Sarah Street, a New York-based actor who's originally from Cork, is a founding member of the latest Irish and American theatre company producing important new Irish and British writing and making waves around town
Street's recent career highlights include her recurring role on "Law&Order: SVU" and her critically acclaimed production of the darkly funny 1970s classic "Abigale's Party."
“I'm one of the three co-founders of The Pond theatre company (alongside Colleen Clinton and Lily Dorment) and our goal is to produce Irish and British plays in New York,” she tells IrishCentral.
Staying true to that mission statement their next production is the world premiere of "The Naturalists" by celebrated Irish playwright Jaki McCarrick.
Set in County Monaghan, the play introduces us to brothers Francis and Billy Sloane (played by well known New York-based Irish actors John Keating and Tim Ruddy) two men whose melancholic rural existence is shaken up by the arrival of a mysterious young woman.
“It's set in a border area where's there's the backdrop of that political tension and history. The central character has a history with the IRA. It's interesting that the legacy of the Troubles is becoming such an issue in new Irish work. It's become a hot topic again.”
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Marginal lives lived literally between places along borderlands, has been a rich subject for Irish playwrights from Friel to McCabe. Now add to that list McCarrick.
“We are big fans of McCarrick's work and as we were looking for our third production we came across her script for 'The Naturalists,' which we read and right away thought was a beautiful piece,” Street says.
Directed by Clinton and Dorment, "The Naturalists" will mark the professional New York debut of McCarrick, who is best known for her play"Belfast Girls." Alongside Keating and Ruddy, the production will also star Michael Mellamphy, so it's a rare chance to three of the most well-known and accomplished New York Irish actors sharing the stage.
"The Naturalists" marks the third presentation by The Pond Theatre Company, the women-led company bringing the most vital new theatrical voices from the U.K. and Ireland to the U.S., many for the first time.
“It's great working with actors who already know each other, I feel like you shave a week off rehearsal time,” Street says. “You have an instant leg up on a bunch of strangers. A lot of it is thanks to the Irish Rep. The Rep is a massive supporter of Irish artists and I think they have created a safe haven, a creative community where the working Irish actors in the city can work together and get to know each other. I know they do they do their best to hire Irish actors and I think that's really important.”
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The problem with casting Irish roles and Irish plays in the States is that it's not just the accent that those born outside Ireland struggle with, Street says.
“The whole nuance, the Irish sense of humor, it's barely teachable unless you're from that part of the world. It is important if you're doing an Irish piece to hire Irish actors, I think.”
Although "The Naturalists" addresses the historic conflict in Ireland, it's not a play about the Troubles. Instead, it's about the difficult business of living and the challenge of finding some healing after one too many heartbreaks. “Two older men who are going to seed on their mammy's farm or in close proximity is a familiar theme in Irish drama. They're living in reduced circumstances, they've spent decades living in a crappy caravan beside their once impressive home. They're just really stuck in themselves and so the play looks at how they make their way back toward life.”
The heart of "The Naturalists" is how individuals can find solace both in the world and with each other, Street says. “The two brothers find themselves in a place where they can't get out of the place they live, physically or emotionally. So this strange woman coming into their lives turns things on their head. She's searching for some healing too. I think they're all searching for something to happen when the play begins.”
The cast for "The Naturalists" includes John Keating, Tim Ruddy, Sarah Street and Michael Mellamphy. Performances will take place from September 7-23 at Walkerspace, located at 46 Walker Street in Manhattan.
Tickets, priced at $45 can be purchased by visiting thepondtheatre.org or by calling 212-279-4200.