Through May 2019, the esteemed Irish Repertory Theatre in New York presents a celebration of Sean O’Casey, whose plays emerged from the birth of a new, independent Ireland.
The Sean O’Casey Season, a comprehensive retrospective of the work of renowned Irish playwright Sean O’Casey, began in January and continues through May for the Irish Rep’s 30th Anniversary Season.
The celebration features The O’Casey Cycle - O’Casey’s three most renowned works in repertory: The Shadow of a Gunman (1923), Juno and the Paycock (1924), and The Plough and the Stars (1926); and free readings of all of O’Casey’s other plays. Other planned events include symposiums, lectures, film screenings, a musical evening, and two exhibitions. The Sean O’Casey Season partners include Shivaun O’Casey (daughter of Sean O’Casey), Neil Pepe (Artistic Director, Atlantic Theater Company), the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Dr. Maureen Murphy (Hofstra University), Robert Lowery (Sean O’Casey Review) and more.
O’Casey is renowned for his innovative playwriting style, which balances deeply comic and tragic elements in an atmosphere of stark realism, with emphasis on characterization of working- and lower-class Dubliners. Born on March 30, 1880 in Dublin, Ireland, the thirteenth child (fifth surviving) to a lower-middle class Protestant family. an infant, O’Casey contracted trachoma, which led to impaired and deteriorating eyesight for his entire life. Unable to participate regularly in formal schooling due to his health, he began working in manual labor positions at age fourteen, continuing self-education throughout his adolescence. In his 20s, he became interested in Irish history and culture, as well as labor causes.
O’Casey began to write plays in 1916. His first four submissions to The Abbey Theatre were rejected, but O’Casey persisted, and in 1923, The Abbey produced The Shadow of a Gunman, beginning O’Casey’s career as a playwright at age 43. Juno and the Paycock (1924) and The Plough and the Stars (1926) completed O’Casey’s famed Dublin Trilogy and established his career as a full-time writer. In 1926, he met Eileen Carey, an actress in the West End production of The Plough and the Stars, and they married in 1927. Together they had three children, Breon, Niall, and Shivaun. In 1929, they moved permanently to England. O’Casey’s relationship with The Abbey Theatre soured after they refused to stage his play The Silver Tassie, but he continued to write and produced play with other theatres, including Within the Gates (1934), The Star Turns Red (1940), and Purple Dust (1943). Several of his plays were staged in the United States and adapted into films during his lifetime. O'Casey died of a heart attack on September 18, 1964, at the age of 84.
The playwright most associated with the birth of a new, independent Ireland, O’Casey also sparked the birth of Irish Repertory Theatre thirty years ago, when his play The Plough and the Stars inspired the first collaboration between Irish Rep founders Charlotte Moore and Ciarán O’Reilly, who stated “We are delighted to return to the play that started it all, and we look forward to exploring the world of Sean O’Casey this spring.”
The Irish Rep is currently the only year-round theatre company in New York City devoted to bringing Irish and Irish American works to the stage. Recognized with the Jujamcyn Theatres Award, a special Drama Desk Award for “Excellence in Presenting Distinguished Irish Drama,” an Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Achievement, and the Lucille Lortel Award for “Outstanding Body of Work,” the Irish Rep has celebrated the very best in Irish theatre for thirty years, from the masters to the new generation of Irish and Irish American writers who are transforming the stage. Nearly 50,000 audience members annually attend productions at our theatre located in the heart of New York’s Off-Broadway community.
The Irish Rep will present O’Casey’s three best-known works in repertory. Neil Pepe, Artistic Director of Atlantic Theater Company, will direct Juno and the Paycock; Irish Rep Artistic Director Charlotte Moore will direct The Plough and the Stars; and Irish Rep Producing Director Ciarán O’Reilly will direct The Shadow of a Gunman. Each play will be presented in an individual run in the order in which they were written, culminating in a month of all three works in repertory, including three “Dublin Saturdays” in which all three plays will be performed in one day. On “Dublin Saturdays,” the plays will be presented in order of their historical settings—The Easter Rising (1916), The Irish War of Independence (1921), and the Irish Civil War (1922).
See the full play and event descriptions and times below, find the dates that work for you, and head to www.irishrep.org to book tickets.
THE SHADOW OF A GUNMAN
Directed by Ciarán O’Reilly (The Seafarer)
Previews Begin January 31, 2019
Opening Night February 12, 2019
It’s 1921, and the Irish War of Independence rages on the streets of Dublin as Irish revolutionaries clash with British auxiliary forces. Aspiring poet Donal Davoren tries to avoid the conflict, but when Donal learns of a rumor that he is a gunman on the run, he cannot resist the curiosity it stirs in beautiful young Minnie Powers…and he cannot escape the attention of his other neighbors. As the rumor grows, the war outside moves closer to home with tragic consequences.
The Shadow of a Gunman premiered at The Abbey Theatre in 1923 to immediate success, selling out tickets for the first time in Abbey history, and establishing Sean O’Casey’s career as a playwright at age 43. The first of The Dublin Plays, this two-act work is written in O’Casey’s characteristic tragicomic style. Although it is widely considered a masterpiece, it is lesser-known than the two later Dublin Plays. Irish Rep is proud to open the O’Casey Season with this compelling work, last seen in our theater in 1999.
January 31 – March 3 & March 29 – April 2: Tuesday: 7pm, Wednesday: 3pm & 8pm, Thursday: 7pm, Friday: 8pm, Saturday: 3pm & 8pm, Sunday: 3pm.
Additional Performances: Wednesday, April 3 & Wednesday April 10 at 3pm; Thursday, April 11 at 7pm; Friday, April 12 at 8pm; Saturday, April 13 at 3pm; Saturday, May 11 & Saturday, May 25 at 3:30pm; Tuesday, May 14 & Tuesday, May 21 at 7pm; Thursday, May 16 at 7pm; Saturday, May 18 at 3:30pm; Friday, May 24 at 8pm.
JUNO AND THE PAYCOCK
Directed by Neil Pepe (Speed-the-Plow)
Previews Begin: March 9, 2019
Opening Night: March 19, 2019
Jack Boyle is out of work and determined to stay that way. He postures and drinks with his sidekick Joxer while his long-suffering wife Juno struggles to support their family and maintain their dilapidated tenement flat. Their son Johnny, crippled fighting in the revolution, cowers indoors to avoid the bitter new civil war, while his sister Mary considers her options for the future. When a handsome visitor arrives with news of an inheritance, the family begins to plan their new life, but their apparent salvation soon reveals itself to be the cause of their ruin. One of the great plays of the twentieth century, Juno and the Paycock offers a devastating portrait of wasted potential in a Dublin torn apart by the chaos of the Irish Civil War.
Premiering in 1924, just one year after Sean O’Casey’s professional debut, Juno and the Paycock became the first play at The Abbey Theatre to run for more than one week. Its success allowed O’Casey to quit his road repair job and became a full-time writer at age 44. It has since become one of his most frequently performed plays and has been adapted several times, including into a 1930 film by Alfred Hitchcock and a 1959 Broadway musical entitled Juno. Irish Repertory Theatre has presented Juno and the Paycock twice previously (1995 & 2013), both directed by Charlotte Moore.
March 9 – March 28: Tuesday: 7pm, Wednesday: 3pm & 8pm, Thursday: 7pm, Friday: 8pm, Saturday: 3pm & 8pm, Sunday: 3pm.
Additional Performances: Wednesday April 3 & 10 at 8pm; Thursday April 4 at 8pm; Saturday April 6 at 3pm; Sunday April 7 & 14 at 3pm; Wednesday May 15 at 8pm; Wednesday May 22 at 3pm; Thursday May 23 at 7pm
THE PLOUGH AND THE STARS
Directed by Charlotte Moore (On A Clear Day You Can See Forever)
Previews Begin: April 20, 2019
Opening Night: April 30, 2019
Pretty young newlywed Nora Clitheroe is the talk of her tenement as she tirelessly works to lift her family out of their impoverished circumstances. She tries to keep her husband Jack from the revolutionary fervor sweeping through Dublin. But Jack becomes a Commandant in the Irish Citizen Army, and when the Easter Rising of 1916 begins, he leaves a pregnant Nora to help lead the fight. The disparate, quarrelsome tenement residents are forced to shelter together as urban warfare makes their home nearly as treacherous as the streets. Passions and ideals rise and converge, but in the end, loss and devastation triumph over the promise of a new Ireland.
This powerful play is widely hailed as O’Casey’s most complex and masterful work. Its premiere at the Abbey Theatre in 1926 was met with riots condemning O’Casey’s negative portrayal of the recent revolution and its heroes. However, the play was otherwise successful, receiving wide acclaim both in Ireland and abroad. Drawing from his own childhood and experiences with the Irish labor movement and in the Irish Citizen Army, The Plough and the Stars is among O’Casey’s most autobiographical works.
The Plough and the Stars inspired the first collaboration between Irish Rep founders Charlotte Moore and Ciarán O’Reilly, and in 1988, it was Irish Rep’s first production. It was staged once more at Irish Rep in 1997. Both productions were directed by Charlotte Moore. We are delighted to return to the play that started it all for our 30th anniversary season.
April 20 - May 10: Tuesday: 7pm, Wednesday: 3pm & 8pm, Thursday: 7pm, Friday: 8pm, Saturday: 3pm & 8pm.
Additional Performances: Sunday May 5 at 3pm; Wednesday May 15 at 3pm; Friday May 17 at 8pm; Wednesday May 22 at 8pm
O’Casey Cycle Performance Schedule: Tuesday: 7pm, Wednesday: 3pm & 8pm, Thursday: 7pm, Friday: 8pm, Saturday: 3pm & 8pm, Sunday: 3pm.
Exceptions: On Saturdays May 11, 18, and 25 (Dublin Saturdays), performance times will be 11am, 3:30pm, and 8pm. There will be no performances on Sunday May 12 or Sunday May 19.
DUBLIN SATURDAYS: On Saturday May 11, Saturday May 18, and Saturday May 25, all three plays will be performed in one day and will be presented in order of their historical settings. Dublin Saturdays will begin with The Plough and the Stars (1916—The Easter Rising) at 11am, followed by The Shadow of a Gunman (1921—The Irish War of Independence) at 3:30pm, and will conclude with Juno and the Paycock, (1922—the Irish Civil War) at 8pm.
Tickets to The O’Casey Cycle start at $45 and are available now for Irish Rep members and O’Casey Cycle Subscribers only. Single tickets will go on sale to the general public on Tuesday, December 11, 2018 at 1pm and will be available through Irish Rep’s box office at 212-727-2737 or online at www.irishrep.org.
EXHIBITIONS – The O’Casey Season will include two exhibitions:
The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts will present an exhibit focusing on the reception of O'Casey's plays in the United States. The exhibit will include correspondence between O'Casey and Lillian Gish, and between O'Casey and theatre critic Brooks Atkinson, as well as original photographs of O'Casey. This exhibit will be free and open to the public and will run from January 28-March 23, 2019.
In cooperation with the O'Casey family, a public exhibition of Sean O’Casey’s work, photographs and posters, props, letters, and personal artifacts will be on display in the upper studio space at Irish Repertory Theatre, giving audiences an enhanced visual and personal connection to the Irish culture of the early 20th Century as well as to the playwright. This exhibition will be free and open to the public. Dates and further details will be announced at a future date.
SYMPOSIUMS AND LECTURES:
The O’Casey Season will feature a number of symposiums and lectures hosted at Irish Repertory Theatre and at partner locations. Discussions on O'Casey and the themes of his work will be explored in moderated conversations with Irish scholars, artists, and historians including Dr. Maureen Murphy of Hofstra University; Robert Lowery, scholar and founder of the Hofstra University Sean O’Casey Review; and Shivaun O’Casey, daughter of Sean O’Casey, who will travel from London to participate in The O’Casey Season.
Irish Repertory Theatre will host screenings of the film versions of O'Casey plays, including Alfred Hitchcock’s Juno and the Paycock (1930), John Ford’s The Plough and the Stars (1937), and Young Cassidy (1965) about the life of Sean O’Casey. There will also be a screening of Under a Colored Cap, a documentary about Sean O’Casey by his daughter Shivaun, who will be in residence during the festival.
A MUSICAL EVENING:
Irish Repertory Theatre will present an evening of music collected from the writings of Sean O’Casey arranged by Neil Bradley. Dates and performers will be announced at a future date.