Belfast Art/Social Justice

One of the aspects of Belfast that I love is its commitment to public art and its use of architecture as a canvas for the people.

The Irish know their literature: here’s some Yeats poetry decorating a bar wall . . .


I love the back alleys – the passageways where Belfast was born and bred.


This photo from back in the day when cigarettes were sold with candy is part of a larger installation of Belfast city pix.


A brutal little story is infused with that Irish mix of tragedy and comedy.


And here’s an image of our playwright friend Martin Lynch in a mural in the Cathedral Quarter.


Casting for History of the Troubles Accordin’ to my Da

When we return to Armagh on Wednesday evening, we’ll read Martin Lynch’s hilarious and sometimes heart-wrenching tragicomedy, The History of the Troubles Accordin’ to My Da, before we meet the playwright in Belfast. The play is posted in Dropbox.

When the play was first produced, THREE actors performed all the roles. We’ll double cast some smaller roles; hopefully we haven’t double cast anyone in the same scene. Please read before. Casting below:

  • Gerry = Montez
  • Fireball = Sam
  • Seamus = Grace
  • Derek = Marian
  • Andy = Jen
  • Eugene = Ellie
  • Felix = Lexi
  • Maggie, Delorean = Brandy
  • Benny, taxi driver, Colm’s mate = Alex
  • Civil Servant, Jack Lynch, Vinty = Kerrin
  • Eleanor, Mr. Bryans, barman = Rayne
  • Community Worker, Mr. Carson, Countryman, Goon, warder = Kimberley
  • Young Carson, Colm = Amber
  • Stage directions, news research, reporter = Terri

Enjoy. I can’t wait to hear it out loud again and with your voices this go round. We will giggle. I promise.


Portrait Res and Dis

So much richness, even in that one scene, so much to delve and absorb. Each time I read this work, I find something new, and that makes me love James Joyce all the more.

Besides the Chrismas dinner fight about the Irish braiding of church and state — “a priest would not be a priest if he did not tell his flock what is right and what is wrong” (from the spirited character of Dante) – and “We are an unfortunate priestridden race and always are and always will be till the end of the next chapter” (from father) – – – I heard some clues of Joyce’s process – – – Stephen will “remember all this when he grows up” portend from Dante and my favorite passage “Let us have the story, John. It will help us to digest.” Here I completely agree with Joyce. As a writer (and I know I am not alone in this), I use story to help me digest all of this baffling reality even after I’ve grown beyond the delicate age of Joyce’s protagonist.

I am so enamored of the punctuation that is just as much a character as the uncle! Avant-garde Joyce broke the form and the rocky structured road for all us modern writers.

Thank you, James. And thank you, Liz McManus, for next week we will gather in the actual Bray dining room to read this passage aloud.

Dancing at Lughnasa

I thought I had posted this, so my apologies.

Anyway, tonight at 6pm in the common room of the hostel, we’re reading aloud Brian Friel’s memory play, Dancing at Lughnasa, that is posted in Dropbox.

Older Michael = Grace

Younger Michael = Rayne

Chris = Montez

Maggie = Samantha

Agnes = Lexi

Rose = Jen

Kate = Ellie

Gerry = Amber

Jack = Alex

Stage directions = Terri


The Highwayman

Inspired by some local folklore and the JHISS festival theme of A role in history: the Rising, the Great War, and a Shared Past, I’m writing about Redmond O’Hanlon, a Robin Hood-esque bandit from the late 17th century in South Armagh.

Here’s an early draft of one of his monologues:

Allow me to introduce myself. That monster Captain Redmond O’Hanlon at your service, sir. And these noble gentlemen are my compatriots. Stand and deliver. We are robbing you. We require your weapons, your uniforms, any spare coins and jewelry, and the money we paid you to escort us through these dangerous woods.

[He opens the satchel and removes several bricks.]

Lord, I grew tired of carrying these heavy bricks. Tonight you will not eat, but my former faithful tenants will and eat well because they too are God’s creatures and deserve a solid meal. I deserve my family’s ancestral land, stolen by your government because I use a different prayer book and Ireland has become the bread-basket of a greedy and rapacious England. I carry a handful of my dark soil in my pocket, a reminder that my ancestors still lie inside it, that once it sustained a community in these woods, and that I was born on it and you rode a ship to stand beside me.


Dancing at Lughnasa

Thursday 7 July at 6:30pm in the common room of the hostel, we’re read Brian Friel’s play, Dancing at Lughnasa which is posted in Dropbox in the reading folder.


Michael, the older one, with the monologues = Grace

Michael, the younger, 7 year old version = Rayne

Chris = Montez

Maggie = Samantha

Agnes = Lexi

Rose = Jen

Kate = Ellie

Gerry = Amber

Jack = Alex

stage directions = Terri

Enjoy the memory play.


Historical Inspiration


Inside the word “history” hides the word “story.” So much history is lost and one way to avoid repetition is to know it. I read a short reference about this soup kitchen horror in Neil Hegarty’s The Story of Ireland, and I immediately saw it as a play in my head: the famine victims slurping thin soup upstage and the plump Brits strolling on a downstage walkway.

It’s called The Brooch and here’s part of its synopsis:

Set in Dublin in 1847, this short play opens on Soyer’s Soup Kitchen where French celebrity chef Alexis Soyer feeds Irish famine victims, displaying this charity to rich British ex-pats for a minimal fee. Next door in the Phoenix Park is the Dublin Zoo where slightly more was charged to view simians eating.

Throughout its domination of Eire, British have viewed the Irish as monkeys, and particularly during the Famine years. Throwing Protestants and Catholics of different classes together in the soup kitchen scene forces both groups to see the other as fellow humans. Each character represents an aspect of the Irish population: McKitteridge represents Protestant Ulster and Gerry is Catholic. Kathleen is the iconic spirit of the island, Kathleen ni Houlihan; her protagonist is jumping class from farmer to artist. Soyer is Anglo-Norman. Russell, Roddy, Brown are British. They all struggle through the tragedy of the famine and into the re-building years of recovery.

Both British and American governments still mistreat the disenfranchised and under privileged. Reality shows put the miserable on display. Charities still embezzle.

Shadow of a Gunman Casting

Tuesday, 5 July, at 18:00 in the hostel common room, we’re going to read aloud Sean O’Casey’s masterpiece, Shadow of a Gunman, which is posted in Dropbox. Please download and review.

Donal Davoren = Brandy

Seumus Shields = Montez

Tommy Owens = Lexi

Adolphus Grigson = Grace

Minnie Powell = Amber

Mr. Mulligan = Alex

Mrs. Henderson = Ellen

Mr. Gallogher = Marian

An auxiliary = Rayne

stage directions = Kimberley

Enjoy the play. O’Casey broke a lot of new ground with this piece in 1921.

Alternative Realities

My fabrication: I can play Mozart on the piano.

He makes me play all day, every day, five hours a bloody day, chained to that piano. The keys hurt me; they bite back. I have callouses and scabs to prove it, and it’s not easy stuff either, not simple crap, but flipping Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: The Magic Flute and Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and all those dizzying piano sonatas.

Dad, like his freak of a father, pushes me, wants me to compose, like Mozart, but I can’t. The notes flow out of my fingers but not from my heart that’s walled off like a castle, like a fort. I’m technical, not inspired.

You ever see images of Mozart’s sheet music? Not one single revision – it all poured out of his spirit perfectly formed, fully-fleshed and finished, with the heady mix of angels and devils.

It’s never going to stop; he was a prolific little bastard.

Home Away From Home

For the fifth summer, we’ve returned to live in Armagh for a month where the air is perfumed with peat and the water heals our skin. The pavement fits my feet. I sleep better here. My soul connects to the sky.

“It’s weird and not weird,” Terri says of our homecoming.

“It smells the same,” Kerrin says of the Armagh City Hostel.

I am filled with the joy of re-uniting with creative writing faculty Nessa and our compadres in the hostel. I look forward to hugging our friends at the AmmA Centre, the Marketplace Theatre and the John Hewitt writing festival. I hope the ladies in the Basement Cafe repeat what they said last year when we arrived to purchase our favorite marshmallow cappuccino, “Oh! Is it July already!?”

I’ve missed the cathedral bells. They mark the breath of time.