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 Cavan O’Connor, “The Singing Vagabond”

Clarence Patrick O’Connor, British singer of Irish heritage known professionally as Cavan O’Connor, is born on July 1, 1899 in Carlton, Nottinghamshire, England. He is most popular in the 1930s and 1940s, when he is billed as “The Singing Vagabond” or “The Vagabond Lover.”

O’Connor is born to parents of Irish origin. His father dies when he is young, and he leaves school at an early age to work in the printing trade. He serves in World War I as a gunner and signaler in the Royal Artillery, after first being rejected by the Royal Navy when it is discovered that he had pretended to be three years older than his real age. He is wounded in the war, aged 16, while serving with the Royal Artillery. After the war he returns to Nottingham where he works in a music shop. He starts singing in clubs and at concerts, before deciding to turn professional in the early 1920s.

O’Connor wins a scholarship to the Royal College of Music in London, where he meets his wife, Rita Tate (real name Margherita Odoli), a niece of the opera singer Maggie Teyte. He makes his first recordings, as Cavan O’Connor, for the Vocalion label in 1925, including “I’m Only a Strolling Vagabond” from the operetta The Cousin from Nowhere, which becomes his signature song. Noted for his fine tenor voice, well suited for recording, he appears on many British dance band recordings in the 1920s and 1930s, and uses a wide variety of pseudonyms, including Harry Carlton, Terence O’Brien, and Allan O’Sullivan. He also joins Nigel Playfair‘s revue company at the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith, before moving on to playing lead roles in opera productions at The Old Vic, often performing in French, Italian and Spanish.

O’Connor turns increasingly toward light entertainment, largely for financial reasons. He starts appearing in variety shows around the country, often performing Irish folk songs. Having made his first radio broadcasts for BBC Radio in 1926, he continues to feature occasionally, but makes his breakthrough when he is billed, initially anonymously, as “The Strolling Vagabond” and “The Vagabond Lover” on a series of radio programmes produced by Eric Maschwitz in 1935. This is the first British radio series based around a solo singer, and when it becomes known that he is the performer, makes him a star, “one of Britain’s highest paid radio personalities.” The series continues for over ten years. From 1946, his Sunday lunchtime radio series, The Strolling Vagabond, is heard by up to 14 million listeners.

O’Connor consistently tours and continues to broadcast regularly. During World War II he settles in Bangor, Gwynedd, north Wales, and regularly appears on the Irish Half Hour radio programmes. His most popular songs include “The World Is Mine Tonight,” written for O’Connor by Maschwitz and George Posford, “Danny Boy” and “I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen,” an American song widely assumed to be Irish. He records frequently for at least 15 record labels over his career, including Decca Records, at one point recording 40 songs in five days. He makes over 800 recordings in total, both under his own name and pseudonyms, and also appears in two films, Ourselves Alone (1936) and Under New Management (known in the U.S. as Honeymoon Hotel, 1946).

After the war, O’Connor returns to live in London, and tours in Australia and South Africa as well as in Don Ross‘s Thanks for the Memory tours. He retires at one point to set up an electrical goods business, but then resumes his music career in the Avonmore Trio with his wife and son, to give occasional performances and make recordings, the last in 1984.

O’Connor dies at the age of 97 in London on January 11, 1997.


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Birth of Theatrical Producer Hilton Edwards

hilton-edwardsHilton Edwards, an English-born Irish actor, lighting designer, and theatrical producer, is born in London on February 2, 1903.

Edwards begins his career acting with the Charles Doran Shakespeare Company in 1920 in Windsor and then joins The Old Vic in London, playing in all but two of Shakespeare‘s plays before leaving the company a few years later. Trained in music, he also sings baritone roles with the Old Vic Opera company.

After touring with various companies in Britain and South Africa, Edwards goes to Ireland in 1927 for a season with Anew McMaster’s company and meets McMaster’s brother-in-law, Micheál Mac Liammóir. As he tells an interviewer once, both men want a theater of their own. Mac Liammóir wants it to be in Ireland and Edwards does not care. “I don’t care about nationalism, I care about the theater,” he says.

Edwards and Mac Liammóir co-found the Gate Theatre in Dublin in 1928. The two men’s talents are complementary. Mac Liammóir is an actor, designer, and writer. Edwards is a director, actor, producer, and lighting designer. Edwards produces and directs more than 300 plays at the Gate, ranging from the works of Aeschylus and Sophocles, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Henrik Ibsen to the comedies of George Bernard Shaw and Richard Brinsley Sheridan and new Irish plays, by such authors as W.B. Yeats, Brian Friel, and Mac Liammóir.

In New York City in 1948 Edwards plays in and directs John Bull’s Other Island and directs The Old Lady Says No and Where Stars Walk. In 1961 Edwards takes a two-year leave from the Gate to become the first Head of Drama at Telefís Éireann. A year later, he wins a Jacob’s Award for his television series Self Portrait.

Edwards appears in 15 films, including Captain Lightfoot (1955), David and Goliath (1960), Victim (1961), and Half a Sixpence (1967). He also writes and directs Orson Welles‘s Return to Glennascaul (1951). However, he is primarily known for his theatre work. He is nominated for a Tony Award in 1966 for Best Director of a Drama for Philadelphia, Here I Come!

Hilton Edwards dies in a Dublin hospital on November 18, 1982. Edwards and Mac Liammóir are the subject of a biography, titled The Boys by Christophor Fitz-Simon.