Brian Friel

Biography of Brian Friel

Brian Friel (born 9 January 1929) is an Irish dramatist, author and director of the Field Day Theatre Company. He is considered to be one of the greatest living English-language dramatists, hailed by the English-speaking world as an "Irish Chekhov" and "the universally accented voice of Ireland". Friel is best known for plays such as Philadelphia, Here I Come! and Dancing at Lughnasa but has written more than thirty plays in a six-decade spanning career that has seen him elected Saoi of Aosdána. His plays have been a regular feature on Broadway throughout this time.

Philadelphia, Here I Come! was turned into a film in 1975, starring Donal McCann, directed by John Quested, screenplay by Brian Friel. In 1980 Friel co-founded Field Day Theatre Company and his play Translations was the company's first production. Neil Jordan completed a screenplay for a film version of Translations that was never produced. With Field Day Friel has collaborated with Seamus Heaney, 1995 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature. Heaney and Friel have been friends from a young age.

Dancing at Lughnasa brought Friel great acclaim internationally, winning him several Tony Awards, including Best Play, the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Play and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play. It was also turned into a film in 1998, starring Meryl Streep, directed by Pat O'Connor, script by County Donegal playwright Frank McGuinness. His play Lovers was adapted into an opera by Richard Wargo entitled Ballymore (1999), which was premiered by the Skylight Opera Theatre, Milwaukee, in February 1999.

Friel is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the British Royal Society of Literature and the Irish Academy of Letters. The Brian Friel Theatre, a studio theatre in Belfast, is named after him. He was appointed to Seanad Éireann in 1987 and served until 1989. Richard Pine has written and edited his definitive history.

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