchanges between Europe and America, has the opportunity to celebrate such a dynamic and thoughtful proponent of healthy, meaningful communication between people from different parts of the world, and also among neighbors," Heslin says.

In addition to cocktails and a buffet, attendees will get to sample many non-edible delicacies, including a short excerpt from "The International," Tim Ruddy's praised-to-the-skies new drama about the collateral effects of ethnic conflict. Cahir O'Doherty of the Irish Voice calls it, "the most philosophically engaging and accomplished Irish drama I have seen in years." Incidentally, Origin is in talks to bring back the production, which is directed by Christopher Randolph, and which TheaterMania.com calls "a small, disturbing masterpiece" in the fall.

As he did last year, Origin honorary patron Brendan Coyle (Downton Abbey's Bates) will anchor its celebrity auction, volunteering two prizes: Lunch with Bates in London, and Dinner in New York with Mister Bates. (Origin's other honorary patron is the actor Niall Toibin.)

In addition, Coyle's Downton Abbey cast-mate Lesley Nicol, who plays Mrs. Patmore, promises to enjoy a fun afternoon tea with a winning bidder at New York's own Tea and Sympathy when she's here in New York in the fall.

Game of Thrones star Aidan Gillen (Littlefinger) hosts a private night on the town in Dublin touring his favorite pubs. Another knock-out auction prize is a private training session with the Irish boxing star-turned-actor John Duddy. Beloved actor, activist and author Malachy McCourt hosts a dinner for four in New York.

Including "The International" 43 European playwrights have been introduced to US audiences by Origin, including such distinguished writers as Enda Walsh ("Once"), Mark O'Rowe ("Terminus"), and Lucy Caldwell. Origin produces the annual Origin's 1st Irish Festival, the city's only all-Irish theatre festival, in September. For tickets, which are $200, or to bid online visit www.origintheatre.org.

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