Category: Archive

De Valera unveils plans for Kennedy Center Irish arts festival

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Susan Falvella-Garraty

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The largest ever all Irish theater and arts festival will be held in Washington in May of 2000, it was announced last week.

Irish Arts Minister Síle de Valera announced that the John F. Kennedy Center for performing arts will host the program, "Island: Arts from Ireland," which will highlight works ranging from Seamus Heaney to Donal O’Kelley and Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill.

"This will be the largest presentation of Irish works ever presented," said de Valera of the spring production.

Flanked by former U.S. ambassador to Ireland Jean Kennedy Smith, organizers of the week-long event and brothers Malachy and Frank McCourt, the minister said RTE planned to broadcast live the first two days of the festival.

"The idea of this festival was first mooted in Ireland by Ms. Jean Kennedy Smith last year," de Valera said. "The draft proposal caught the imagination of my government. It recognized that the arts in both parts of Ireland have undergone an unprecedented cultural explosion over the past several years."

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Catalpa, written and performed by Donal O’Kelley, Marina Carr’s Raftery’s Hill, directed by Tony Award winner Garry Hynes, singer Tommy Makem, and members of the Broadway production of "Riverdance" are expected to perform during the planned festival.

Frank McCourt, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "Angela’s Ashes," spoke at the announcement held in the rooftop terrace of the Kennedy Center Theater Thursday morning. The author said the global recognition Ireland currently is receiving for its contribution to literature and the arts is in part attributable to the Irish themselves becoming experts and leaders in modern communications.

He also said the Irish were just darn good storytellers. This week he has released his newest book, ‘Tis: A Memoir," the greatly anticipated sequel to "Angela’s Ashes."

"I could not have written ‘Angela’s Ashes’ if I had not left Ireland," McCourt told the news conference where he was lending his support to the festival organizers.

It was the ability to come to the less restrictive American culture, McCourt said, that let him write and perform with his actor brother Malachy following a 20-year career as a teacher in the New York public school system.

Malachy is currently presenting "A Couple of Blaguards" at Ford’s Theater. The show is a mixture of song and stories of the McCourt brothers’ lives.

After more than 65 printings, there are currently more than 2,325,000 copies of Angela’s Ashes in print in North America alone.

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