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Origin Theatre to wow at 1st Irish festival for the fifth time in New York

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Jo Kinsella in 'For Love'
It's time to give Origin Theatre its due, because its fifth annual New York festival dedicated to Irish playwrights (the only one in the world, as it happens) is running from September 3 to October 1 in New York.

For Origin it’s been a catalogue of successes because the company is celebrating its 10th anniversary season, and this year the month-long festival features Irish plays and musicals from 11 contemporary Irish playwrights (plus Eugene O’Neill) in productions from Belfast, Dublin, Boston and New York. 

Each of the main stage shows of the 1st Irish, as the festival is called, will be presented at well known venues in the city like the Irish Rep, 59E59, the Irish Arts Center, the Cell and the Drilling Company. 

“Five years and we’ve featured 72 Irish playwrights to date. It’s amazing isn’t it,” Origin’s artistic director George Heslin tells the Irish Voice.

“It’s year five so now we’re getting a huge amount of applications for the festival from Irish companies, so this year we have a broader scope. It’s not just theater -- it’s musicals and other aspects of theater. This year we’ll stage panel discussions and related events too.”

Right on cue to offer his services and his star power is Origin’s newest honorary patron, the Irish and British actor Brendan Coyle (Downton Abbey). Coyle joined the company in May and will appear during the festival to announce an upcoming 1st Irish project in New York.

The Cell on West 23rd Street will be the venue that hosts the premiere of Hard Times, a new musical written by Black 47 front man Larry Kirwan that juxtaposes Irish and African-American folk traditions. Hard Times will run from September 12 to 29.

Other highlights include For Love by the gifted writer, director and performer Laoisa Sexton. It’s a play about three women navigating the choppy waters of Dublin nightlife. The play will have its world premiere at the Drilling Co. and run from September 25 to 30.

New York’s Double Decker Productions will present New York-based playwright Jimmy Kerr’s House Strictly Private, a dark comedy by this searingly funny writer set in rural Northern Ireland, at the Drilling Co. from September 26 to 30.

The Irish Arts Center will present the U.S. premiere of writer and performer (and Irish national treasure) Pat Kinevane’s Silent, one of the most talked-about shows in recent years. Produced by Ireland’s preeminent contemporary playwright theater company Fishamble, the Edinburgh Fringe winner arrives direct from its sold-out run at the Abbey and will play from September 6 to 23.

In another headline show, the critically acclaimed production of Marie Jones’ hilarious comedy Fly Me to the Moon will have its U.S. premiere at 59E59, and run from September 5 to 30. 

Alongside the plays there will be panel events that will include a night called Damn Yeats, We’ll Write Our Own Plays, which will be a guided conversation featuring 1st Irish artists about the unique perspectives, traditions and characters of Northern Ireland’s theatre scene dating back to the early 20th century. 

The talk will be hosted by NYU’s Glucksman Ireland House, which is located at 1 Washington Mews off lower Fifth Avenue, on Thursday September 6 at 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

Another new aspect of the growing festival is an event titled 1st Irish on Film, from Stage to Screen, a new series that explores the challenges of adapting plays to film. 

Hosted by the New York Irish Center in association with the Irish Rep, the special event features the Irish Rep’s award-wining Ciaran O’Reilly, who will perform solo excerpts from Brian Friel’s Dancing at Lughnasa before introducing a screening of the 1998 film version starring Meryl Streep and Michael Gambon. The performance and screening will happen on September 7 and 21, both at 7:30 p.m.

There will also be a reading by author Tony Macaulay from his best-selling memoir Paperboy about growing up in West Belfast in the 1970s, hosted by the W.B. Yeats Society at the National Arts Club on September 17 at 6 p.m.

And for one night only there will be a special performance of celebrated Irish actor Garrett Keogh’s play Setanta Murphy, a drama that addresses themes of life and death, which will be presented by American Irish Historical Society in association with Origin Theatre Company on Tuesday September 11 at 7 p.m.

Visit www.1stIrish.org.

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