HOW TO KEEP AN ALIEN Comes to Corrib Theatre
Corrib Theatre presents Sonya Kelly's How to Keep an Alien, directed by Gemma Whelan, a comedy-filled play about two women falling in love and battling the international red tape that's working to keep them apart. The production features Sara Hennessy as Sonya Kelly, with Amy Katrina Bryan on stage as herself, the stage manager. How to Keep an Alien runs for four weeks, April 12 through May 5, at New Expressive Works, 810 SE Belmont St., in Portland, Oregon.
The journey begins when Irish Sonya and Australian Kate meet and fall in love while working on a Russian play with English accents in an Irish castle. Together, they embark on a global odyssey to prove they have a right to live together in Ireland. How to Keep an Alien is a tender and hilarious story attesting to the perils and obstacles of emigration, and the transformation that Irish society has undergone in recent times. This is a story about falling in love and proving it to the government.
How to Keep an Alien's 2013 world premiere was in Dublin, Ireland. Since, it has been on several national and international tours, including the Edinburgh Fringe, to New York, Finland, and New Zealand. Presented by the Washington D.C. Irish arts group Solas Nua, December 2018 marked the first time the lead character was played by an actor other than Sonya Kelly.
"How to Keep an Alien first grabbed my attention with its quirky double-meaning title," said Gemma Whelan, play director and artistic director of Corrib Theatre. "The true-to-life storytelling by comedic playwright and actor Sonya Kelly got my full attention again. How could I not relate to Sonya telling her own story about having a crisis over the value of acting as a profession, and then falling in love with a stage manager from Australia? At the same time, it is a true story about her journey to attain a visa for her partner and giving voice to those fleeing persecution seeking asylum from the Irish Immigration Office. Living in the U.S., that sounds awfully familiar. The play also reaches back in time to the Famine when Kate's great-great grandmother was evicted from her homeland. Sonya weaves together the intersection of past and present, here and there, and the act of writing and performing into a story that feels relevant to us all."
"I am absolutely delighted that Corrib has decided to do How to Keep an Alien," said playwright Sonya Kelly. "It is a real privilege for me to see that the play has such reach. In these uncertain times, it is important that stories of immigration remain buoyant in our creative arts. I hope the story resonates with the American people. Best of luck to Corrib."
Sonya Kelly is an actor and playwright. She studied drama and classics at Trinity College, Dublin, and has performed with a number of major Irish companies including The Gate Theatre, Druid Theatre, The Corn Exchange, Pan Pan, Fishamble: the New Play Company and WillFredd Theatre. She is a cast member of RTE's sketch show The Savage Eye, and is also a regular contributor to the arts show Arena on RTE Radio 1. Sonya was a participant in Six in the Attic, an Irish Theatre Institute Resource Sharing Initiative, in 2015-16. Her debut play, The Wheelchair on My Face: a look back at a myopic childhood, won a Scotsman Fringe First Award for new writing at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2012. It played 150 performances in over 50 venues and toured to Paris and New York, where it received a Critics' Pick in the New York Times. How to Keep an Alien premiered at Tiger Dublin Fringe in 2014, winning the Best Production Award. It has since toured across Ireland, and to the UK, Australia, New York and Finland.
Gemma Whelan is the founding Artistic Director of Corrib Theatre. For Corrib, she has directed Last Four Things by Lisa Tierney-Keogh, Quietly by Owen McCafferty, Belfast Girls by Jaki McCarrick, The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín, Our New Girl by Nancy Harris, Chapatti by Christian O'Reilly, Little Gem by Elaine Murphy, The Hen Night Epiphany by Jimmy Murphy, St. Nicholas by Conor McPherson, and A Night in November by Marie Jones (Drammy nomination for Direction, Drammy award for Solo Performance). In Portland, she has directed Broomstick by John Biguenet and Ithaka by Andrea Stolowitz at Artists Repertory Theatre, The Call by Tanya Barfield at Profile Theatre, Words that Burn by Cindy Williams Guttierez for Los Porteños at Milagro Theatre, and others at CoHo Theatre, Boom Arts, and Portland Center Stage's Just Add Water (JAW) Festival. She was the founding Artistic Director of Wilde Irish Productions in the Bay Area. For Wilde Irish she directed Michael Mac Liammoir's The Importance of Being Oscar (Dean Goodman Award for Direction, Dean Goodman Award for Solo Performance), the U.S. premiere of Ariel by Marina Carr, Frank McGuinness' Someone Who'll Watch Over Me, Patricia Burke Brogan's Eclipsed, and Samuel Beckett's Endgame. Other favorites include Jane Chamber's Last
Summer at Bluefish Cove (Cable Car Nomination for Outstanding Achievement in Directing), and Eileen
Atkins' Vita and Virginia (Curve Magazine, Best Theatre of the Year Award), both at Theatre Rhinoceros; Tom Kempinski's Duet for One (Zephyr Theatre); Caryl Churchill's Top Girls (Phoenix Theatre) and Equus by Peter Schaffer (Little Theatre Nomination for Outstanding Achievement in Directing). Gemma received the Gerald Duff Award for Continuing Contribution to Theatre in the San Francisco Bay Area. Educational credits include Mills College (Chair, Drama Dept), UC Berkeley, American Conservatory Theatre, Berkeley Rep School of Theatre, Portland Actors Conservatory, Portland State University, Literary Arts (Delve), Pacific University, Willamette University, and Ngee Ann Polytechnic (Singapore). She is an award-winning filmmaker and a published novelist. She holds a BA from Trinity College Dublin, an MA in Theatre from UC Berkeley and an MFA in Cinema from San Francisco State University. She is a member of Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC). www.gemmawhelan.com