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Arts & Entertainment

Backstage at BU: Making Brendan

A five-part series on the year in drama

Boston University loves drama, from the moodiness of Anton Chekhov to the humor of George Bernard Shaw. The GRS Creative Writing Program’s elite playwriting program has produced some of today’s most successful young playwrights, such as Ronan Noone (GRS’01) and Melinda Lopez (GRS’00), and benefited from decades of partnership with BU’s Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, founded by Derek Walcott, Nobel Prize winning poet and a BU professor, and the Huntington Theatre Company, in residence at Boston University. The 25-year relationship between BU and the Huntington has given one of the country’s best professional companies a performance space and offered BU students an opportunity for hands-on experience.

This week BU Today looks at five shows produced at Boston University in 2006 and 2007, ranging from workshops at the College of Fine Arts to full-scale productions by the Huntington. Check back tomorrow for “The Popular Puccini.”

Making Brendan: Ronan Noone on the Process and the Play

Click on the slide show above to listen to playwright Ronan Noone discuss his play Brendan.

Love, loss, and the struggle for belonging are the central themes of Brendan, a new play by Ronan Noone (GRS’01). The title character, a young Irish immigrant, is marking his fifth year in America by earning his citizenship, but the loss of his mother makes him keenly aware of the remaining ties to his homeland. In Noone’s words, the play is “just a little bit off center from being truly American, and definitely not Irish.”

The work, the first by the Irish playwright to be set in America, also struck new ground for the school of theatre at the College of Fine Arts, which created a new play-development program that allows playwrights to put on their new pieces with CFA students. Brendan, performed last December, was the first production to emerge from the new program, which Jim Petosa, school of theatre director, says “provides playwrights with workshop productions of new works in progress that help the writers fulfill their vision, whether through small-scale studio presentations or fully realized mainstage productions.”

Noone’s plays were staged in workshops at the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre while he was a student in the Creative Writing Program’s graduate playwriting program, and his work has gone on to receive wide acclaim since his graduation. One of his earlier plays, The Lepers of Baile Baiste, won the 2002 National Student Playwriting Award at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and shared the Independent Reviewers of New England award for best new play with another of his works, The Blowin of Baile Gall. He was named Best Young Playwright by Boston Magazine in 2003 and was a playwriting fellow at the Huntington Theatre Company in 2005. Noone’s most recent play, The Atheist, played at Center Stage in New York City last year and will be performed by the Huntington Theatre Company at the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion in the Boston Center for the Arts this year from September 12 through 30; tickets for the production are currently available to Huntington subscribers only.

Brendan, the second production of the Huntington Theatre Company’s 2007-2008 season, to be directed by Justin Waldman, is scheduled for the Virginia Wimberly Theatre in the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont St., October 12 through November 18, 2007. Tickets can be purchased online at www.bostontheatrescene.com, by phone at 617-266-8600, or in person at the BU Theatre, 264 Huntington Ave.

“Making Brendan” originally appeared on BU Today in December 2006.

Ana Rivas (COM’07) contributed to this slide show.