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Former boxer John Duddy will take the stage in 'Spudmunchers' at Rory Dolan's

Irish arts scene in New York remains vital

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Former boxer John Duddy will take the stage in 'Spudmunchers' at Rory Dolan's

There’s been a notable uptick in the amount of really exciting new Irish arts projects occurring in the city this month, so let’s dive in and look at some of the most interesting ones on the horizon.

First up is Spudmunchers, writer Colin Broderick’s unflinching look at the attitudes and prejudices of the Irish immigrant community in the U.S.

Set in the Irish strong hold of Woodlawn in the Bronx, the play is the story of two brothers, one a construction worker and the other an aspiring writer, both of whom have been in the U.S. for 20 years and have become stuck in their various grooves. One likes booze and baseball, the other likes tea and poetry. Only when the head turning Maeve enters the picture do they finally find something to agree on.

The production stars the retired Irish boxer John Duddy (former IBA World middleweight title holder) making his debut theatrical performance in a lead role. The play also features veteran actor Conor McManus and the accomplished new actress Cooney Monroe making her New York debut.

Why should you see it? Because Broderick’s first memoir Orangutan, published in 2010, was an accomplished page-turner and his follow up, That's That, is due out later this year.

Spudmunchers is Broderick’s second full length play for the already accomplished Poor Mouth Theatre Company, bringing a new and fully functioning Irish original play back to the Bronx after over a decade. You don’t want to miss this.

Spudmunchers runs from Tuesday, Febuary 21 to Friday, March 2 at Rory Dolans on McLean Avenue in Yonkers, all shows starting at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20. Visit spudmunchers.blogspot.com.

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Next up on the arts scene this month is another of Irish Repertory Theatre director Ciaran O’Reilly’s promising stagings of the works of Irish America’s (and for my money, America’s) greatest playwright, Eugene O’Neill.

Beyond the Horizon was O'Neill’s first full-length play and it won the first of his four Pulitzer prizes. Not a bad debut by a relative unknown.

Set on a farm in rural Massachusetts at the beginning of the 20th century, this completely absorbing drama pits brother against brother in a kind of biblical wrestling match for the heart of one woman.

O’Neill introduces us to Robert Mayo, a romantic young poet who’s about to embark on the voyage of his dreams. Meanwhile, his brother Andrew is content to be and harbors no wanderlust. But on the eve of Robert’s departure, their beguiling neighbor Ruth declares her love for one over the other, encouraging the two brothers to trade lives and destines with unseen and heart-breaking consequences.

At the last possible minute the farmer goes to sea and the poet tends the land. That’s the kind of set up that can only lead to great drama so don’t miss it.

Beyond The Horizon opens February 15 at the Irish Repertory Theatre and runs though April 8. Performances are held on Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m., with Wednesday and Saturday and Sunday performances at 3 p.m.

Meanwhile, budding writers will probably want to avail of an exciting new initiative by the celebrated Irish American Writers and Artists group (IAW&A) who have just announced a major new recruitment drive.

In an effort to add more members to their organization, they have decided to reduce their initiation fee from $150 to $50. The membership renewal fee will also remain the same, at $50 per year.

You do not have to be Irish American or an artist to join, by the way. The only requirement is that you have an abiding interest in the arts, and that you understand the group’s vision and impetus comes from an Irish American perspective (both historically and spiritually).

If you sign up you’ll find yourself in the company of some of the most inspiring and accomplished writers in the city, so I strongly encourage you to check this out right away. To sign up visit www.i-am-wa.org/membership.php or email IAWritersandArtists@gmail.com

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