Sunday, October 09, 2005

Playwright Brian Friel

Brian Friel is generally considered the foremost Irish contemporary dramatist, and “Translations” has been called his masterpiece. With its first production in 1981, Friel was hailed as the heir to the great Irish playwrights of the past, Sean O’Casey and John Millington Synge.

Like his great-grandfather (master of a hedge school) and his father before him, Brian Friel became a teacher. But after a decade in the classroom, his short stories published in the New Yorker allowed him to pursue writing full time in 1960.

His first play were “This Doubtful Paradise” (1959) and “The Enemy Within” (1962.) Then he was invited to Minneapolois by Tyrone Guthrie in 1963 to observe the process of regional theatre in the United States. Shortly afterwards, he wrote “Philadelphia, Here I Come!”— set in the same village as Translations, about a young Irishman considering emigrating to the U.S.--- which was produced on Broadway in 1966, and became the longest-running Irish play in Broadway history, a record not broken until 1979 and Hugh Leonard’s Da. (It was revived on Broadway in 1994.)

His most famous play in the US is Dancing at Lughnasa (1990), which won a Tony Award for Best Play and was the basis for a feature film (1998) starring Meryl Streep.

Friel has had nine of his plays produced on Broadway so far. His most recent play, The Home Place, premiered in 2005 at The Gate in Dublin, starring Tom Courtenay. Ralph Fiennes is scheduled to appear in Friel’s Faith Healer in Dublin, and on Broadway in 2006.

Friel has lived most of his life in Derry or just across the border in County Donegal, in the region where Translations takes place.


At 6:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the clear images and useful summaries. Here in Hungary we've put together a volume of essays on Friel's drama that should be out by the end of year. To be published by Carysfort Press in Dublin!

Meantime, every good wish for a most successful production and run.

Donald E Morse and Csilla Bertha, University of Debrecen, Hungary


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