New Irish Theater Collection Established to Honor Mitchell Selection Committee Member Paul Muldoon
by Cass Cliatt
The unpublished play, The Cooing of Doves, by Sean O'Casey is one of more than 1,000 plays, photographs, playbills and other works documenting the past 160 years of Irish theater, all given to Princeton University in honor of Mitchell Scholarship Selection Committee Member and poet Paul Muldoon, who teaches at Princeton.
1953 Princeton alumnus Leonard L. Milberg decided to donate a collection in honor of Muldoon -- Princeton's Howard G.B. Clark '21 University Professor in the Humanities and founding chair of the University Center for the Creative and Performing Arts -- after the two became friends upon being introduced in 1994 by members of Princeton's English department. Muldoon was born and educated in Northern Ireland and moved to the United States in 1987. He has won numerous awards for his poetry, including the Pulitzer Prize in 2003.
Milberg was impressed with Muldoon's work and agreed to his suggestion to form an Irish theater collection that could be made available for research.
There is ample cause for celebration because Princeton's new Irish theater collection may be unequalled by that of any other educational institution in the world, said Milberg, a noted art collector who has donated three other major literary collections to Princeton. This latest establishes the University as a leading resource for research and scholarship about the Irish stage.
"For Irish theater, I don't think there is anything else like this, especially outside of Ireland," Milberg said of his most recent donation. "I know people may be interested in a lot of other things, but if it's Irish theater, they'll call Princeton." "The fact is, that there's nothing quite like this in Ireland itself," Muldoon said of the collection. "It's an extraordinary resource for our local scholars -- students and faculty -- who are more and more interested in Irish theater. It turns out that anyone interested in what's happening on Broadway, for example, is by definition interested in Irish theater.
The new Milberg Irish Theater Collection begins in the mid 19th century and includes works by Dion Boucicault, whose "sensation" dramas gained acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic;" John Millington Synge, who founded Ireland's national theater, the Abbey Theatre, in 1904 with poet William Butler Yeats and author Lady Gregory; well established playwrights like Samuel Beckett, Brian Friel and Tom Murphy; and contemporary writers including Conall Morrison and Graham Reid, in addition to younger writers, such as Marina Carr, Martin McDonagh and Conor McPherson.
To celebrate the opening of the collection, the University will hold a symposium Oct. 13 to Oct. 15, with appearances by Oscar-nominated actor Stephen Rea, celebrated Irish actors Gabriel Byrne and Fiona Shaw, Tony-award winning director Garry Hynes and others. The weekend will begin with a lecture by Joe Dowling, a former artistic director of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin and the current artistic director of the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis.
Coinciding with the symposium will be McCarter Theatre's production of "Translations," directed by Garry Hynes and considered by many to be playwright Brian Friel's theatrical masterpiece.
For more information about Paul Muldoon, the new Milberg collection, and the symposium "Players & Painted Stage," visit the library's symposium Web site.