- The Department of Theatre and Dance at The University of Southern
Mississippi will open its 2003-2004 season Oct. 2 with Martin McDonagh's
"The Cripple of Inishmaan" at the Mannoni Performing Arts
Center. The play is a work of dark humor and deep sorrow - a combination
that is bleak, yet painstakingly funny and full of sudden reversals.
The plot centers
on the efforts of a neglected and derided young man, Billy, to escape
the remote island off the west coast of Ireland where he was raised.
"Cripple Billy" has suffered through a disability all
of his 19 years. In 1934, the good people of Inishmaan learn that
Hollywood director Robert Flaherty is coming to a neighboring island
to film a documentary. No one is more intrigued than young Billy,
and he sees his chance to meet the director and possibly escape
his dreary existence.
for McDonagh's play is a real place with a rich and fascinating
history. Inishmaan, with a population of 150, is one of three Aran
Islands located 30 miles west of Galway. Situated between Inishmore
("Big Island") and Inisheer ("East Island"),
Inishmaan ("Middle Island") is a rocky, isolated landmass
little more than three miles wide. Its inhabitants still use, rather
uniquely, the ancient Irish dialect (Gaelic) mixed with the more
that captivated me about the show was the language," said Larry
Mullican, professor of theater at Southern Miss and director of
the production. "I get a sense of Ireland in the sounds of
the language. As we have rehearsed, the language has come to life,
and it has been an exciting experience. The script, although not
a poem, brings the locale's poetic images to life."
a newcomer in contemporary theater, has made a significant impact
in the theater world. Born in 1971 to expatriate Irish parents,
he left school at 16 and spent five years writing radio scripts
and collecting rejection notices until Australian stations picked
up two of his scripts. He spent eight days writing his first play,
the award-winning "The Beauty Queen of Leenane" (1996).
By the time the play was first produced in London in 1997, McDonagh
was 27 and had four plays showing simultaneously in London - an
accomplishment that few, if any, writers have achieved.
all his plays have been set in west Ireland. McDonagh actually grew
up in Camberwell, a district in south London. His only exposure
to his Irish background was summer vacations spent in Galway.
As with all
good Irish, the storytelling tradition runs deep in McDonagh, but
the Irish language patterns and characterizations that are so central
to his work had to be discovered through interactions with his extended
Inishmaan's claims to fame is that it is one of the few places left
in Ireland where Gaelic is still spoken, and with an accent so unsullied
that scholars flock there to study the language," Mullican
said. "One article I read in preparing for the show claimed
that more anthropologists and sociologists have visited Inishmaan
than have visited the continent of Africa.
we are fortunate to have had our colleague, Monica Hayes, visit
Inishmaan this summer. While there, she taped her observations of
the island and its people and has been a real asset to us in preparing
for this production. "
of Inishmaan" (1996) is the first play of McDonagh's second
trilogy of plays that includes two other plays, "The Lieutenant
of Inishmore" and "The Banshees of Inisheer." The
Royal National Theatre in London, which offered McDonagh the position
of resident playwright, first produced "The Cripple of Inishmaan."
It then successfully moved to New York, where it opened at the Public
Theatre in April of 1998 and immediately sold out its run.
Miss production will serve as its entry in the American College
Theatre Festival (ACTF), first traveling to the state festival after
the production closes in Hattiesburg, with hopes of being invited
to the Southeast regional festival in February.
last nine years, two productions from Southern Miss, "Catfish
Moon" and "The Rimers of Eldritch," have been so
successful in ACTF that each were invited to perform at the Kennedy
Center in Washington, D.C. Only a handful of colleges or universities
have been so honored to receive multiple invitations in such a short
span of time.
Oct. 2-4 and Oct. 8-10 begin at 7:30 p.m., with a 2 p.m. matinee
Oct. 12 in the Mannoni Performing Arts Center auditorium. Individual
show tickets are $10 for regular admission, $8 for senior citizens
and Southern Miss faculty and staff, and $6 for students.
call the Southern Miss Ticket Office at (601) 266-5418 or 800-844-8425.
Order online at www.usm.edu/tickets. Tickets may be purchased at
the theater box office one hour prior to curtain time for each performance.