The festival runs three weeks from January 11 to 31, the 2021.

By: Dec. 17, 2020


In its lucky 13th year the Origin 1st Irish Theatre Festival is evolving into a new digital format that makes up in range and accessibility what it gives up in terms of physical immediacy.

Running three weeks from January 11 to 31, the 2021 Origin 1st Irish will present a total of 20 virtual events, including recorded Theatrical Productions made both before and during Covid from Belfast, Dublin, Wexford, London and New York. Also part of this year's programming are several films and documentaries and a series of panels and talk-backs that focus on the cultural and social intersections between the Island of Ireland and the United States, going back centuries and continuing to this day.

Based out of New York City and produced by Origin Theatre Company, Origin 1st Irish is co-curated this year by two of New York's leading Irish theatre figures, the actors Michael Mellamphy and Sarah Street, who take over from Festival founder George C. Heslin. Heslin became the new executive director of the New York Irish Center in October. Origin Theatre Company, now in its 18th season since its founding by Heslin in 2002, is currently in a search for a new artistic director.

Among the Panels & Talks bringing together experts and luminaries from both sides of the Atlantic are panels on producing theatre during the pandemic; the outsized impact of Irish artists and actors on the video game industry; the influence of Irish musical traditions on Tin Pan Alley, and a revealing discussion on inclusion and diversity by members of the Black&Irish social media movement.

Participating theatres Fishamble: The New Play Company, and AboutFACE Ireland in Dublin; the Irish Repertory Theatre and Origin Theatre Company in New York; The Wexford Art Center in Wexford, and The Lyric in Belfast.

Several notable Films & Documentaries are also scheduled, including Conal Creedon's acclaimed documentary, "The Burning of Cork," marking the centennial of the historic events that sparked the episode on December 11; the haunting reality-style "The Devil's Doorway" (the first feature-length horror film written and directed by an Irish woman, Aislinn Clarke), as well as an advance screening of a new documentary by Rory Duffy about the impact of Brexit on life in Northern Ireland. Returning to the Festival is the theatre writer and curator Turlough McConnell, who introduces a rare film never seen in the US about difficult living conditions in Connemara, for which he's assembled a stellar panel.

The Festival's "Opening Ceremony" on Mon January 11 at 3pm EST will bring together artists, producers and audience members from across the worldwide Irish diaspora. Co-hosted by Mellamphy and Street; Ireland's New York Consul General Ciaran Madden, and Origin's board chair Carletta Downs.

Origin 1st Irish is known to juxtapose new productions brought to life in New York by its sizable Irish ex-pat theatre community, and recently acclaimed productions and special projects from a range of subsidized and independent theatres in Ireland. As it has in past years (with its Next Generation series and other developmental initiatives), the 2021 Festival has two productions instigated by Origin through commissions and first exposure at the festival: "Under the Albert Clock" produced by the Lyric in Belfast this year, and featuring new short plays by five inventive Irish female writers, started in the 2020 1st Irish. This year Origin commissioned four playwrights to create plays on the topic of domestic violence during the pandemic - "Stay Home and Stay Safe." The production collects four new plays that have been self-filmed, mostly using iPhones, by actors in New York and Dublin.

Both Mellamphy and Street are well known to 1st Irish audiences as well as New York audiences more widely, with "Mick" having won two Best Actor awards in Festival productions, and Sarah having both acted in and written several memorable Festival shows. Michael is a member of the Irish Repertory Theatre and a founder of The Pigeon Theatre Company. Sarah, also a member of the Irish Rep, as well as the Barrow Group, is a co-founder of The Pond Theatre Company. Both, incidentally, are from Cork, which ends the bragging rights for Limerick, George Heslin's native city.

In 2015 The NY Times called Origin 1st Irish "an important event that offers New York theatergoers the chance to see fascinating new work."

Since its founding in 2002, Origin Theatre Company, whose overall mission is to present new works by writers from across Europe, has introduced plays by over 300 playwrights to US audiences, from such countries as the Netherlands, Sweden, Romania, Macedonia, Norway, Italy, Ireland and the United Kingdom.

(For tickets on sale now and festival schedule visit www.origintheatre.org)

Theatrical Productions

1/ "MUSTARD" Award-winning playwright & performer Eva O' Connor's one-woman play about heartbreak, madness and how condiments are the ultimate coping mechanism. Produced by Fishamble (Jim Culleton artistic director), "Mustard" premiered in the 2019 Edinburgh Fringe. O'Connor was last seen in the 2020 1st Irish Festival in "Maz and Bricks."
Mon Jan 11 @ 8pm (opening the festival); Tue Jan 19 @ 8pm; Wed Jan 27 @ 8pm

2/ "THE SCOURGE" Written and performed by Michelle Dooley Mahon and adapted from Mahon's critically-acclaimed autobiographical novel "Scourged," this deeply affecting one-woman play produced the Wexford Arts Center, chronicles the personalities, and history of an ordinary Irish small-town family slowing losing their mother to Alzheimer's. Directed by Ben Barnes.
Wed Jan 13 @ 8pm; Thu Jan 21 @ 3pm; Fri Jan 29 @ 8pm

3/ Darren Murphy's "THE GIFTS YOU GAVE THE DARK" kicked off the Irish Repertory Theatre's digital summer season in May. Directed by Caitríona McLaughlin, the story of a man in Belfast on his last call with his mother in Dublin, was written specifically for digital media in reaction to the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis.
Wed Jan 13 @ 3pm; Thu Jan 21 @ 8pm; Fri Jan 29 @ 3pm

4/ "UNDER THE ALBERT CLOCK" Origin Theatre Company commissioned five of Northern Ireland's most inventive female playwrights 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 and we are happy to present this fine production showcasing the writing of Emily Dedakis, Gina Donnelly, Sarah Gordon, Fionnuala Kennedy and Alice Malseed
Thu Jan 14 @ 3pm; Sat Jan 16 @ 3pm; Mon Jan 25 @ 3pm

5/ "TRANSATLANTIC TALES" AboutFACE Theatre Company in Dublin produced a series of eight original plays written to be performed live on Zoom, each pairing actors in Ireland and the United States. Recorded this summer the plays feature many familiar faces on either side of the Atlantic and are often incisive and hysterical explorations of the connections and disconnects that have always characterized Irish-American relations. The plays are by Matthew Cole Kelly, Melissa Annis, James McLindon, Rachel White, Emily Bohannon, Krystal Sweedman, Seamus Scanlon and Neil Sharpson. The cast features Amie Tedesco, Kathleen Warner Yeates, Brandon Jones, Helena White, Kevin Collins, Darina Gallagher, Orlagh Cassidy, Mark Tankersley, Erin Healani Chung, Michael Rhodes, David Ryan, John Keating, Megan Day, Kate Grimes, Paul Nugent, Richard Topol, Maureen O Connell.
Fri Jan 15 @ 3pm; Mon Jan 18 @ 3pm; Tue Jan 26 @ 8pm

6/ "STAY HOME AND STAY SAFE" Origin Theatre Company has commissioned 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. Self-filmed by actors on location in New York and Dublin the plays casts are as follows: Angel Desai (in Honor Molloy's "All the Last Weekend"), Alan Kelly (in Geraldine Aaron's "Teresa's Green"); Niamh Hopper and David Spain (in Derek Murphy's "The Isolation of Mr. Moore"), and Jade Jordan (in Ursula Rani Sarma's "Scarlett")
Fri Jan 22 @ 8pm; Tue Jan 26 @ 3pm

Panels & Talks

7/ "PRODUCING IN A PANDEMIC" A first-look of exciting new works created by Irish and Irish-American artists during this pandemic. Featuring clips and comments by these featured creators: Aoife Williamson, Derek Murphy, Tim Ruddy, David Gilna and Lorna Fenenbock
Sun Jan 17 @ 8pm; Sat Jan 23 @ 3pm

8/ "BLACK&IRISH" A panel discussion focusing on diversity and inclusion in Irish Arts and Culture. Moderated by Grace Odumosu (Youth and Family Coordinator for Irish Chicago), the panel features two of the founders of Black&Irish -- Leon Diop, and Bonni Odoemene -- as well as these Irish notables: the actor Jade Jordan; the artist and songwriter Alicia Raye; the media personality and digital creator Amanda Ade, and the journalist and RTE researcher, Ola Majekodunmi.
Mon Jan 18 @ 8pm; Sat Jan 30 @ 3pm

9/ "THE IRISH TUNES OF TIN PAN ALLEY" An exploration of some of the iconic tunes derived from Irish traditions that influenced American popular music. Featuring Mick Moloney and moderated by Larry Kirwan.
Wed Jan 20 @ 8pm; Wed Jan 27 @ 3pm

10/ "CASTING AND THE IRISH PERSPECTIVE" A conversation with Irish creatives in the US exploring the ins and outs of the ex-pat Irish theatre and film community, how to build your career in the Irish arts, and how to stay connected during these times. Featuring influential New York casting director Christine McKenna.
Wed Jan 20 @ 3pm; Mon Jan 25 @ 8pm

11/ "IRISH REDEMPTION - AN IRISH INVASION INTO THE WORLD OF VIDEO GAMES" Learn about the back story of the sizable Irish contribution to one of the biggest-selling video games in recent history, "Red Dead Redemption 2." Featuring Roger Clarke (Arthur Morgan), Penny O'Brien (Molly O'Shea), and Mick Mellamphy (Sean MacGuire). Moderated by Eurogamers Cian Maher.
Fri Jan 15 @ 8pm; Fri Jan 22 @ 3pm

Films & Documentaries

12/ "MISTY BUTTON" Written and directed by Seanie Sugrue, whose play "The 8th" won Best Production at the 2020 Origin 1st Irish Festival, this colorful race horse caper about two Irish immigrants involved in a betting scheme features a superb local New York Irish cast. Produced by Sugrue's Locked in the Attic Productions, "Misty Button" world premiered on St Patrick's Day 2019 at the San Luis Obispo International Film where it took home the award for Best Feature Film.
Tue Jan 12 @ 8pm; Thu Jan 28 @ 12pm

13/ "THE BURNING OF CORK" Marking the centennial of a monumental event in Irish history, which took place on Dec 11th, 1920, writer director Conal Creedon's fascinating documentary tells the story of that fateful night and the events leading up to it. The film had its theatrical premiere in 2005.
Sun Jan 17 @ 3pm; Sun Jan 24 @ 8pm

14/ "A FRAGILE PEACE" An advance screening of a new documentary short (which is planned to be a feature length film) written and directed by Rory Duffy and narrated by Sarah Street. "A Fragile Peace: Inside Brexit and Belfast," 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, with the actors John Duddy and Geraldine Hughes, and the writer Colin Broderick.
Thu Jan 14 @ 8pm; Sun Jan 24 @ 3pm

15/ "THE DEVIL'S DOORWAY" Written and directed by the trailblazing director Aislinn Clarke, "The Devil's Doorway" made history in 2018 by becoming the first feature-length horror film written and directed by an Irish woman. Thoughtfully filmed using found-footage techniques this 77-minute feature, set in 1960, recreates the real-life horrors of the infamous Magdelene Laundry. The film premiered at the 2018 Seattle International Film Festival on the night of the historical referendum overturning Ireland's ban on abortions.
Tue Jan 12 @ 3pm; Thu Jan 28 @ 8pm

16/ "TO THE WESTERN WORLD" BAFTA winner Margy Kinmonth's fascinating documentary film about living conditions in Western Ireland in 1905 gets a new look as theatre writer and curator Turlough McConnell introduces the 35-minute film and hosts a talk-back with historian Christine Kinealy, and art expert Cormac O'Malley. The film used dramatizations by a distinguished cast to reconstruct the journey of playwright John Millington Synge and the artist Jack B. Yeats to document living conditions in Connemara for the Manchester Guardian. Their article, which appeared in 1905, and was written before either man had achieved notoriety in their respective artistic fields, was buried in the paper's archives for years and was a treasure trove of rich social and cultural observation.
Tue Jan 19 @ 3pm; Sat Jan 23 @ 8pm

17/ "SPA WEEKEND" Maureen O'Connell wrote and directed and stars in this hilarious road comedy which is fast becoming the darling of the Festival circuit, having recently won Best International Feature Film at the 2020 Polish International Film Festival, and the "She is On Fire Award" at the Female Filmmaker Festival in Berlin, in 2019. Played by O'Connell, a down on her luck actor desperate for a break, has to reach for the bottom of the barrel to get someone to go on a camping trip with her. The old actor friend she talks into making the trip with her is a worse apple than she remembered.

Tue Jan 12 @ 12pm; Thu Jan 28 @ 3pm

Special Events

18/ Opening Ceremony
Mon Jan 11 @ 3pm

19/ Zoom Mixer for Irish Artists Everywhere

20/ Closing Ceremony
Sun Jan 31 @ 5pm

Festival Schedule still in formation... other events to be announced soon.

For Festival details and tickets visit www.origintheatre.org

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