Last night I attended the Tina Santi Flaherty 1st Irish 2009 Theatre Awards at Hudson Terrance in Manhattan. I arrived admittedly a little under-prepared, having only seen one of the plays nominated, but it turned out I'd chosen the right one: "The Pride of Parnell Street," starring Mary Murray and Aidan Kelly and directed by Jim Culleton, won the award for Best Production.
When I saw the play last Tuesday at 59E59 Theaters, I was completely blown away by the spare and tense two-person show by the award-winning writer Sebastian Barry, constructed of overlapping monologues by the two actors as they retell the events of their life together and after the violent event that brought them apart.
The production, produced by the Dublin-based Fishamble company, traveled to New York from Ireland. Mary Murray won the Best Actress award for her emotional and multidimensional portrayal of Janet in "Parnell Street," though in a talkback session with the audience after last Tuesday's performance, she said that she initially thought she might be "too young" to play the part. Once she read the script, she reportedly fell in love with the character and was determined to have the role.
The ceremony was sponsored by the philanthropist Tina Santi Flaherty, a board member of Origin Theatre Company, which coordinates the 1st Irish theatre festival. The rest of the night's winners were Ethan Hova, who went home with the Best Actor award for his work in "Spinning the Times," Tim Ruddy, who received the Best Direction award for "After Luke/When I Was God," and Susan Zeeman Rogers, who won the Best Design award for "Is Life Worth Living?".
The judges also presented a Jury Award for Special Achievement to Barbara Hammond, who wrote "Beyond the Pale," which was nominated for 1st Irish awards in three categories, including Best Production. The other Best Production nominees were "After Luke/When I Was God" and "Trad."
This year's judges for the festival's awards were Jack Doulin, casting director of New York Theatre Workshop, Tony-nominated actress Xanthe Elbrick, the Mabou Mines artistic director Sharon Fogarty, NYU's Glucksman Ireland House professor Eileen Reilly, and the Irish Voice's own arts editor Cahir O'Doherty.
"After Luke/When I Was God" continues at The Irish Repertory Theatre through September 27.
"Is Life Worth Living?" continues at The Mint Theater Company through October 11.
"Making Strange's Luck," a Juicy MoMo Production, continues at 59E59 Theaters through October 11.
"The Pride of Parnell Street," a Fishamble production, continues at 59E59 Theaters through October 4.
"Walking the Road," "The Good Thief," and "Blood Guilty" continue at The Players Loft Theatre through October 4.
More information on the shows and ticket purchasing is available at www.1stIrish.org