Timeline: the life of Brian Friel

From Killyclogher, to Derry, to Ballybeg

 

1929

Brian Friel born on January 9th in Killyclogher, near Omagh, Co Tyrone, to Sean Friel, a primary-school principal, and Mary McLoone, a postmistress.

1939

Friel’s family moves to Derry, his father’s home city, where he attends the Long Tower school.

1941

Attends secondary school at St Columb’s College, in Derry.

1945

Attends St Patrick’s College in Maynooth, as a seminarian, but leaves before ordination, graduating with a BA in 1948.

1950

Teaches in a number of schools in Derry.

1952

Publishes his first short story, The Child, in the Irish literary magazine the Bell.

1954

Marries Anne Morrison. They will have four daughters and a son.

1958

His first radio play, A Sort of Freedom, is produced by BBC Radio Northern Ireland, followed shortly by his second, To This Hard House.

1959

The New Yorker magazine publishes his story The Skelper.

1960

His first stage play, The Francophile, later retitled A Doubtful Paradise, is premiered by the Group Theatre, in Belfast. The same year, with a contract from the New Yorker, he leaves teaching to write full time.

1962

His play The Enemy Within premieres in the Abbey Theatre. His first short-story collection, A Saucer of Larks, is published. Begins a weekly column in the Irish Press.

1963

The year his play The Blind Mice premieres in Dublin, at the Eblana Theatre, he spends a few months at the Guthrie Theater, in Minneapolis, watching rehearsals, at the invitation of Tyrone Guthrie.

1964

Philadelphia, Here I Come! premieres at the Gaiety during Dublin Theatre Festival, produced by the Gate Theatre.

1966

Philadelphia, Here I Come! receives its American premiere, at the Helen Hayes Theatre, and runs for nine months on Broadway. At the same theatre The Loves of Cass Maguire premieres – and closes after 20 performances. A second short-story collection, The Gold in the Sea, is published.

1967

The Loves of Cass McGuire premieres at the Abbey Theatre. Philadelphia opens in London. Lovers is premiered at the Gate Theatre.

1969

Moves to Muff, in Donegal. The Abbey rejects his play The Mundy Scheme, which premieres at the Olympia Theatre and closes in New York after two performances.

1971

The Gentle Island premieres at the Olympia Theatre.

1972

British soldiers open fire on protesters in the Bogside area of Derry, killing 13 civilians and injuring 13 others, with Friel marching in the crowd on what would become known as Bloody Sunday.

1973

The Freedom of the City, informed by the events of the previous year and the exoneration of British authorities by the Widgery tribunal, opens at the Abbey in Dublin and the Royal Court, in London, where Friel first meets the actor Stephen Rea.

1975

Volunteers opens at the Abbey.

1977

Living Quarters premieres at the Abbey.

1979

Aristocrats premieres at the Abbey Theatre. Faith Healer opens at the Longacre Theatre and closes after 20 performances.

1980

The Irish premiere of Faith Healer opens at the Abbey Theatre, with Donal McCann as Francis Hardy. Friel and Rea found Field Day Theatre Company, with Friel’s Translations as the company’s inaugural production in the Guildhall, in Derry, before touring north and south.

1981

Faith Healer’s British premiere takes place, at the Royal Court; Translations opens in New York and London. Friel’s translation of Chekhov’s Three Sisters premieres in Derry for Field Day, then tours.

1982

Premiere of The Communication Cord in Derry, before touring. Friel moves to Greencastle in Donegal. Elected a member of Aosdána.

1987

Appointed to Seanad Éireann, where he serves until 1989. His adaptation of Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons premieres in London, at the National Theatre.

1988

Field Day premieres Making History at the Guildhall in Derry, his last play for the company.

1990

Dancing at Lughnasa premieres at the Abbey Theatre, then transfers to the National Theatre in London; it wins Play of the Year in the Olivier Awards.

1991

Broadway production of Dancing at Lughnasa runs for more than a year at the Plymouth Theatre. Field Day publishes a three-volume Anthology of Irish Writing.

1992

Friel’s version of Charles Macklin’s The London Vertigo premieres at Andrew’s Lane Theatre in a production by the Gate. His version of Turgenev’s A Month in the Country premieres at the Gate. Dancing at Lughnasa wins three Tony awards, including Best Play.

1993

Wonderful Tennessee premieres at the Abbey, transferring to the Plymouth Theatre in New York, where it closes after nine shows.

1994

Friel resigns from Field Day. His play Molly Sweeney premieres at the Gate, under his own direction, before transferring to the Almeida in London.

1997

Give Me Your Answer, Do! premieres at the Abbey Theatre.

1998

The film adaptation of Dancing at Lughnasa, with a screenplay by Frank McGuinness, is released. Friel’s version of Uncle Vanya premieres at the Gate Theatre.

1999

Coinciding with Friel’s 70th birthday, the Friel Festival takes place in Dublin, with Dancing at Lughnasa, The Freedom of the City, Living Quarters and Making History performed at the Abbey, Aristocrats at the Gate and a visiting RSC production of A Month in the Country.

2001

Friel presents the archive of his work to the National Library of Ireland. The Yalta Game, a one-act play based on Chekhov’s short story The Lady With the Lapdog, premieres at the Gate.

2002

The Bear and Afterplay premiere as a double bill, Two Plays After, the first a new version and the second a continuation of Chekhov, at the Gate Theatre.

2003

Performances premieres at the Gate Theatre.

2005

The Home Place premieres at the Gate Theatre.

2006

Elected to the position of Saoi, Aosdána’s highest honour.

2007

Friel’s version of Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler opens at the Gate Theatre.

2011

Named Donegal Person of the Year for 2010.

2015

Brian Friel dies on October 2nd.

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