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Famed Irish Playwright J.M. Synge is Celebrated in New Series at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts

NEW YORK, NY.- Through staged readings, song, dance, panel discussions, and films, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts will mark the centennial of the death of famed Irish playwright and poet J. M Synge and examine his 1904 tragedy Riders to the Sea. “On an Anniversary”: J.M. Synge, 1871­ ­– 1909 is a free series of five programs that explore the importance and influence of this writer and co-founder of the Abbey Theatre.

The programs will be held in the Bruno Walter Auditorium, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center, located on the Lincoln Center campus at 111 Amsterdam Avenue (south of 65th Street). Admission is free and seats are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

A typescript of Riders to the Sea with the author’s manuscript corrections is part of the J.M. Synge Collection of Papers in the Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature at The New York Public Library. This early play is considered on par with Synge’s best-known play, The Playboy of the Western World.

In the first program on Monday Eve, March 23, acclaimed actress Frances Sternhagen will star in and Charlotte Moore, Artistic Director of the Irish Repertory Theatre, will direct staged readings of Riders to the Sea and In the Shadow of the Glen, one-act plays he based on the poor fishing families he observed on Ireland’s remote Aran Islands. George Heslin and Emma O’Donnell are also in the cast.

The program on Saturday, April 4 offers selections from Ralph Vaughan Williams’s opera Riders to the Sea, which is based on the Synge play. The cast includes Rachael Binaco (Maurya), Mary McCue (Cathleen), Janet Pohli (Nora), and Howie Reith (Bartley). The pianist/music director is Matthew Larson. The opera will be preceded by commentary by Alain Frogley, an authority on Vaughan Williams and a professor of music at the University of Connecticut, and by Constance Rock, a singer and teacher who is producing the opera for the University of Connecticut.

On April 13, a panel of experts will discuss the Irish context of the play. Included in the program are Mary Burke (University of Connecticut), Howard Keeley (Georgia Southern University), Lucy McDiarmid (Montclair State University), and Abby Bender, moderator (New York University).

The modern dance choreographer Mary Anthony will appear at the Library on Saturday, April 25 to discuss her dance Threnody, which is based on the play Riders to the Sea. A filmed performance of Threnody will also be screened.

The final program of the series on Saturday, April 30 will be a screening of the famous 1934 documentary Man of Aran, plus a screening of George Stoney's documentary, Making of the Myth, the film about the making of the documentary. The program will include commentary by Mr. Stoney about Synge as inspiration for the documentary.

Monday, March 23, 2009, 6:00 PM
"On an Anniversary": J.M. Synge, 1871-1909
Riders to the Sea
Staged reading of the play by J.M. Synge. Directed by Charlotte Moore, Artistic Director of the Irish Repertory Theatre. The role of Maurya will be read by Frances Sternhagen. A reading of In the Shadow of the Glen will follow the reading of Riders to the Sea. Both are one-act plays.

Saturday, April 4, 2009, 3:00 PM
"On an Anniversary": J.M. Synge, 1871-1909
Riders to the Sea: The Opera
Performance of selections from the opera by Ralph Vaughan Williams, with commentary by Alain Frogley, Constance Rock, and others. This production was produced by Ms. Rock for the University of Connecticut, where it will be performed on March 28, 2009.

Monday, April 13, 2009, 6:00 PM
"On an Anniversary": J.M. Synge, 1871-1909
Riders to the Sea: The Irish Context
Panel on aspects of the play by J.M. Synge, with Mary Burke, Howard Keeley, Lucy McDiarmid, and Abby Bender (moderator).

Saturday, April 25, 2009, 3:00 PM
"On an Anniversary": J.M. Synge, 1871-1909
Threnody: Mary Anthony's Dance Set to Riders to the Sea
Conversation with the choreographer followed by a screening of Threnody.

Thursday, April 30, 2009, 4:00 PM
"On an Anniversary": J.M. Synge, 1871-1909
J.M. Synge as Inspiration for Man of Aran
Screenings of the famous 1934 documentary Man of Aran and Making of the Myth, the documentary on the making of the 1934 film, with commentary by George Stoney.

The title for the series comes from the title of the J.M. Synge poem On an Anniversary. A holograph copy of the poem, in Lady Gregory’s hand, is in The New York Public Library’s Berg Collection. In poor health for a good deal of his life, Synge anticipated his death with these lines at the end of the poem:

And so when all my little work is done
They'll say I came in Eighteen-seventy-one,
And died in Dublin .... What year will they write
For my poor passage to the stall of Night

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