Druid Theatre Wants You To Discover Tom Murphy
By Gwen Orel
If you are an Irish theatergoer, you already know who Tom Murphy is.
The Galway writer has been called the greatest living playwright.
But Irish-American theatergoers are another matter. For all that the 77-year-old playwright has helped to shape Irish theatre with his plays Famine (1968), about Black 47, and Bailegangaire (1985), his work is seldom produced in America.
Compared to Synge, Beckett, Friel it seems he seldom gets done at all.
Druid Theatre in Galway seeks to change that. They are presenting DruidMurphy at Lincoln Center Festival from July 5-14.
The company brought Sean O'Casey's The Silver Tassie here last summer, and presented a cycle of the plays of John Millington Synge, called DruidSynge, in 2006.
Murphy's style is hard to pin down; some of the plays are naturalistic, some surreal, some lyrical or even allegorical.
They often take on Irish identity filtered through contemporary disappointment.
Garry Hynes was the first woman to win the Tony Award for directing, and this will be her third time at Lincoln Center Festival.
Three plays, Conversations on a Homecoming (1985), A Whistle in the Dark (1961), and Famine (1968) will be performed by an ensemble of 16 actors.
A Whistle in the Dark was Murphy's first full-length play. He was only 25 when it was produced.
Full of anger, its influence was huge. At the Village Voice, John Lahr thought it had influenced Pinter - it probably had.
It premiered at the Abbey and then was produced in London.
The cycle of plays in DruidMurphy center on Irish emigration, and span from The Great Hunger of the 1840s to 1970. Viewers can see the plays on separate evenings, or on one day.
Druid opened their refurbished Druid Lane Theatre with Murphy's The Gigli Concert during the Galway Arts Festival in 2009.
Hynes says, "I believe that Tom is one of the greatest writers for the theatre in the English language. It feels absolutely right now to ask again those questions that Tom has asked throughout his long writing career, 'Who are we as a nation? And what kind of society have we created for ourselves?'"
To help pose and consider these questions, Fordham University's Institute of Irish Studies, the Galway University Foundation and the National University of Ireland are holding an all-day symposium on July 11 from 1-6:30pm.
Scholars and theater experts will discuss the enormous influence of Tom Murphy on Irish and American cultural memories of immigration and of famine.
Irish Examiner's own Gwen Orel will moderate the 2pm lecture, "Druid and Tom Murphy: A Theatre of Miracles" with Patrick Lonergan from NUI Galway.
The afternoon of lectures and panels will culminate in an on-stage interview with Druid Theatre founders, Garry Hynes and Marie Mullen.
The event is free and open to the public. Seating is first come, first served. There are no reservations.
The symposium will take place at Keogh Studio Theater, Fordham University at Lincoln Center, 113 West 60th Street at 9th Avenue.
Performances begin on July 5 at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College, 524 West 59th Street between 10th and 11th Avenue.
Tickets start at $40 for individual performance and $120 for full-cycle days.
For more information and to buy tickets visit LincolnCenterFestival.org or go to the Avery Fisher or Alice Tully Hall box offices, or call CenterCharge at (212) 721-6500.