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Dublin fest gets Irish up

Five local, 11 int'l prod'ns on tap for event

DUBLIN — After an inaugural season criticized for being light on local work, Dublin Theater Festival artistic director Don Shipley has offered up in his second outing a well-balanced program of Irish-produced shows — five of them — and 11 major touring international productions for the 2006 fest, which runs Sept. 28-Oct.14.

Given Shipley’s recent announcement of his upcoming move to co-helm the Stratford Festival in his native Canada (Daily Variety, June 26), however, the Dublin fest’s larger game plan remains in question as it faces its 50th-anniversary season next year.

Fresh from the success of “DruidSynge” in Minneapolis and Manhattan, Garry Hynes will direct “Empress of India,” a world premiere by Irish writer Stuart Carolan for Druid Theater Company. Production preems in Druid’s hometown of Galway (in association with the Galway Arts Festival) in September and plays during the Dublin fest at the Abbey Theater.

On the Abbey’s smaller Peacock stage, leading Irish writer Tom Murphy will direct his latest play, “The Alice Trilogy,” only 11 months after its well-received Royal Court premiere. Murphy’s production features his partner, Jane Brennan, in the title role and could be viewed as a riposte to the original production, which was helmed by Court a.d. Ian Rickson and starred Juliet Stevenson.

Two leading independent Irish companies offer world preems: Annie Ryan directs Michael West’s “Everyday” for Corn Exchange and Lynne Parker directs “The Bonefire,” by Rosemary Jenkinson, for Rough Magic.

At the Gate Theater, up-and-comer Selina Cartmell directs David Eldridge’s dramatization of “Festen,” another Irish premiere.

International productions headlining the Dublin fest include Thomas Ostermeier’s Schaubuhne (Berlin) staging of “Hedda Gabler”; Gorky’s “The Vacationers,” directed in Russian by Evgeny Marchelli for the Omsk State Drama Theater; and a new staging of Hal Willner’s “Came So Far for Beauty,” the Leonard Cohen tribute featuring, among others, singer-songwriters Laurie Anderson, Nick Cave and Beth Orton, which previously played in Brooklyn; Brighton, England; and Sydney.

The fest’s fortunes are on a steady upswing, with a 7% increase in box office in 2005; this season reps a 25% increase in artistic spend.

That Shipley announced his imminent departure before rolling out his second season is surely a destabilizing factor for the fest. He tells Variety, however, that he already has begun programming the 2007 season and is willing to stay with the fest to see it to fruition, if necessary.

According to chairman Peter Crowley, the festival has made an ambitious funding request to the Irish Arts Council in hopes of doubling its usual level of programming for the 50th-anni season, and does not intend to rush its search for a new helmer.

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