“The past is prologue….” It’s a saying that suggests we learn from what has transpired before. At the theater, we certainly try hard to look at history and see where it has gotten us, how we approached our problems, what solutions were on offer. Great thinkers–and dramatists are definitely philosophers in action– have made their suggestions clear.
Shakespeare confronted every manner of political upheaval as well as all the dystopias of the soul. We regularly worship at his altar. This year, The Public Theater puts on a summer in the park season with his Othello and Twelfth Night.
George Bernard Shaw looked at askew the world from a totally original perspective. The Gingold Theatrical Group celebrates his musings in their regular Project Shaw series at Symphony Space and with Shaw Club meetings on Mondays. Manhattan Theater Company and the Roundabout folks have tackled Shaw over the years with productions of Major Barbara and, currently on stage at MTC’s Friedman, Saint Joan.
The roiling and effervescent stories told by James Joyce in Finnegan’s Wake are part of the annual Bloomsday readings, here in New York with one at Bloom’s Tavern and the other at the above mentioned Symphony Space. The Bloom’s Tavern event is coordinated through Origin Theatre Company and includes both celebrities and an Irish breakfast. To be more exacting, it also features a of the Joyce period costume contest.
But, the significance of June 16th to the lit. crowd is that in 1924 James Joyce declared it to be Bloomsday. June 16, 1904 is the date of the events in his very long novel “Ulysses” and the day is named for its protagonist Leopold Bloom.
June 16, 2014 Origin’s First Bloom at Bloom’s Taven of course. Photo by Jimmy Higgins.
Bloomsday, or for the Irish purists, Lá Bloom, is most often commemmorated with readings from the novel. In the interest of full disclosure and total honesty, I will admit that what I know of the work is from NPR’s presentation of the annual Symphony Space event.
Origin Theatre Company, a New York City “gateway for European playwrights,” hosted its first everLá Bloom at the new midtown tavern aptly named Bloom’s. The bar provided an excellent full Irish breakfast and 7:30am mimosas served by a friendly staff; costumed actors greeted arrivals with flowers and flower petals. Malachy McCourt, gracious and charming, was on hand to kick off the readings. He chose a passage about Hell from Joyce’s “The Governors” but tweaking tradition is a lovely thing to do. Ireland’s soon to be ex-Consul General, Noel Kilkenny told of his role in interpreting “Ulysses” for a Chinese translation long ago. Actors including Conor MacNeill (currently on Broadway in the “The Cripple of Inishmaan”), Sean Mahon (who starred on Broadway in “The Seafarer” and “The 39 Steps” and is featured in the film “Philomena”), Jo Kinsella (“For Love,” and the Irish Rep’s “Dancing at Lughnasa”) performed their Joycean catechisms with the joy befitting the day. Here’s to the second annual Origin Bloomsday! A resounding chorus of what was dubbed “Origin’s First Bloom, at Bloom’s Tavern, of course” rang out at the festivities.