The Origin 1st Irish Theatre Festival, the only festival of its kind devoted to producing and presenting the theatrical work of contemporary Irish playwrights from around the world, returns to a mostly in-person format in its upcoming 15th annual edition. Running three weeks from Monday January 9 to Tuesday January 31, Origin 1st Irish 2023 will present a mix of new shows, readings and workshops produced locally, and acclaimed productions from Ireland, in venues across the city. Participating theatres and cultural organizations include 59E59 Theaters, the Irish Repertory Theatre, the Irish Arts Center, the cell, and Symphony Space in Manhattan; the NY Irish Center in Queens, and An Beal Bocht in The Bronx. Tickets for the Festival will go on sale on Monday December 12 via www.origingtheatre.org.
The Festival’s “Opening and Welcoming Ceremony” takes place on Friday January 6 (TBD) at the Consulate General of Ireland in New York. The by-invitation reception will be hosted by the New York Consul General Helena Nolan, Origin’s board chair Carletta Downs, and Mick Mellamphy.
The Festival opens officially with the US premiere of “Heaven” produced by Dublin’s Olivier Award-winning Fishamble, the New Play Company. Written by Eugene O’Brien (winner of the Rooney Prize for Literature for “Eden”), and directed by Jim Culleton (Irish Times Best Director Award winner 2019), “Heaven,” which will be seen at 59E59 Theaters, is Fishamble’s 9th production brought to New York as part of Origin 1st Irish. (Performances from Jan 11 to 29)
Also at 59E59 Theaters for the Festival is the pitch-black dark comedy, “Frankenstein’s Monster is Drunk and the Sheep Have All Jumped the Fences,” a new work devised by Zoe Seaton based on the short story of the same name by Owen Booth. Belfast’s Big Telly brings this acclaimed, cast-of-four production, which The Guardian calls “magical,” to New York for its US premiere. (Performances from Jan 11 to 29)
Tucked in a traditionally Irish enclave in The Bronx, the charming and bustling café An Beal Bocht, which is home to Poor Mouth Theatre Company, lets the Christmas holidays linger on with special encores of their immensely popular holiday pantomine. That’s right Virginia, it’s always Christmas in the Bronx! (Sat Jan 14 at 8pm, and Sun Jan 15 at 2pm)
Among the Festival highlights: a mini festival-within-the-festival at the cell — “Femme First” – featuring workshop productions of three new plays by local women playwrights. Seen in rep at the cell the series includes “Great White American Teeth” written and performed by Fiona Walsh; “The Funny Thing About Death,” written and performed by Kim Kalish, and “It’s in the Play,” written by Orlagh Cassidy and Kate Lardner and performed by Cassidy. (Performances from Jan 20 to 30)
Returning to the Festival for the seventh year (almost) in a row, “Scór on Broadway,” produced by Jane McCarter O’Dowd, packs the Upper West Side’s Symphony Space with a dazzling display of youthful talent from an array of cultural and sports organizations across the cultural arm of New York’s GAA community. (Date TBD)
Another auspicious encore is the Off-Broadway premiere at the Irish Repertory Theatre of Ronan Noone‘s scorching character study, “The Smuggler,” a Mamet-like story in rhymed verse of an Irish immigrant pursuing the American dream. Mick Mellamphy reprises his role from the Origin 1st Irish 2019 production which earned him a nomination for best actor, and a Best Playwright Award for Noone’s original work. (Runs from January 18 to February 26)
A new festival program is the “Festival Finale” a weekend of events hosted by the Irish Arts Center on the Festival’s closing weekend and Closing Ceremony. On Sat and Sun Jan 28 & 29, readings of four new plays, and a John Kearns book event will take place in the New Irish Arts Center‘s library at various times, and a special staged reading with musical accompaniment of a new musical will unfold in the new state-of-the-art main theatre on Sat at 7pm. The plays are “Thirst” by Ronan Noone, “Hunger” by Bohdan Boychuk, “Those You Pass in the Street” by Laurence McKeown (produced with Kabosh Theatre in Belfast), and “Dublin Noir” by Honor Molloy (produced in association with The Irish American Writers and Artists – IAWA). The musical is Eamon O’Tuama’s “Peace and Love in Brooklyn.” (Sat Jan 28 at 7pm)
The Festival’s Closing Ceremony at The Irish Arts Center on Monday Jan 30 will feature a surprise appearance by the celebrated Cross Border Orchestra of Ireland, which will be in the midst of an all-Ireland tour prior to its Carnegie Hall appearance on St Patrick’s Day. Appearing virtually from Ireland, the youth orchestra will play with members of the Fairfield County Children’s Choir, who will appear live on stage. The evening will also feature excerpts from the new musical “Peace and Love in Brooklyn.” The evening concludes with the Festival Awards that will recognize unique contributions to the Festival, followed by a reception. Mon Jan 30, 7pm
The final event of the Festival, “Origin’s St Brigid’s Eve,” marks the feast of the patroness saint of Ireland, Saint Brigid, which this year becomes a new public holiday in Ireland. Consisting of a reading of a new play, and festive gathering marking the halfway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox “Origin’s St Brigid’s Eve” is on Tue Jan 31 at 7pm (Location TBD)
Produced by Origin Theatre Company, now in its 20th anniversary season, Origin 1st Irish 2023 is curated by Michael “Mick” Mellamphy, Origin Theater’s artistic director since 2021. This will be the third 1st Irish Festival in a row curated by Mellamphy. Dates and times subject to change… Final schedule and tickets on sale on Mon Dec 12 at www.origintheatre.org
This year Origin 1st Irish introduces its new Pub Partners initiative. A consortium of 13 of New York’s most beloved and unique Irish pubs will welcome artists and festivalgoers from New York and abroad with the warm-hearted hospitality of the Island. Drink specials honoring the Festival and its shows, plus opportunities for talks and spontaneous performances in various nooks and crannies will be offered. Visitors to the pubs who tag selfies of themselves (and friends) at #originhtheatre will be entered in our Festival Contest for a chance to win two free tickets to Ireland from Aer Lingus. For more details visit www.origintheatre.org
Participating theatres, arts orgs and venues include Fishamble: The New Play Company, and Big Telly and Kabosh Theatre in Belfast; Cross Border Orchestra of Ireland in Dundalk; Poor Mouth Theatre (An Bael Bocht Café); The Irish Rep; The Irish Arts Center, the NY Irish Center, Origin Theatre Company, The Irish American Writers and Artists; Scór on Broadway; Symphony Space, the cell, ART NY and the pubs Blooms Tavern, Hendricksons, Arlene’s Grocery, The Scratcher, Smithfield Hall, The Longacre Tavern, Ryan’s Daughter, The Banc Cafe, The Raven, Dylan Murphy’s, The Globe, The Turnmill, Avoca, Peter Dillons and The Grafton.