Irish Theatre Fest at ArtsEmerson in 2011

Abbey, Druid Theatres Will Be Featured Along With World  Premiere on Rose Kennedy
By R. J. Donovan
Special to The BIR
This fall, there’ll be a new cultural organization joining the Boston arts community. ArtsEmerson has been established by Emerson College to bring an eclectic program of legendary and pioneering international theater, film, and music to town.
Performances, workshops and discussions will take place in the four distinct venues operated by the college, including the handsomely refurbished 590-seat Paramount Theatre, the intimate 150-seat Black Box Theatre, the 170-seat Bright Family Screening Room, and the historic 1,186-seat Cutler Majestic.

ArtsEmerson’s Executive Director Robert J. Orchard announced the inaugural season last month, saying with a smile, “We’re bringing the world here, so you don’t have to go to the airport.”
Included among the more than 100 performances and 17 different productions will be an Irish Festival of plays and films, set for January and February of 2011.
In a major coup, ArtsEmerson will be among the first organizations to help launch a year-long celebration of Irish culture around the world, designated by the Irish government and overseen by Culture Ireland.  Justifiably proud, Orchard said of the Irish Festival, “It all comes together at just the right time.”
In describing his new stages, Orchard acknowledged, “Boston has wonderful theaters already. And concert halls.  But for the most part they’re homes to resident companies.  And so the work that’s done in those facilities is dedicated, not surprisingly, almost exclusively to the work of those resident companies. Now with these four new theaters, we have the ability, for the first time . . . to bring work here from around the planet that we haven’t had an opportunity to see before.”
The Irish Festival will kick off in January with the world premiere of “The Color of Rose,” by Katherine Bates.  A memory play of sorts, the piece focuses on Rose Kennedy, matriarch of one of America’s most influential political dynasties, as she reflects on her life in preparation for an important interview. 
The play has three characters, all of whom are Mrs. Kennedy – an older Rose, a middle-aged Rose, and a young Rose.
Happily for Orchard, the play turned out to be a found treasure.  He and his staff were beginning to put the pieces of the Irish Festival together when the play was simply sent to him.  He describes the acquisition as “one of those wonderful stories” where the play “emerged” on his desk at exactly the right moment.
Of the drama’s significance, he said, “We all know so much about the Kennedy family.  It’s been approached from so many different perspectives and reported on so extensively for so many decades that I wondered what more we could learn from the play about a family that we all know so well.”
In reading it, though, he said he was fascinated that it was “written through the lens of Rose Kennedy, who is probably one of the least known of all the Kennedys because she was so private.  To cover that territory, of all the tragedy and triumphs of that family, and to see it through her eyes . . . had an accumulated emotional impact that was really quite incredible.”
In February, Galway’s Druid Theatre will present Martin McDonagh’s “The Cripple of Inishmaan,” directed by Garry Hynes.  Set in 1934, the play finds the town of Inishmaan awaiting the arrival of a Hollywood director, who’s come to neighboring Inishmore to make his latest movie.  Orphaned Billy Claven, cruelly scorned by the eccentric townspeople, turns out to get his big chance with the film.
First mounted by Druid in 2008, “Inishmaan” toured Ireland and the UK prior to playing the Atlantic Theater in New York. It would eventually be honored with six theater awards in New York, two in the U.K. and one from the Irish Times.  The engagement with ArtsEmerson will mark Druid’s Boston debut.
“I love the play,” Orchard said.  “And of course, Garry Hynes, who is directing it, has a special relationship with Martin McDonagh, having directed many of his plays. McDonagh is a universal writer and his work can be interpreted by different cultures and enjoyed in many, many different ways by people from every corner of the world.  But the pleasure of seeing an Irish voice surrounding that work, exclusively in the direction and the casting of it, I just think will be a very special experience for audiences.”
Also in February, Ireland’s famed Abbey Theatre will present Mark O’Rowe’s “Terminus,” the vivid tale of three people who, ripped from their daily lives, collide in a fantasy world of serial killers, avenging angels, and love-sick demons.

Orchard is particularly hopeful that The Abbey’s experience with ArtsEmerson will open the door for a long-term relationship.  Abbey Theatre has shown interest in doing more new work in America and partnering with the renowned Dublin company would further ArtsEmerson’s mission to develop new work.
The Irish Festival will also include other cultural elements, including a schedule of films, yet to be selected.
“Both Mark O’Rowe and Martin McDonagh are screen writers,” Orchard said, “so we’ll be showing some of their films.”  In researching additional screenings, he said he and his staff “will be reaching out to the people who are the inspirational leaders of the Irish Film Festival to see if there’s a possibility of doing some work with them.”
His objective for the programming in the Screening Room is both to enhance what’s happening in live performances and to open new horizons for audiences.  “I don’t want to be replicating work that would have otherwise happened somewhere else.”  He insists that the films, as well every other component of the season, be fresh and new.
Due to the diversity of seating options at the various theaters, ArtsEmerson is not offering conventional “same seat-same night” subscription packages.  Instead, Memberships, including one free ticket and variety of benefits and discounts, are available for $60.
Tickets for performances through the end of 2010 are available to Members now, and will go on sale to the general public July 26.  Tickets for performances from January - May 2011, including the Irish Festival, will be available to Members beginning October 1, and go on sale to the general public November 1.
The Irish Festival at ArtsEmerson, supported in part by Culture Ireland,  January - February, 2011. For information, call 617-824-8000 or visit