seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of Conor McPherson, Playwright, Screenwriter & Director

Conor McPherson, Irish playwright, screenwriter and director of stage and film, is born in Dublin on August 6, 1971. In recognition of his contribution to world theatre, he is awarded a doctorate of Literature, Honoris Causa, in June 2013 by the University College Dublin (UCD).

McPherson is educated at University College Dublin and begins writing his first plays there as a member of UCD Dramsoc, the college’s dramatic society, and goes on to found Fly by Night Theatre Company which produces several of his plays. He is considered one of the best contemporary Irish playwrights. His plays attract good reviews, and have been performed internationally (notably in the West End and on Broadway).

The Weir opens at the Royal Court Theatre before transferring to the West End and Broadway. It wins the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play for 1999.

McPherson’s 2001 play, Port Authority, tells of three interwoven lives. The play is first produced by the Gate Theatre of Dublin but premiers at the New Ambassadors Theatre in London in February 2001, before moving to the Gate Theatre in April of that year. The production is directed by McPherson himself. New York‘s Atlantic Theater Company stages a production of the play in the spring of 2008, starring Brian d’Arcy James, and Tony Award winners John Gallagher, Jr. and Jim Norton. The New York Times critic Ben Brantley says, “I found myself holding on to what these actors had to say as if I were a five-year-old at bedtime being introduced to The Arabian Nights.”

McPherson also directs his play, Dublin Carol, at the Atlantic Theater Company, New York, in 2003.

McPherson’s 2004 play Shining City opens at the Royal Court Theatre and prompts The Daily Telegraph to describe him as “the finest dramatist of his generation.” A meditation on regret, guilt and confusion, the play is set entirely within the Dublin offices of a psychiatrist who himself has psychological secrets. While much of the play takes the form of monologues delivered by a patient, the everyday stories and subtle poignancy and humour make it a riveting experience. It subsequently opens on Broadway in 2006 and is nominated for two Tony Awards, including Best Play.

In September 2006, to great critical acclaim, McPherson makes his Royal National Theatre debut as both author and director with The Seafarer at the Cottesloe Theatre, starring Karl Johnson and Jim Norton, with Ron Cook as their poker-playing, Mephistophelean guest. Norton wins an Olivier Award for his performance while McPherson is nominated for both the Olivier and Evening Standard Theatre Awards for Best Play. In October 2007 The Seafarer opens on Broadway, keeping with it most of its creative team, including McPherson as director and both Jim Norton and Conleth Hill in their respective roles, with David Morse taking over as Sharky, and Ciarán Hinds portraying Mr. Lockhart. The production on Broadway receives some positive reviews including such statements as “McPherson is quite possibly the finest playwright of his generation” from Ben Brantley at The New York Times and “Succinct, startling and eerie, and the funniest McPherson play to date” from The Observer. Norton’s performance as Richard Harkin in The Seafarer at the National Theatre wins the 2007 Best Supporting Actor Laurence Olivier Award, and he wins a Tony Award in 2008 for Best Featured Actor in a play.

McPherson writes and directs a stage adaptation of Daphne du Maurier‘s story The Birds, which opens in September 2009 at the Gate Theatre in Dublin.

In 2011 the Royal National Theatre premiers his play The Veil at the Lyttleton Theatre. Described by The Times as “a cracking fireside tale of haunting and decay,” it is set in 1822 and marks McPherson’s first foray into period drama. This vein continues with a striking new translation of August Strindberg‘s The Dance of Death premiering at the Trafalgar Studios in London at the end of 2012. His version is described as “a profoundly seminal work” by The Guardian which also managed, The Times says, to be “shockingly funny.”

The Donmar Warehouse mounts a season of McPherson’s work in 2013 with a revival of The Weir and the world premiere of The Night Alive. The Weir is hailed once again as “a modern classic” by The Daily Telegraph and “a contemporary classic” by The Guardian while The Night Alive is nominated for the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Play and described as “another triumph” by The Independent on Sunday and “a masterstroke” by Time Out.

The Night Alive transfers to the Atlantic Theatre New York, where it is awarded the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Play 2014, and also receives Best Play nominations from the Drama Desk and Lucille Lortell Awards.

McPherson’s play Girl from the North Country, where the dramatic action is broken up by 20 songs by Bob Dylan, opens at London’s The Old Vic on July 26, 2017. The play is set in a hotel in 1934 in Duluth, Minnesota, the birthplace of Dylan. The project begins when Dylan’s office approaches McPherson and suggests creating a play using Dylan songs. The drama receives favorable reviews.

The film of his first screenplay, I Went Down, is critically acclaimed and a great commercial success. His first feature film as a director, Saltwater, wins the CICAE award for Best Film at the Berlin International Film Festival. His second feature film is The Actors, which he wrote and directed.

He is the director and co-writer of The Eclipse, a film which has its world premiere at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival. It is picked up for distribution by Magnolia Pictures and is released in U.S. cinemas in the spring of 2010. The film subsequently wins the Melies D’Argent Award for Best European Film at the Sitges Film Festival in Spain, the world’s premier horror and fantasy genre festival. At The 2010 Irish Film and television Awards The Eclipse wins the awards for Best Film and Best Screenplay. Ciarán Hinds wins the Best Actor Award at the Tribeca Film Festival for his portrayal of Michael Farr.

In 2013, McPherson writes the last episode of Quirke. In 2020, he co-writes the feature film adaptation of the Artemis Fowl books by Eoin Colfer. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is released digitally worldwide on Disney+ on June 12, 2020.


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Birth of Composer Gerald Barry

Gerald Barry, Irish composer, is born in Clarehill, Clarecastle, County Clare, on April 28, 1952.

Growing up in rural County Clare, Barry has little exposure to music except through the radio: “The thing that was the lightning flash for me, in terms of Saint Paul on the road to Damascus, would have been an aria from a Handel opera, from Xerxes maybe, that I heard on the radio. I heard this woman singing this, and bang – my head went. And that was how I discovered music.” He is educated at St. Flannan’s College, Ennis, County Clare. He goes on to study music at University College Dublin, in Amsterdam with Peter Schat, in Cologne with Karlheinz Stockhausen and Mauricio Kagel, and in Vienna with Friedrich Cerha. He teaches at University College Cork from 1982 to 1986.

“Barry’s is a world of sharp edges, of precisely defined yet utterly unpredictable musical objects. His music sounds like no one else’s in its diamond-like hardness, its humour, and sometimes, its violence.” He often conceives of material independently of its instrumental medium, recycling ideas from piece to piece, as in the reworking of Triorchic Blues from a violin to a piano piece to an aria for countertenor in his television opera The Triumph of Beauty and Deceit:

“It seemed to me unprecedented: the combination of the ferociously objective treatment of the material and the intense passion of the working-out, and both at an extreme of brilliance. And the harmony – that there was harmony at all, and that it was so beautiful and lapidary. It functions, again, irrationally, but powerfully, to build tension and to create structure. It wasn’t just repetitive. It builds. And the virtuosity, the display of it, that combination of things seemed, to me, to be new, and a major way forward.”

Barry’s most recent opera, The Importance of Being Earnest, has become a huge success after its world premiere at Los Angeles and European premiere at the Barbican, London. A critic comments:

“He writes ‘what he likes’ in the way Strindberg does, not trying to characterise his characters, but letting them perform his own specialties, a kind of platform for his own musical specialties. As in Strindberg where you feel every sentence stands for itself and the characters are sort of borrowed for the use of saying them (borrowed to flesh out the text, rather than the other way round), that they’ve been out for the day. In Gerald’s opera the whole apparatus – for that’s what it is – takes on a kind of surrealistic shape, like one person’s torso on someone else’s legs being forced to walk, half the characters in the opera and half the composer.”

It is written in The Irish Times that “no other Irish composer springs to mind who carries the same aura of excitement and originality or whose music means so much to such a wide range of listeners. Certainly, there has been no Irish premiere that has made the impression of The Conquest of Ireland since Barry’s opera The Intelligence Park was seen at the Gate Theatre in 1990.”

In a 2013 guide to Barry’s musical output, Tom Service of The Guardian praises Chevaux-de-frise (1988), The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (2005), Lisbon (2006), Beethoven (2008), and The Importance of Being Earnest (2012).


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Birth of Frank McGuinness, Playwright & Poet

Frank McGuinness, award-winning Irish playwright and poet, is born in Buncrana, a town located on the Inishowen peninsula of County Donegal on July 29, 1953. As well as his own works, which include The Factory Girls, Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme, Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me and Dolly West’s Kitchen, he is recognised for a “strong record of adapting literary classics, having translated the plays of Jean Racine, Sophocles, Henrik Ibsen, Federico García Lorca, and August Strindberg to critical acclaim.”

McGuinness is educated locally and at University College Dublin, where he studies Pure English and medieval studies to postgraduate level.

He first comes to prominence with his play The Factory Girls, but establishes his reputation with his play about World War I, Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme, which is staged in Dublin‘s Abbey Theatre and internationally. The play makes a name for him when it is performed at Hampstead Theatre, drawing comments about McGuinness’s Irish Catholic background. It wins numerous awards including the London Evening Standard Award for Most Promising Playwright for McGuinness and the Christopher Ewart-Biggs Memorial Prize. He has also written new versions of classic dramas, including works by Henrik Ibsen, Anton Chekhov, and Euripides, adapting the literal translations of others. In addition, he writes the screenplay for the film Dancing at Lughnasa, adapting the stage play by fellow Ulsterman Brian Friel.

McGuinness’s first poetry anthology, Booterstown, is published in 1994. Several of his poems have been recorded by Marianne Faithfull, including Electra, After the Ceasefire and The Wedding.

McGuinness previously lectured in Linguistics and Drama at the University of Ulster, Medieval Studies at University College, Dublin and English at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth. Then he is a writer-in-residence lecturing at University College Dublin before being appointed Professor of Creative Writing in the School of English, Drama and Film there in 2007.