Playwright and bartender

Tell us about yourself.

“I was born in Ballyfermot, a suburb on the south side of Dublin. I survived Ballyfermot, the seventies and the Christian Brothers, not an easy task by any means. I’ve worked and traveled extensively throughout the United States and somehow I have ended up in Staten Island with a beautiful wife and two sons.”

When did you come to the U.S.?

“I came to the U.S. in 1985. There were no jobs in Ireland then (much like now). So many of my generation were forced to leave Ireland in the eighties; airplanes were flying out full and coming back empty. I had a better chance of seeing my fellow classmates in the pubs of Manhattan than in the pubs of Dublin.”

How did you get into writing plays?

“Years ago a friend of mine asked me to write a short one act play to pair up with two other short acts other friends had written. My short act was 250 pages, the other two friends dropped out, and mine was produced by default. When I realized actors would actually repeat the lines I wrote I became addicted.”

Is it your full time job now?

“Not quite. Sometimes I bartend, which is a little like live theater except you don’t have to wait until the end of the show to have a drink and the audience always has a good time, even if they don’t remember it in the morning.”

What about your new play, “A Short Wake?”

“It’s a dark little gothic comedy set in a New York funeral parlor, where two estranged brothers reunite at their father’s wake. The father, a big brooding Irishman, is the cause of the brothers’ estrangement, and now in his death he is the only chance the bothers have at any kind of a normal life, if they don’t kill each other first.”

What was the inspiration behind the play?

“My own background and family cannot but help influence a play of this kind (sorry Mom). I have three sisters and each of us have carried with us into adulthood a collection of memories from our childhood. When we meet, all too infrequently, I am constantly amazed at how different our memories are, what we have chosen to remember and what we have chosen to forget or perhaps hide.  

“The memories my oldest and youngest siblings have of my father are so different it is as though there were two fathers, and that is what first inspired me to write the play, the gulf between those memories.”

Anything else in the pipeline?

“I’ve just finished a play called “The Stand Up Man Falling Down.” It concerns a man who wanted desperately to be a priest but ends up becoming a comedian, his wife commits suicide in the first act, his son tries to kill him in the second, and he suddenly comes to the realization that he may not be very funny. However the play is . . . very funny.”

Interview by April Drew

See Derek Murphy’s play, “A Short Wake”

“A Short Wake” comes to life on Thursday September 10, playing 12 performances through Saturday September 26 at Manhattan Theatre Source, 177 MacDougal Street. Performances during the show’s 3-week engagement are Thursday, Friday & Saturday at 8pm and Saturday at 3pm. Tickets, which are $18, are available via, by phone at 212/352-3101 or online at