Summer's here and that means Irish festivals, shows and music and a myriad of opportunities to reconnect with your culture and community.
The thermostat is rising but before you flee the city be aware that there are some terrific Irish shows to catch around town this month.
Let's start with the theater. The basic set up of Michael McLiammoir's The Mountain's Look Different is a familiar one in Irish drama, a returned emigrant named Bairbre (played by Brenda Meaney) finds herself at odds with her past and her present.
There's a reason Irish dramatists return to this evergreen theme over and over, it sets up the basic exchange between those who leave and those who stay, examining their respective roles in it.
Set in the late 1940s where the new Republic has emerged as a cold house for women and no house at all for the unconventional or the different, it's instructive to contrast this outwardly pious but judgmental place with the more tolerant and welcoming nation we have slowly become.
The original production in 1948 was met with controversy and walkouts over the subject matter, which took issue with Ireland's social hypocrisies. In the play, Bairbre has escaped to London, where after a hard struggle she made a life for herself and eventually found a husband.
It's what she did to support herself in the intervening years that offended the Irish men (the audience members who walked out were men) in the audience. It becomes clear she has worked as a prostitute, and that her husband's increasingly belligerent father once visited her (and remembers her face).
McLiammoir, a well known gay man who made little secret of the fact at a time when he could have been imprisoned for it, was launching a grenade at the pomposity of the theocratic republic all around him and this is a timely revival of this long-neglected play (playing through July 14 at Theatre Row, 410 West 42 Street).
Meanwhile, at The Irish Rep, the O'Casey season will be followed up on the main stage by Little Gem, the three woman show (mother, grandmother and granddaughter).
Kay, the grandmother, has to cook and care for her stroke felled husband, as Lorraine the mother charts the fall out of her failed marriage to her drug-addicted husband and Amber the granddaughter charts some addiction troubles of her own.
If this sounds dark, well it is. But the tough-minded determination to rise above it and to connect will strike a chord with anyone who sees it, as will their fierce determination to ensure the next generation of men will not be as wounded or selfish as the ones that preceded them. The play will perform July 17 to September 1.
If you've got bored school kids at home already wondering what they're going to do all summer why not take them to The New York Irish Center’s Eight Annual Summer celebration of Irish roots, culture, heritage, and arts, through workshops in drama, music, visual arts and dance, all while exploring the oldest of Irish legends and folklore? There will be fourteen places available for kids aged 5-8 years and fourteen places for 9-12-year-olds. Booking is available at newyorkirishcenter.org.
If you're planning to get away upstate for a bit of the summer you may already know the Catskills is the place to beat the heat. What you might not know is that you'll be able to attend master classes at the famous Catskills Irish Week by the legendary musician and scholar Mick Moloney.
The Green Fields of America was the name of his 2018 spellbinding concert series that also included fascinating insights into the wider Irish story in America, as seen through our culture and musical traditions.
Some of the themes that will be covered this summer include the accordion on Irish music, the harp in Irish music, the Irish and African roots of American music, and Irish women and the uilleann pipes (even the direction of the festival itself will be debated, and after 25 successful years this is a discussion worth having).
From July 14 to 20, festival-goers will celebrate Irish culture, music, food, and dance at East Durham's Irish Cultural and Sports Centre. For more information visit catskillsirishartsweek.com.
In the city, there's another couple of festivals that involve music and food options to really get you in the spirit of the summer.
The Great Irish Festival which includes Irish street vendors and Irish food options will return to close down that part of 6 Avenue just above Rockefeller on August 17. Expect soda bread and Irish stews alongside Irish dancing and Irish crafts.
Irish music, food and culture will also be the main event later in the summer at the Great Irish Fair of New York which celebrates the city's formidable Irish-American history and culture. Several thousand attendees will gather for this family-friendly event that features traditional and contemporary Irish music, foods and beverages from many participating vendors.
In the world of film this summer we recommend that you catch" Calm With Horses," opening July 17. Starring the gifted young screen actor Barry Keoghan, it's a gritty tale of a former boxer who gets called upon to be the enforcer by his drug dealing family, all the while trying to be a good father to his autistic son.
Based on the short story by young Irish writer Colin Barrett, it's a story about small-town entrapment and the difficulty of striking out on your own when nothing you have ever known has shown you the way. It also features hypnotic performances from Keoghan and newcomer Cosmo Jarvis (who you're going to be hearing more from).
On July 19 perhaps the most timely new Irish film of the year will debut. "Rosie" is written by the legendary Roddie Doyle and it stars Sarah Greene and Moe Dunford as a mother of three and her partner whose world is upended when their landlord sells their rented home, plunging them into homelessness.
Soon it's a race against the clock for the two young parents as their circumstances threaten their relationship and then their family. Living out of her car as she scrambles for a roof to put over their heads, the prospect of well-intentioned but clueless authorities tearing her life apart makes this film both terrifying and bleakly funny.
But its the flawless central performances from Greene and Dunford that will stop you in your tracks. This is a film that speaks directly to Ireland's increasingly two-tier social system and what it says is an indictment of official neglect.
Chris O'Dowd will soon return to star in "How To Build A Girl," the new film based on Caitlin Moran's best-selling novel of the same name. Also starring Emma Thompson, its the story of how a working-class Irish girl in an English home actually finds the courage to become the person she dreams of being (and what happens when she discovered that's not quite enough).
Finally, you may want to head on over to Apple Music or Spotify for these recommendations. First up is This Wild Willing, the new album from Glen Hansard.
Always a revelation, this may be his most personal record in a decade. The songs run from the showstoppers to the quietly devastating and behind it all is that one of a kind voice.
Finally, we recommend you get to know the music of Rosie Carney this summer. Her album Bare is so vocally rich that it will stop you in the middle of your day.
Take some time out to listen to the Donegal born singer, who has one of those restorative voices that convey every note she sings because she has lived it.
Any other recommendations for us? Let us know in the comments section, below.