#TheShowMustGoOnline - Irish culture endures, it's wonderful and it matters still.
Back in March, on St. Patrick's Day, the Irish Rep Theatre in Manhattan began releasing a series of homemade videos on their social media channels of Irish Rep company members performing some of their favorite songs, poems, and monologues from Irish and Irish American plays, poets and performers.
At the time, which now already seems like half a decade ago, they had no idea if or when they would ever be allowed back into the much-missed theatre to recommence their art and lives. They still don't.
But by adopting the hashtag "The Show Must Go Online" the Rep and Irish actor Michael Mellamphy (who co-curate) has gamely stepped up week after week, month after month, to remind us that Irish culture endures, it's wonderful and it matters still.
Theatre is the most community-building example of all the art forms because it happens in a communal space and it often asks us to get to grips with some of the most thorny issues of our existence. It can also be a hell of a lot of fun. The new online series keeps both ideas in mind.
Predictably, the web page and the initiative itself have become a hit. On their dedicated YouTube channel for the series, the Rep's videos have now received 10,499 views. This enthusiastic response reminds us that actors and theaters need an audience and that the Rep has been at the forefront of the national effort to maintain that audience in truly extraordinary times.
“The digital content is a way to continue for us to connect the Irish Rep community and theater audiences with leading Irish and Irish American playwrights, scholars, performers, poets, politicians, theater-makers, and more,” explains Mellamphy. “All the content can be found by using the hashtag #IrishRepOnline.”
Banner names like Melissa Errico have participated, in the series singing Look To The Rainbow a signature number from the musical "Finnian's Rainbow" and a reminder that nurturing your dreams in hard times is the absolute best way to get through them.
Gabriel Byrne has also participated in the series, reading Raymond Carver's near haiku Late Fragment and poem by James Joyce.
Another unmissable clip reassembles the charismatic cast members from the Rep's celebrated production of Brian Friel's "Dancing at Lughnasa." Actors Rachel Pickup, Jo Kinsella, Annabel Hagg, Aedin Moloney, and Orlagh Cassidy have reunited to perform a classic scene from the celebrated show in honor of its 30th Anniversary on stage.
Meanwhile, the Rep's main-stage productions continue online with the world premiere of the immensely moving short play "The Gifts You Gave To The Dark," directed by Caitriona McLaughlin. Written by Darren Murphy the new production was created specifically for digital media and in reaction to the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis.
The show stars Sean McGinley (Braveheart) as Uncle Larry, Tony Award winner Marie Mullen (The Beauty Queen of Leenane) as Rose and Druid's Marty Rea (Whistle in the Dark) as Tom and the story follows Belfast man Tom, who is confined to his bed with Covid-19 symptoms and who is unable to visit his mother Rose, who is dying in Dublin.
His uncle Larry arranges a last Facetime call from Rose’s sickbed. As Larry holds his phone to Rose’s ear, Tom tells his mother the story of a journey, an image of a perfect day they once shared.
It’s a deeply affecting, beautifully acted story about the very last thing that a son can do for his mother, and under the unique circumstances of this cruel disease, it's the only thing he can do for her. As Tom speaks he takes his mother on her final journey during the last ten minutes of her life.
"The Gifts You Gave to the Dark" is about the power of story to connect us and offer comfort in even the darkest of times, even across huge separations of geography and time.
"The Gifts You Gave To The Dark" also reminds us of the unique power of Irish theatre to tackle even the darkest issues head-on and bring a real measure of healing to the viewer in the process. To catch a screening, which will remain online through October 2020, log onto the Irish Rep home page at IrishRep.org.