JAMES X Comes to the Corrib Theatre
Corrib Theatre presents the West Coast Premiere of Gerard Mannix Flynn's James X, directed by Corrib Artistic Director Gemma Whelan. James X exposes this appalling, Ireland-specific story of institutional abuse and neglect that offers shockingly relevant parallels to the current U.S. child welfare, incarceration and immigration systems practices of turning a blind eye to justice for the nation's most powerless people under its care. The limited run dates for James X are February 13 through March 1, at New Expressive Works, 810 SE Belmont St., in Portland, Oregon.
In James X, plaintiff James X confronts the defendants, Church and State, for injustices they perpetrated throughout his childhood. While awaiting his trial, James examines his confidential state files compiled over the previous 45 years, and takes the audience on a journey through the schools, courts, health boards, industrial schools, psychiatric hospitals, and prisons.
James X is based on Flynn's own experiences, but he does not regard it as an autobiography. He is an artist and a Dublin City Councilor whose work as an advocate for child welfare and protection is a testament to the power of healing and change.
Corrib Theatre's production of James X is the first time the play has been released from the playwright to be produced by another entity without his direct involvement. This production also marks the first time the character has been performed by an actor other than the playwright. For Corrib's production, Darius Pierce stars in the titular role of James X.
"This is a play about survival in the bleakest of circumstances," said Gemma Whelan, James X director and artistic director of Corrib Theatre. "With whimsy and theatricality it reckons with the past and it challenges us as a society to take responsibility for actions taken by our social service institutions. With James X, Mannix Flynn has the courage to face up to an entire system-the Irish Church and State-that scapegoated and punished, powerless, children. He struggles to tell his own truth on behalf of the countless others who don't have a voice. In the U.S. today we have put children in cages, we deal inhumanely with refugees seeking asylum, and here in our own city of Portland, Oregon, the Child Welfare division of the Department of Human Services (DHS) has failed miserably to protect our most vulnerable children in the foster care system. As the character James X says: "there is no care....no love."
Whelan continues, "Corrib's production is the first time the work will be performed by an actor who is not the playwright. Darius Pierce has the stamina to tackle the subject, and possesses the ability to inhabit the complexity and dimensionality required of this role while imbuing the character with a dash of humor. This is not just the story of Gerard Mannix Flynn of Dublin as told to an Irish audience, a society which stood by as children were abused and discarded. Here and now James X's story becomes our story, our greater society, our collective culture. It is about US."
"James X is a mechanism to tell the real story, the truth, from the perspective of those who were in it, thus giving agency to the survivors, so that we can own the story and be empowered to effect change," said playwright Gerard Mannix Flynn. "James X owns his story, he is sharing his story. Dramatic theatre is theatre of truth that puts people into reality in an artistic, credible, cultural way. James X is literature, big poetry. It stands on the corner like hip hop. It is immediate and real. It is a political manifesto, a poem, a long rap, to be delivered."
Flynn continues: "I've never released James X to another theatre or performer. I've released it with Corrib, to Gemma, because she's been deeply interested. It is an important part of me, but it is important I allow it out there. It is autobiographical, but not representative of just one person. Likewise, the story is like a ship released into the ocean-it is meant for others. Portland meets many angles of this play. Portland has its own history of abuse. There are tens of thousands of American priests who have done these things to children, and in Portland. I hope that James X allows audiences to factor in an awareness of lived experiences like this in their daily lives. There are harmed people like this everywhere, and there are systems and institutions that perpetrate abuse and absolve the perpetrators that exist everywhere. This play is about humanity, and about man's inhumanity. People need to look at the fundamental truth of the abuse of power enacted upon people who have been abused, neglected, overlooked-and the bystanders who let it happen. It is about those who do the crimes, but also about those who cover up the crimes. We are all responsible."