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Audiences in Boston are Raving about Martin McDonagh’s

The Cripple of Inishmaan!

“The big word I’d use to describe ‘The Cripple of Inishmaan’ is wonderful.”
The Boston Globe

“… [a] fiendishly funny sendup of rural Irish life…
McDonagh’s people are as irresistible to us as they are nasty to one another.”
The Washington Post

Check out this note from the executive director of Arts Emerson: The World on Stage, which presented the play in Boston last month:

Dear Michigan Audiences,

I’m writing to tell you that you are in for a huge theatrical treat this week! We hosted the Druid and Atlantic Theater Company’s production of The Cripple of Inishmaan last month here in Boston, and our audiences absolutely adored it. Martin McDonagh uniquely combines the wit and humor for which the Irish are legendary with a charismatic storytelling ability. Few plays have the variety of “characters” – and I mean that in both the ironic sense and in the sense of fully-realized character development – of this play. You can see what our audiences had to say about it here:

I’m still receiving comments from our audiences about how much they enjoyed the work – and also messages of regret from people who weren’t able to see it during the short time that it was in Boston. There’s nothing I hate more as an arts presenter like UMS than having something in my venue for such a short time that people don’t know about it until it’s too late. I hope you will check it out while it’s in Ann Arbor – trust me, you won’t want to miss it.

Rob Orchard
Executive Director, ArtsEmerson: The World On Stage

Martin McDonagh on the Big Screen

Next week UMS welcomes the Druid Theater Company from Galway Ireland to Ann Arbor with their Martin McDonagh– scripted/Garry Hynes-directed play, The Cripple of Inishmaan.  To say I’m excited is about as pointless as debating the delectability of that other magical Irish import Guinness!  It goes without saying.

In advance of the performances, the U-M Residential College Drama Department is screening a few related films that we hope you can check out if you get the chance.  All screenings will take place in the RC Keene Theater located in the East Quadrangle Dormitory and are free and open to the public.

Sunday, March 6, 7pm: Man of Aran

This 1934 documenty film by Robert J. Flaherty follows everyday life on the Aran Islands located off the coast of Ireland, and, at least partially, inspired  The Cripple of Inishmaan which is set (at the time of the documentary’s filming) on the largest of the Aran Islands, Inishmaan.  This screening will be preceded by a short performance from local Celtic music ensemble, Nutshell.

Tuesday, March 8, 7pm: Six Shooter and In Bruges

Although he might be better known as a playwright, Martin McDonagh also wrote and directed two films:  the live action short, Six Shooter (2005, 27 minutes, Rated R, starring Brendan Gleeson, Rúaidhrí Conroy, and David Wilmot), and the full-length feature, In Bruges (2008, 107 minutes, Rated R, starring Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, and Ralph Fiennes).

Six Shooter, his first film, won the 2006 Oscar for best live-action short.  This black comedy follows a man named Donnelly (Brendan Gleeson), whose wife has just died, on an increasingly bizarre train ride in Ireland [in which] he meets a young couple whose infant has also just died, and a nameless young man with a warped sense of humor and an explosive secret (synopsis from the New York Times).

In Bruges, the opening night film of the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, is a black comedy crime film starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson as hitmen in hiding, with Ralph Fiennes as their gangster boss. The film takes place and was filmed in the Belgian city of Bruges.  Colin Farrell won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy for the film, while Martin McDonagh won a BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay.  You can view the trailer below.

UMS Staff Picks: The Cripple of Inishmaan selected by Sara Billmann, Director of Marketing & Communications

SN: The multi-award winning Druid and Atlantic Theater co-production of Martin McDonagh’s The Cripple of Inishmaan has been described as “a break-your-heart, cruelly funny evening” – what kind of theatrical journey can audience members expect to experience when they see this production?

The Cripple of Inishmaan

SB: I don’t want to spoil the story, but suffice it to say that it will be quite an emotional ride.

I’ve seen two of Martin McDonagh’s plays when they were produced in New York in the mid-late 1990s, and they are simply brilliant pieces, in part because of the way they force you to re-examine your own morals.  He sets up these outrageous scenes that are absolutely hilarious, then delivers the knock-out punch that makes you realize you’ve been laughing at something that is, in fact, incredibly tragic.  The June issue of <i>Opera News</i> put it perfectly: “As anyone who’s ever sat through a Martin McDonagh play can attest, sometimes the only response we can muster when confronted with the searing emotional or physical pain of others is a laugh.”

I read this play poolside while visiting my in-laws in San Antonio and found myself laughing out loud on any number of occasions.  Let’s face it, there are many plays where you chuckle inwardly, but something that produces a spontaneous outburst while reading to yourself is extraordinary in its own sense.  And based on every production I’ve seen of McDonagh’s work, the live production will far exceed what’s on the page.

So that we could all familiarize ourselves with the play, about a dozen members of the UMS staff did a “read-through” this summer.  I hope that some audience members will be interested in doing the same — we’d be interested in putting together play-reading groups for others and loaning the scripts. It’s a great way to familiarize yourself with the dialects and turns of language that really bring the piece alive.  And, of course, a great way to meet new people too.

SN: What are you most looking forward to about this UMS debut performance?

SB: It’s pretty simple, really – I just can’t wait to see what they do with the production to bring it alive.  I have friends who saw this production when it was on Broadway a few years ago and raved about it.  Having grown up in a small town, I recognize some of the quirky characters and look forward to seeing how they are realized on stage.

SN: What other events are on your “must see” list for the 10/11 season?       

SB: Just about everything!  As a trained classical musician, I’m particularly interested in the big orchestras and piano recitals.  I was turned on to Denis Matsuev about two years ago by someone who had heard his recording in Gramophone magazine.  His playing is really quite extraordinary.  I also adore Schubert and am looking forward to the three Tákacs concerts, as well as the Scharoun Ensemble performance of the Schubert Octet.  I’m also looking forward to Grupo Corpo – what a great company!  I could go on and on.  The beauty of being the marketing director for UMS is that I start to research all of the artists we’re presenting long before we announce the season, and I always get turned on to things I never would have thought I’d enjoy…which ultimately means that the entire season becomes a “must see” for me.

SN: What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

Sara Billmann

SB: I have two kids – Elisabeth is 8 and going into 4th grade, and Harry is 6 and going into 1st grade – who keep me plenty busy. I was about to respond that I do laundry outside of work, until I saw the word “enjoy” in the question.  Elisabeth loves to play baseball, so I think I’ve spent the better part of July attending her games and taking her to see the Tigers when time permits.  I’m also hopelessly addicted to The New Yorker and steal moments here and there to try to stay caught up.  Other hobbies include wine tasting and walking the dog – we acquired a boxer/pointer mix from the Humane Society three months ago, and I’ve become the family’s designated dog walker, which fills up a shocking amount of time each day.

SN: What have you been listening to on your iPod?

SB: Ha!  The day I get to listen to my iPod will be a great day indeed.  Lately my kids have been torturing me, making me listen to “Stayin’ Alive” and 1980s dance tunes (oh, to return to the days when my daughter would watch “The Barber of Seville” by choice…).  But when I can wrestle it away from them, I mostly listen to Schubert lieder, Maria Joao Pires performing Schubert and Chopin, Denis Matsuev playing Rachmaninoff, and Mahler, though truth be told, the iPod doesn’t do Mahler justice.  Murray Perahia‘s recital in 2000 of the Bach/Busoni Chorale Preludes and the Goldberg Variations will always rank among my top UMS performances, and I often bring back that memory with the recording “Songs Without Words” released around the same time.  Angelika Kirchschlager and Fritz Wunderlich are among my favorite singers, though I will confess that I also enjoy Pink Martini in my less serious moments.  And I recently loaded on a CD by a wonderful Iranian group called Ghazal.

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