'The Steward of Christendom' — playwright's words

Dear Audience,

In 1987 I went to New York to help prepare with director Rhea Gaisnor a rehearsed reading of a mad play of mine called The Pentagonal Dream, at New Dramatists. Five marvelous American actors, among them David Strathairn, came in and gave me on important few days in the rehearsal room. It was my first play with a thousand mis-directions in it, and by the grace of their understanding and sheer ability, they suggested other, cannier ways of doing things. I had at that time nearly ready for the Abbey Theatre a second play, called Boss Grady's Boys. I remember thinking, I must make sure this new play is for actors and most certainly not against them.

Now fourteen years later, Boss Grady's Boys gets a New York premiere at the 78th Street Theatre Lab. Other waters have flown under other bridges since. In the normal fashion I have had my share of grief and that odd happiness that is only available in the theatre, when things seem to go fluently and rightly. The Pentagonal Dream was crushed underfoot when it was last produced in Ireland! But Boss Grady's Boys had a different fate, somehow changing the nature of how I worked, and even changing me. It prompted a long devotion to the idea of actors, the notion of writing roles for them, even secretly for them, that might sum up the great sum of what they are. I have written since six other plays, all in a loose family sequence, and the sequence , now standing at seven plays, seems to be finished. So as I complete the last play, called Hinterland, the first of them sees the light and dark of a theatre in New York. Boss Grady's Boys, it occurs to me is itself also a faint picture of a hinterland, a place of hints and hinters and half certainties. So as usual the human worker moves in a circle, in this case a long peregrination of fourteen years or so.

I am especially glad it is directed in New York by Ina Marlowe who directed the Chicago production of The Steward of Christendom for her company, the Organic Theater, and achieved the most personal and oddly familiar of the American Stewards. I am intrigued by the fact that none of the actors in this new production of Boss Grady's Boys is Irish, adding I think to that sense in the play that it is happening everywhere and nowhere, and not particularly in Ireland, though its references and landscape are Irish. The play has been running, after all, in repertory in Romania for a couple of 1 seasons, in an award-winning production. So foreignness in this case may be closeness. And I wish this production well, not only for my own sake as mere author, but for those two men on their solitary hill, and all such men, and all such signs of such men as exist in us all, as survivors at the limits of the world.

From Sebastian Barry

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