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ArtsEmerson Celebrates World Premiere of Irish Festival

An international effort to bring Irish culture to the United States is gaining momentum, thanks to ArtsEmerson.

Continuing through February 13, the Irish Festival based on the Emerson College campus encompasses three major plays, movies, readings, and opportunities for students to meet and work with crew and cast members in formal and informal settings. It’s just the opening act for ArtsEmerson, the new organization that is charged with bringing cutting-edge theater to Emerson College and the Boston community, as well as incubating new works.

Sitting on folding chairs in a practice studio at the Paramount Center last week, Acting/Directing major Daniel Robert ’13 and Acting major Noelle Vinas ’14 quizzed the Druid Theatre Company cast of The Cripple of Inishmaan.

“This is an incredible opportunity for someone like me in performing arts to be influenced and guided by connections with world-class performers.”

The students are unlikely aware that Boston’s Irish cultural connection goes back 100 years, particularly with the Abbey Theatre Company, which William Butler Yeats brought to a theatre that once stood in the neighborhood, according to a Boston Globe article. Then, the premiere was The Playboy of the Western World.

The plays included in the current festival are The Color of Rose, about the inner and public lives of Rose Kennedy, Irish Catholic mother of President John Kennedy; The Cripple of Inishmaan, a dark comedy about the inhabitants of an isolated island off the coast of Ireland; and Terminus, which explores the intersections of three lives. Film screenings include Man of Aran, How the Myth Was Made, and Perrier’s Bounty.

The Color of Rose and Terminus continue through February 13, and The Cripple of Inishmaan closed February 6 to embark on an international tour. Much of the festival is supported by an Irish government program called Imagine Ireland. The program is funding 400 events in 40 states this year.

This week, readings and discussions dominate, with Marble by Marina Carr at 7:00 pm on Monday, a reading by Dublin author Hugo Hamilton at 6:00 pm on Tuesday, a pre-show talk about Terminus with Abbey Theatre Director Fiach Mac Conghail at 6:30 pm on Wednesday, a reading with Irish music writer and novelist Peter Murphy at 6:00 pm on Thursday, and a pre-show talk about Terminus with playwright Mark O’Rowe at 7:00 pm on Friday. For a complete schedule, see the Emerson College events calendar.

A taste of Ireland will linger: from February 13 to 15, the Belfast-based Cinemagic International Television and Film Festival will be on campus. Events include a screening of the Irish film A Shine of Rainbows, documentary and television production workshops, and a presentation on film production by former Massachusetts Film Office Executive Director Nick Paleologos.

While it is ArtsEmerson’s objective to bring more opportunities for student immersion in such projects and cultural events, the Irish Festival came together coincidentally with the founding of the organization, said the College’s Executive Director for the Arts, Robert Orchard. “There was a degree of serendipity involved” in the festival scheduling venues just as ArtsEmerson was launching, he explained. “Students were directly involved in seminal ways in developing The Color of Rose. The stage was managed by students; a major part went to a student. They helped create the play.

“As we go along, the faculty will be involved in these sorts of collaborations, to develop projects that will bring students in from across the departments,” Orchard said.

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