The Irish Repertory Theatre
Thrives on a String of Hits as it Approaches Another Gala Year
by Brad Balfour
When Ciaran O’Reilly and Charlotte Moore founded the Irish Repertory Theatre, they opened in September 1988 with Sean O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars. From that point on, it became a nexus for great play craft and generally superb acting, bringing to the States lots of discoveries from the Emerald Isle and the Irish Diaspora. In its nearly 30 years of putting on more than 200 productions, it has had more than 40,000 audience members annually attend Irish Rep shows.
In appreciation of this heritage and its on-going mission, the company – as directed by Charlotte Moore – will present an unforgettable one-night-only gala performance celebrating benchmark Broadway composer Alan Jay Lerner’s life and music on the centennial anniversary of his birth. Featuring performances by such notables as Jeremy Irons, Melissa Errico, James Barbour, Stephen Bogardus, John Cudia, John Cullum, Donna Kane, Maryann Plunkett, David Staller, Max Von Essen, and more, all will be accompanied by an orchestra and chorus under John Bell’s direction. This will also honor Tina Santi Flaherty for her history of philanthropy and support of Irish Rep.
It takes place Monday, June 4, 2018, starting at 7 pm in The Town Hall (123 W 43rd Street). Lerner’s most celebrated musicals (written with Frederick Loewe) include Brigadoon, Paint Your Wagon, Gigi, Camelot, and My Fair Lady. Two-time Tony winner Cullum – an original cast member of Lerner musicals Camelot and On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (he originated the role of Dr. Mark Bruckner) – will join in to perform and share stories about the creation of some of Lerner’s most renowned musicals. In addition, Tony-nominated actors Errico and Bogardus present a preview of the Rep’s upcoming revival of On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (by Lerner and Burton Lane).
At the heart and soul of the Irish Rep is founders O’Reilly and Moore’s “native understanding,” where they offer the company’s engaging perspective on the Irish and their unique contributions to the world of drama. The Theatre is currently the only year-round company in New York City devoted exclusively to bringing Irish and Irish-American works to the stage. It has been recognized through many awards, including 2013’s Outer Critics Circle Special Achievement Award, 2007’s Jujamcyn Theatres Award (a special Drama Desk Award for “Excellence in Presenting Distinguished Irish drama”) and the Lucille Lortel Award for “Outstanding Body of Work.”
The Irish Rep has celebrated the very best in Irish theater for 28 years, from the masters to a new generation of Irish and Irish-American writers who are transforming the stage. In 1995, the theater made its permanent home on West 22nd Street in Chelsea, on three completely renovated floors of a former warehouse, allowing for both the Francis J. Greenburger Main Stage and a smaller studio space, the W. Scott McLucas Studio.
For Moore, all this started in America’s heartland. “I grew up in a very small Midwestern town in the United States. It was a mining town heavily populated with Sicilians and Irish. Such different aspects! I think I learned to appreciate the beauty of different cultures very early on and never forgot it.
“I only saw movies in my town. No theater. But I wanted to be a movie star – what kid doesn’t? Once I got to University there was a great deal of theater and I became involved immediately. I was besotted. After that, there was never anything else I wanted to do.”
As for O’ Reilly, he has roots in another heartland. “I grew up in Virginia County Cavan, Ireland. It was a small town with a population of 500 people when I was a lad. I learned the value of community spirit. Virginia won the National Tidy Town’s competition two years in a row and I have never forgotten the pride when a group gets together to get something done and then be rewarded.”
Both had discovered a love for the arts and in particular, theater. Added O’ Reilly, “I was discovered in a bar. I was enjoying a pint in a pub across the street from a theater where the actor didn’t show up. Someone in my company asked if I would put down my pint and step into the role of the actor. I did, and I never returned to that pint.”
As for Moore, her passion led her to work with the best. “Benchmark moments in my career are hard to define. I have been very lucky to work with the very best in my profession…. That leads into the question about my most memorable moments. I’ve done lots of classics and Shakespeare; conquering those tough plays is always memorable. I’ve also had memorable moments with the glamour pusses: Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor were pretty memorable, and I’ve done four plays directed by Harold Prince.”
To that, Cairan noted, “I have enjoyed every aspect of putting together a production, whether it be acting, directing, or just producing. I suppose the benchmark moments that came with that would have been in finding, building and opening an Off-Broadway theatre and then renovating it and opening again 25 years later. There is nothing like having a home of your own.”
This duo has become leading lights within several communities, both among the Irish and beyond, lending them some perspective on it all. “Though imparting advice is always tricky,” Moore demurred, “but I have always try to work with the best. When Ciaran and I met – we were in a play together – we decided to try to do some Irish plays very well, and just started. More than anything, it’s important to trust and respect your partner. Right through the tough times and the fights, we’ve never lost that trust and we’ve never stopped supporting one another’s work.”
As for Ciaran’s key moments, he offers this: “I’ve worked with many great actors – some well-known and many who should be. I loved working with Matthew Broderick on two plays recently and all the cast of The Seafarer. I loved The Emperor Jones and the two emperors over two productions: John Douglas Thompson and Obi Abili. And I love our current cast of Marina Carr’s Woman and Scarecrow. But I love working with Charlotte Moore – my favorite director of all.”
With that rich sentiment in mind, O’Reilly concluded as to what he would impart on someone as to the lessons learned in not only doing his art as actor/director/creator but also in running an organization such as the Irish Rep, “Keep at it. On your worst days you have to believe that one day the hardship will pass, and the sun will shine, and all sins will be forgiven.”
Copyright ©2018 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: June 3, 2018.
Photo © 2018 Brad Balfour.