1st Irish Festival Begins Tonight

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The third annual 1st Irish, New York's only all-Irish theatre festival, kicks off tonight as two of the festival's 15 mainstage productions - "Absolution" and "Three Irish Widows versus the Rest of the World" -- begin their runs. Coordinated by the New York-based Origin Theatre Company, the four-week festival features plays, panel discussions and special events in 13 theatres and arts and culture-related venues across the city. Over 300 writers, actors, designers and stage managers from here and abroad take part in the festival's 26 separate cultural, educational and social events. Among the prominent local non-profits presenting in the festival are 59E59 Theaters (two productions), The Irish Repertory Theatre (two productions), The Mint, The Flea, The Irish Arts Center, Manhattan Theatre Source (two productions) and PS 122 (two productions).

The festival's jury, a panel of six distinguished writers and theatre professionals, will honor the outstanding performances and achievements of 1st Irish 2010. Included in the group are: Raphael Martin, the literary and humanities manager of Soho Rep; Scott Watson, a communications and marketing consultant for the arts who is a former executive producer of the Dublin Fringe Festival; the Irish theatre blogger and arts columnist Kate Kennon; producer Christina Kirshbaum; the writer, curator and producer Turlough McConnell, and Sean Noonan, an executive at Mutual of America, who serves as that company's liaison to New York's professional theatre.

At an awards ceremony on the festival's closing night, Monday October 4, the jury will present the awards for Best Actor and Actress; Best Director; Best Design; Best Overall Production, and a Special Jury Prize offered to an individual or company that contributed significantly to the festival. This year festival audiences will choose the Best Play for the first time, in voting that takes place on line on the festival's Web site www.1stirish.org The Awards Ceremony (location to be announced), will be open to the public.

Of the 16 plays being presented, seven are U.S. premieres, and two are world premieres. The U.S. premieres include a forgotten Irish classic, "Wife to James Whelan," currently at The Mint; "Absolution" by the Perrier Award-nominated Owen O'Neill, at 59E59 Theaters; "Exit/Entrance" by Aidan Mathews, also at 59E59 Theaters; "The Holy Ground" by Dermot Bolger, at Manhattan Theatre Source; "Trans-Euro Express" by Gary Duggan, at Irish Arts Center; the site-specific "This is What We Sang" from Belfast's Kabosh Theatre Co., and Tall Tales Co. (from Navan Ireland) brings "Hue and Cry" by Deirdre Kinahan to The Irish Repertory Theatre. The festival's world premieres include "The Prophet of Monto" by John Paul Murphy, at The Flea, produced by Solas Nua from Washington DC, and "Graham and Frost" by Belinda McKeon, from The Sullivan Project in New York.

Other standouts in the schedule: "The Map of Lost Things," an inventive mixed-media concoction featuring new puppetry and live music by the acclaimed young playwright Darragh Martin; a revival of Ron Hutchinson's drama about the Irish troubles, "Rat in the Skull," featuring Tom C. O'Leary, best known for his leading role in Fair City on Irish national television; and three interesting plays seen in brief New York runs earlier this year: "Ardnaglass on the Air," Jimmy Kerr's brilliant comedy directed by the acclaimed writer and actress Geraldine Hughes ("Belfast Blues"); Ed Malone's one-man tour de force "Three Irish Widows Versus The Rest of the World" and "Guy Walks Into a Bar" written and directed by Don Creedon.

An Irish Theatre Symposium presented by the NYU Glucksman Ireland House, the Irish Repertory Theatre and Origin Theatre, on Saturday September 25 (10am to 5pm), features a cross-section of theatre artists working in contemporary Irish theatre, including the Tony Award-winning director Garry Hynes. Another notable special event will be the staged reading of poet Seamus Heaney's translation into modern English of "Beowulf" at The American Irish Historical Society on Monday September 27 at 7pm. Belfast's site-specific company Kabosh, the multi-award-winning company dedicated to challenging the notion of what theatre is and where it takes place, hosts a special panel discussion on Tuesday September 28 at 6pm at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

Funding support for 1st Irish 2010 is generously provided by the Festival Sponsors: the Irish Government, Department of Tourism, Culture and Sports; the Irish Consulate NY; the Northern Ireland Bureau; Tourism Ireland; the American Ireland Fund; Culture Ireland; Mutual of America; The Irish Examiner; McVicker & Higginbotham; NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, and the NY State Council for the Arts.


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