Saturday, March 17, 2007

Reflections on Things Irish

March 17, 2007

Because it's you-know-who's day and all that, and because a few kindergarteners came running into the office yesterday, talking of found gold and lost leperchauns, I am driven to record some stuff about Ireland and the Irish.

Talking with the secretary at the Marietta Johnson School yesterday, we had the office door closed, but that didn't stop the beautiful little four-year-old who had something urgent to report.

"I just wanted to say that we did find some gold," she said, her eyes wide. "And we didn't actually see any leprechauns, but I did see the bushes move in the forest! I did!"

Miss Peggy, the secretary, said, "I'm sure you did, and that's just wonderful," and then, fast as a little Irish pony, the child disappeared. The door was then opened by two more from her class, and then she came back in, with two other children, all holding little nuggets that looked for all the world like gold.

"It's not real gold," John-Tabor said. "It can only be used by leprechauns. But it looks just like gold." They all marvelled at their shiny booty.

"And I did see the bushes move!" said our first visitor.

There's a lot to be said about Ireland, far more than the glancing blows that might be taken on a brief blogpost. I could praise its homely, soul-filling food like colcannon and corned beef simmered for hours with cabbage and potatoes, or its heart-wrenching characters like those portrayed in the classic film The Quiet Man (rent it if you haven't seen it yet). I could say something about walking about in chilly Dublin on a grey April day in 1972 -- and please don't remind me you weren't born yet -- and finding a beautiful restaurant-pub called Davey Jones' Locker where the Irish coffee warmed us to our toes. (I could also tell you of our immense disappointment at both the offerings we saw at the Abbey Theater that year -- a student production of Synge's Deidre of the Sorrows, which we forgave because it was indeed a student production, and the unforgivably poor mounting of The Playboy of the Western World the next day.)

Even world renowned institutions stumble from time to time.

The Irish are especially talented in the theatre. Here's something I wrote in the program notes for Fairhope's Jubilee Fish Theatre production of Hugh Leonard's beautiful play called Da in 1995:

The theatre seems to be a natural art form for the Irish. Sure, and what better place to spin a story making the humor and heartbreak of life as warming to the soul as a cozy hearth? You have your actors up here in the light, portraying those heroes and demons of memory and imagination, and you have your audience -- those out there in the blackness -- bound as one to hear your tale. You're not Irish if you're not challenged and delighted at the prospect.

Since the turn of the last century, the English-speaking stage has been sparked by the talents of Irish writers. From John Millington Synge and Sean O'Casey (and those with Celtic roots, like Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw) through today's Brian Friel and Hugh Leonard, we have the Irish to thank for many evenings of unforgettable theatre. At Jubilee Fish, many remember the lovely Sea Marks, by Gardner McKay, presented a few seasons ago.


Let me add that this was before the local Theater 98 production of Dancing at Lughnasa, in which I played the role of Kate, the elder sister. This one was directed by a man whose name is quite similar to Sean Thornton, the John Wayne character in The Quiet Man.

When left to their own devices, the Irish have lots to give us besides potatoes and shamrocks. The many dimensions of their Irishness give us a magic lantern to illuminate our lives with a glimmer of poetry.

Reading this, you may suspect I have a modicum of Irish blood myself.

2 comments:

sinjap said...

erin go bragh! glad to see someone else out there at least acknowledging today as a holiday...was looking for something for my 4 year old daughter and i to do today, the choices were few and far between...in our whole metro area (over a million people) the only family-friendly event was a small st. patrick's day get together at a library on the other side of town...and of course the obligatory drunken fest downtown tonight but that doesn't count...funny thing, i've had my irish flag up on my front porch since march 1 and haven't seen any other decorations on the block..but did have some neighborhood kids drop by and ask if we were mexican! i guess those flags are more popular these days, but that's another issue...it's amazing, when so many people in this country have irish dna, st. patrick's day is now greatly overlooked for more politically correct celebrations

Finding Fair Hope said...

Same old samo, I guess...not much money to be made from a production of The Playboy of the Western World or a staged reading of Irish poetry, but it's easy to sell enough green beer to keep mobs of teenagers (of all ages) throwing up for the next couple of days.