Irish Semester

By Carol Olechowski

'Tis said that, on St. Patrick's Day, everyone is Irish. Thanks to a semester-long program at Albany, everyone at the University will have an opportunity to be Irish from February to May.

Under the auspices of the Center for Arts and Humanities, Albany's Irish Semester will feature three months of readings, master classes, concerts, films, drama, dance, and lectures to be enjoyed by those who are Irish — and by those who just wish they were. The program begins 8 p.m. Feb. 4 in the Performing Arts Center's Recital Hall with an opening address by Ireland's foremost cultural critic, Fintan O'Toole, who is also a columnist for the Irish Times and a New York Daily News theatre critic.

Other Irish Semester offerings will include:

  • Authors Theatre presentations by Tony award-winning actress Anna Manahan (The Beauty Queen of Leenane) and Merlin Holland, who will speak about his grandfather, Oscar Wilde.

  • showings of the films The Importance of Being Earnest; A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man; Odd Man Out; The Informer; and Curious Journey, a film history of Irish freedom fighters. Timothy O'Grady, who co-authored the Curious Journey screenplay, will be on hand for the viewing and a subsequent discussion of the movie.

  • master classes in photography with eminent photographer Steve Pyke and in music with Irish instrumental duo Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill. Hayes and Cahill will also present a concert.

  • a talk by author Frank McCourt (Angela's Ashes).

  • a performance of That Place, Those People by the Irish Modern Dance Theatre, in its American début.

  • An Evening of Samuel Beckett: One-Act Plays and J.M. Synge's The Playboy of the Western World, both presented by the University's theatre department.

  • My Gentle Harp: Choral Folksongs of Ireland, a concert by the University Chamber Singers.

  • the symposium Women at Home and Across the Sea, presented by Mary Linnane, Margaret Lynch-Breannan, and Bonita Weddle of Albany's history department.

  • an Irish-American roundtable discussion moderated by the English department's Anne Sullivan, with Assemblyman Jack McEneny as special guest.

  • exhibitions of recent prints by the chair of the University's printmaking program, Thom O'Connor; Images of Ireland from photographer Steve Pyke's I Could Read the Sky; and illustrations of John Montague's Love Poems by art department professor emeritus Richard Callner.

  • Several Irish Semester classes are being offered, as well. They include British Novel II: Focus on Irish Authors, James Joyce, Irish Literature and Culture, and Senior Seminar on the Irish Literary Renaissance, all within the Department of English; and the Department of Theatre's Seminar in Irish Theatre and Drama and Readers Theatre.

A number of other activities are also scheduled. While most of the Irish Semester events are free, nominal fees are charged for others. For information about venues, hours, and prices, or for reservations, please call 442-4207. Information about the various events is also accessible from the Irish Semester website:

According to Center for Arts and Humanities Director and New York State Writers Institute Director Donald W. Faulkner, the Irish Semester promises to be "a really lively and dynamic series. We settled on the theme because of an interest in making more connections with the greater Capital Region, which is significantly Irish in demography. Beyond that, the more we got into Irish culture and arts, the more we found how influential they are — how versatile and inspiring for many other cultures. We wanted to bring to the table something that would encourage people from other cultural perspectives to find common ground."

Center for Arts and Humanities Assistant Director Kelli Wondra, who is also Irish Semester coordinator, notes that the program "would not be possible without joint sponsorship from the College of Arts and Sciences and the President's and Vice Presidents' offices. The generous support of the New York State Writers Institute; the University Art Museum; the Performing Arts Center; and the English, history, Judaic studies, music, and theatre departments have given the semester a rich variety of events. These lectures, performances, classes, and resources represent significant contributions to the Center for Arts and Humanities' programming efforts."

University at Albany
State University of New York