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I <3 Alice <3 I

Irish Arts Center in New York City gears up for St. Patrick’s Day

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I <3 Alice <3 I

Lesbian drama hasn't really been a major genre in contemporary Irish literature, sadly. For decades gifted writers like Emma Donoghue, whose last novel Room was a hotly tipped finalist for the Booker Prize, carried the torch almost single-handedly for the genre, but the nation's main stages refrained from giving them a major forum until now.

Next week direct from the Abbey Theatre in Dublin comes the U.S. debut of the oddly titled I Heart Alice Heart I, which explores several eventful decades in the life and love of an unlikely but completely devoted couple.

Written and directed by Amy Conroy, the play tells the hilarious and heartfelt story of two women from Dublin's Northside who defy every old stereotype you have ever heard about lesbian relationships as they delight you with a tale direct from the real Ireland (the one hidden behind the plaster facade that we show to the tourists).

A huge hit in Ireland where it won the New Irish Writing Award from Fishamble Theatre Company and the Best Female Performer Award, it's an irresistible blend of wit, wisdom and quick wig changes, as the play takes you on a breakneck tour of Irish attitudes to sex, love and commitment.

The Irish Arts Center in New York will host the production from February 29 to March 17, so you have time to rush in and catch it between now and St. Patrick's Day. The official opening for the show is on Sunday, March 4 at 7 p.m.

On March 6 in a rapidly expanding arts calendar, the center will present the award winning Canadian-Irish novelist, screenwriter and short story writer Peter Behrens.

Behrens published his first short story collection Night Driving in 1987, and a storied career as a screenwriter in Hollywood followed.

His first novel, The Law of Dreams published in 2006, traces years in the life of a family in the west of Ireland who are all but destroyed by the Great Irish Famine.

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Historians, novelists and readers alike will delight in Behrens’s achievements as he reflects on that novel and reads from the follow up The O’Briens, a compelling new tale that unfolds like a tour of the over half of the 20th century from the first flying machines, through two world wars, to the election of JFK.

Behrens is scheduled to open the center’s spring literary season with a free reading from his new work, which also marks the U.S. launch of the book. He will read at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 6.

Also scheduled to participate in the center’s new literary season is the wildly accomplished former New Yorker and Paris Review editor Meghan O’Rourke who will be discussing her unforgettable memoir about her mother’s passing The Long Goodbye on April 3.

O’Rourke is an accomplished poet, memoirist and essayist the youngest person ever to edit the New Yorker, where her tenure was celebrated. Her memoir explores the still largely taboo topic of grief, in this case the grief that comes after the death of her mother. The Long Goodbye was hailed by the critics and has sealed her reputation as a gifted writer.

That event, which is sure to attract a capacity audience, will be followed by New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice recipient Kathleen Hill discussing and reading from her new novel Who Occupies This House on May 1.

An imaginative new tradition that was a huge success on its debut last year, the Irish Arts Center will hold its second annual Irish Book Day on March 16 when, in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, the center distributes 10,000 free books by Irish and Irish American writers to delighted New York commuters.

Don’t miss your opportunity to score a brilliant new Irish book in the week we should be celebrating all things Irish, and if you’re felling generous why not make a donation in thanks for the remarkable work the center does?

Tickets to I Heart Alice Heart I are $27 general admission and are available at irishartscenter.org or by calling 1-866-811-4111.

The literary series is free and open to the public but reservations are advised in order to ensure a seat.

The Irish Arts Center is located at 553 West 51st Street in New York.

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