One of the productions in this year’s Earagail Arts Festival is coming to Donegal after Earagail’s artistic director, Paul Brown, saw the performance at an arts festival in Iran.
These type of connections illustrate the international reach the festival has developed over 24 years.
“Miss Julie”, a production of the August Strindberg play by the Shanghai Theatre Academy, is one of the performances that Paul saw in February when he attended the Fadjr International Theatre Festival in Tehran, Iran. Paul was invited to the festival by an Iranian-Canadian dramaturge he knew through connections with other international festivals.
“Miss Julie” comes to An Grianán Theatre in Letterkenny on July 8th and 9th as part of this year’s Earagail Arts. The production is directed by William Huizhu Sun, vice president and professor of the Shanghai academy. In this Beijing Opera version, the classic play is set in pre-modern China on the eve of a traditional festival.
“It was a really unusual piece,” Paul said. He was interested in the company’s use of traditional Chinese elements in the recognisable Scandinavian play.
“We’re trying to bring something to Donegal that people have never seen,” Paul said.
This year’s festival includes the usual eclectic mix of music, theatre, visual arts and literature from Donegal, other parts of Ireland, and around the world. The festival runs from July 7th - 22nd, at venues around the county.
The opening event at 12 noon, Saturday, July 7th, will see Architects of Air bring their Amococo luminarium to the grounds of Rockhill House in Letterkenny, a maze of winding paths and soaring domes. On Sunday, July 8th, there will be a big day out at Rockhill House, featuring the annual Global Village Fete, crafts, vintage games and outdoor circus, comedy and magic performances.
Fiddling Foxes and Sitting Ducks will bring their whimsical humour to Letterkenny Main Street and retail parks on Saturday, July 7th, as well.
“There is an extended family programme this year,” Paul said. “Family audiences are a large part of our attendance.” The Glebe Gathering returns on July 15th and 16th, with two days of arts, activities, performances and art trails.
Also on the opening weekend are exhibition openings on Friday, July 6th at the Glebe Gallery at Churchill (“The Wilds of Donegal”, and a series of film projects made in Donegal, both running from July 7th-24th) and the Regional Cultural Centre in Letterkenny (sculptor Miguel Patrick Doyle’s works, “Reflections in Stone”, running from July 7th-21st); a Feast of the Senses, a night of cabaret and cuisine with performances by Hat Fitz and Cara Robinson and the band “I See Hawks in LA”, sewn together by emcee Little John Nee (July 7th, Festival Marquee at Rockhill House); the popular Donegal aerial troupe Fidget Feet presenting “Catch Me”, an aerial circus take on Red Riding Hood (July 8th and 9th, Balor Arts Centre, Ballybofey); and the alt-rock band O Emperor along with Our Krypton Son on July 8th at the Greenroom, Voodoo Letterkenny.
Artists who will entertain audiences in Donegal during the festival include Donal Lunny and Tibetan vocalist Yungchen Lhamo (July 11th, Balor Arts Centre); Malian blues musician Boubacar Traoré (July 12th, Regional Cultural Centre); “Sparkplug”, a newly commissioned work by Little John Nee (July 12th in Dunfanaghy, July 13th in Ramelton and July 15th in Letterkenny); Liam Ó Maonlaí and Rónán Ó Snodaigh (July 16th, Regional Cultural Centre); Capercaillie’s Karen Matheson, Donald Shaw and Manus Lunny (July 17th Ionad Cois Locha, Dún Lúiche); Le Trio Joubran, three Ud-playing brothers from Palestine (Regional Cultural Centre, July 18th); “Mo Thriúr Aingeal” by Aisteoirí Ghaoth Dobhair (July 14th, An Grianán Theatre); “A Field Day Out”, staged readings featuring an ensemble led by actors Declan Conlon and Gerard McSorley (July 21st, an Grianán Theatre); and Flann O’Brien’s, “The Third Policeman”, narrated by Stephen Rea with music composed by Colin Reid (July 22nd, An Grianán Theatre).
That is just a taste; there is much more. Some of the artists are returning to Earagail Arts and Paul hopes to develop similar relationships with the artists who are playing here for the first time.
He also wants to develop relationships with the Iranian and other international artists he met at the festival in Tehran this year. Paul has long had a very deep interest in Arabic and Persian culture and in Iranian film.
“We want to keep the lines of communications open,” Paul said. He said he found the Iranian people very warm and hospitable.
The Iranian festival had received official sanction but even with that, he said the works “had a very strong sense of dealing with issues of expression and control and, I suppose, personal liberation”.
He found cultural similarities as well, saying, “The Iranian people are fiercely proud of their cultural heritage and their creative expression -- much like the Irish.”
The full Earagail Arts programme is available in shops and public offices around the county, and on line at http://eaf.ie.