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Breaking Boundaries

An Anthology of Original Plays from The Focus Theatre


Edited By Steven Dedalus Burch

Almost from the beginning, since 1970, new plays became part of the Focus’s repertory. Starting with Peter Terson’s Mooney and His Caravan, and Declan Burke-Kennedy’s The Trespasser in 1973, new plays continued to be produced and some, such as actor-playwright Ena May (Out of the Beehive 1987; She’s Your Mother, Too, You Know 1988; A Close Shave With the Devil 2001), finding an artistic home for their works, though not in the numbers that established plays and classics had been produced under Deirdre’s leadership. Since 2002 under Joe Devlin’s artistic direction, Focus has reversed the emphasis with new plays taking the lion’s share of the theatre’s performances and, in the process, reinvigorated itself during the past decade.

Of the seven plays in this anthology, (five are from Joe’s leadership) all exhibit a range in styles from Lewis Carroll’s fantastical world (Alice in Wonderland by Mary Elizabeth Burke-Kennedy), to a couple on the brink of a philandering weekend disaster (The Day of the Mayfly by Declan Burke-Kennedy), to a one-man show about Jonathan Swift with several characters all played by the same actor (Talking Through His Hat by Michael Harding); an examination of two shoplifting thieves and the would-be writer who gets in their way (Pinching for My Soul by Elizabeth Moynihan), a battle royal between two sides of a world-famous painter (Francis & Frances by Brian McAvera), the reactions of multiple New Yorkers to that moment on September 11, 2001 when their world was changed forever (New York Monologues by Mike Poblete), to the final days of an iconic movie star (Hollywood Valhalla by Aidan Harney).

Each of these scripts is followed by short notes from the playwright, a memory of the production and in some cases its aims by its author. As will become quite clear, there is no single Focus play, no play which perfectly captures the spirit, the aesthetic aims, the physical abilities of this continually surprising fifty-year-old company.

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Introduction (Steven Dedalus Burch)


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In this book are seven plays, original works, which had their premieres at the Focus Theatre, and which grew out of the history, the artistic aims, and the personalities of the Focus Theatre. There have been many others, too many to cram into an anthology intended as an introduction to the styles and artistic voices that have been and continue to be found in this theatre company, voices such as Mary Elizabeth Burke-Kennedy, Declan Burke- Kennedy, Michael Harding, Elizabeth Moynihan, Brian McAvera, Mike Poblete, and Aiden Harney. Let me explain.

In 1963 the 23-year-old Deirdre O’Connell, child of Irish immigrants to New York City in the United States, became an immigrant herself when she moved to Dublin, determined to bring the ‘new’ theatre of Konstantin Stanislavski to the Irish theatre. She had been a Wunderkind at the Actors’ Studio which had been co-founded and run by the late Lee Strasberg, who was perhaps the most famous acolyte of Stanislavski in America. Admitted when she was eighteen, Deirdre made her mark very early with her superb acting and singing talents, and within a couple of years was teaching at the studio. From all accounts Deirdre had a bright future ahead of her as an actress, as talented as any of the other young actors making their way to the Studio (as it came to be called) in the late 1950s and 1960s, including Julie Harris, James Dean, Geraldine Page, Rod Steiger, Ben Gazzara,...

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