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Irish theater community celebrates playwright Brian Friel (1929–2015)

Written by
David Cote

On Friday we heard the sad news that the great Irish playwright Brian Friel had passed away at the age of 86. As reported, the writer died at his home in Greencastle, County Donegal. He leaves behind a stunning body of work, often compared to that of Chekhov, a fellow dramatist he revered and adapted. As a critic, I can easily that two of my most satisfying experiences in the theater were at Friel plays: the MTC revival of Translations in 2007 and the Broadway revival of Faith Healer that starred Ralph Fiennes, Cherry Jones and Ian McDiarmid the year before. The best way to remember the man is to read him, so consider buying a book here.

We asked members of the theater community to share their thoughts. Below are some of the responses we received.

“Brian Friel was our hero.  He was as generous as he was gifted, and he gave our company life and breath, and golden words.  In numerous collaborations over a quarter of a century, we have been honored to stage more of his plays than any other author.  Brian was Ireland's greatest playwright and he was our friend.”
—Charlotte Moore, artistic director, and Ciarán O'Reilly, producing director, Irish Repertory Theatre

“I had the honor of working on Brian Friel's words early in my career as an actor in London, Ireland and across America. The man knew how to put order to words; he actually could render the complexity of life with amazing efficiency. I was always humbled by this skill, the shining brilliance of his words exploring the dark reaches of life.”
—George C. Heslin, artistic director Origin Theatre Company, producer of Origin’s 1st Irish Festival

“Brian Friel was a friend and colleague for nearly forty years. We worked together in Dublin and New York, where I directed the American premiere of Translations at The Manhattan Theatre Club. He was a theatrical master, who created some of the greatest Irish plays of the 20th century. His work was lyrical, poetical and always laced with great humor and emotional depth. He will be greatly missed.”
—Joe Dowling, artistic director of the Guthrie Theatre, 1995-2014

Druid is today mourning the death of Brian Friel. Artistic Director Garry Hynes said: “To have lived and worked in the theatre at a time when Brian Friel was writing his great plays was a privilege. He is gone from us now but the gift of his imagination will live on forever on the stages of the world. Rest in peace, Brian.” The company extends its deepest sympathies to Anne, to his daughters and son and to the wider family of his close colleagues in the Irish theatre and abroad.
—Statement on the Druid Theatre Company website

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