Solas Nua, Washington, DC’s premier contemporary Irish arts organization, brings an extraordinary 21st-century adaptation of one of the great classics of Irish theater, J.M. Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World this fall, in its U.S. premiere. Hailed as “a hugely entertaining, often laugh-out-loud funny…superb piece of theatre” (The Irish Times), this timely take on the classic tale of rural life in Western Ireland was created by Nigerian-Irish playwright Bisi Adigun and one of Ireland’s best-known writers, BAFTA Award and Man Booker Prize-winning novelist, dramatist and screenwriter Roddy Doyle (The Commitments, Paddy Clark Ha Ha Ha). Performances will run November 3-20 at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE, Washington DC.
As retold by Adigun and Doyle, the western Irish farmers and villagers of Synge’s original are now tough Dublin gangsters, and the scallywag, runaway playboy of the story is re-imagined as a Nigerian refugee. The adaptation shifts the action to modern-day, urban Ireland and highlights the changes that have occurred in the country, especially around such issues as immigration and inequality.
The script was first commissioned by Adigun’s theater company, Arambe Productions, Ireland’s first and only African theater company, and was produced by Ireland’s famed Abbey Theatre in 2007. A popular success, the adaptation drew critical acclaim: “an intriguing, freewheeling farce…Synge’s eloquence is decanted into the wisecracking Dublin repartee of The Commitments and The Van” (The Guardian, UK).
Solas Nua Artistic Director of Theatre Rex Daugherty says, “Playboy is arguably Ireland’s most famous play, and this contemporary adaptation showcases the comedy and dramatic power that Synge originally captured, while simultaneously reframing the context to include the multicultural identity of modern Ireland. It’s a remarkable piece of writing and we’re delighted to bring it to U.S. audiences.”
POST-SHOW DISCUSSION WITH PLAYWRIGHT BISI ADIGUN
Following the 2:30pm performance on November 6, Solas Nua will host a post-show Q&A discussion with playwright Bisi Adigun. The Nigerian-Irish dramatist founded Arambe Productions, Ireland’s only African theater company. Adigun has written extensively about adapting plays from the Irish theatrical canon with a modern, multi-cultural perspective.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Bisi Adigun established Arambe Productions, Ireland’s first African theater company, in 2003, for which he writes, directs and produces his plays and others’. As theater director/producer and artistic director, Adigun’s productions include African Voices (2003), The Gods Are Not to Blame (2004), Once Upon A Time and Not So Long Ago (2006), The Kings of the Kilburn High Road (2006 and 2007 in Ireland and USA), The Dilemma of a Ghost (2007), Through A Film Darkly (2008), Haba!!! Pastor Jero (2009 in Nigeria and Ireland), The Butcher Babes (2010), Home, Sweet Home (2010 in Nigeria), The Paddies of Parnell Street (2013), and Death and the King’s Horseman (2017 in Nigeria). Adigun is also a documentarist and was featured as a co-presenter of the first three series of Mono, RTE’s flagship television program on intercultural Ireland, from 2000 to 2003. Adigun holds a B.A. (Hons) in Dramatic Arts from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria; an M.A. in Film and TV; and a PhD in Drama Studies from the School of Drama, Film and Music (now School of Creative Arts), Trinity College, Dublin where he has served as an adjunct lecturer of African Theatre and Post-colonial Theatre.
Author of dozens of books including novels and short story collections, as well as multiple plays and screenplays, Roddy Doyle is one of Ireland’s most beloved and popular writers. His first three novels, The Commitments (1987), The Snapper (1990), and The Van (1991), narrate the adventures of the Rabbitte family, residents of Barrytown, a poor housing estate in north Dublin. All three were made into films. He won the Booker Prize for Fiction in 1993 for his novel Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, the vibrant tale of a ten-year-old Irish boy, and has won critical acclaim for his other books including The Woman Who Walked Into Doors (1996), A Star Called Henry (1999), Republic (2010), Two Pints (2012), The Guts (2013), Dead Man Talking (2015), Smile (2017), Love (2020), and his 2021 collection of pandemic-era short stories, Life Without Children. Born in Dublin in 1958, Doyle was educated by the Christian Brothers and at Trinity College, Dublin.
SHANARA GABRIELLE (DIRECTOR)
Solas Nua’s production of The Playboy of the Western World will be directed by Shanara Gabrielle, whose work has been recognized with multiple Helen Hayes Award and Critic’s Circle nominations. Shanara most recently spearheaded WORKING IN DC as the Artistic Producer, which performed on Black Lives Matter Plaza in collaboration with the national AFL-CIO. She is an Artistic Associate at Arena Stage, a member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society and has directed at: the cell theatre in New York City, Goethe Institut, Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance, Arena Stage (associate), Signature Theatre, Door Shakespeare, Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Academy for Classic Acting, Imagination Stage (movement), Shakespeare Festival St. Louis, Coterie Theatre, Metro Theatre, The Black Rep (associate), St. Louis Rep, Great Lakes Theatre, COCA Theatre, New York Fringe, San Francisco Fringe, and more.
SULMANE MAIGADI (CULTURAL CONSULTANT)
Nigerian artist and minister Sulmane Maigadi provides insight on Nigerian culture and current events as present in Bisi Adigun and Roddy Doyle’s riveting adaptation. Born in Nigeria, Maigaidi now calls Washington, DC home. Seminary-trained, with a background in theater, scriptwriting and television, he has served as a Bible teacher, a young adults pastor, currently volunteers with The Augustine Center at Georgetown, and is a curate at Church of the Resurrection. His writing and acting credits include The Unveiled Truth (TV Series 2013), E.V.E – Audi Alteram Partem (TV Series 2018– ), Last Stand (Theatre Premiere Production – 2014), Innate (Movie: Post-Production), and MLK: A Tunnel of Hope (Theatre, Ongoing).
Ian Armstrong: Michael, Jessica Lefkow: Widow Quin, Jamil Joseph: Christopher, JJ Johnson: Malomo, Rebecca Ballinger: Pegeen, Ryan Tumulty: Jimmy, Matthew Pauli: Philly and Michael u/s, James Lacey: Sean, Rachel Lawhead: Susan and Quin u/s, Danielle Gallo: Honor, Erin Denman: Sarah and Pegeen u/s, Sulmane Maigadi: Understudy – Christy/Malomo.
Regina Vitale: stage manager, Jonathan Holmes: associate director, Anderson Wells: associate director, Nadir Bey: scenic designer, Jessica Trementozzi: assistant scenic design, Danielle Preston: costume designer, Sarah Tundermann: lighting designer, Delaney Bray: sound designer, Sierra Young: fight director, Rex Daugherty: artistic director/dialect coach, Charlotte La Nasa: assistant producer/community engagement, Mary Doebel: assistant stage manager/run crew/wardrobe, Dean Leong: master electrician.
ABOUT SOLAS NUA
Solas Nua – ‘new light’ in Irish, is dedicated exclusively to contemporary Irish arts. Founded in 2005, Solas Nua acts as an ambassador and advocate for Irish arts in the U.S., promoting contemporary Irish culture, multi-disciplinary arts and creativity. Solas Nua commissions, produces and presents thought-provoking and groundbreaking work across genres, work that is cross-cultural, representing today’s Ireland – a contemporary, globally diverse society – and reflecting how Irish culture is shared across borders, ethnicity, and economic lines.
COVID Safety: Masks are required to be worn by all audience members while in performance spaces (i.e. watching the show). Masks may be optional in other areas of the building, including lobbies. The use of N95 masks is encouraged. Atlas Performing Arts Center’s complete COVID Health and Safety Policy is here.