Championing Ireland's 'Lost' Female Playwright
As the producing artistic director of the Mint Theater Company, which specializes in mounting neglected plays from the past, Jonathan Bank is in the business of revitalizing forgotten dramatists. But he admits he's unlikely to find another "lost" scribe like Teresa Deevy. "She is the most brilliant playwright I'm able to claim some responsibility for bringing back," he says emphatically. Born in Ireland in 1894, Deevy became deaf as a young adult while studying to become a teacher. Ultimately she turned to writing, and from 1930 to 1936 Dublin's Abbey Theatre produced six of her plays. But after the Abbey dropped her, she segued to radio and her stage career effectively ended.
Over the years her plays went out of print, were rarely revived, and eventually faded from memory. Then in 2009, Banks came across a mention of her work while researching early 20th-century female Irish playwrights. Bank was so impressed by the delicacy and humanity in her writing that the Mint soon launched the Teresa Deevy Project, staging three of her full-length dramas between 2010 and 2013: Wife to James Whelan, Temporal Powers, and Katie Roche, which had played briefly on Broadway in 1937. Academics, audiences, and arts journalists all agreed: Deevy was a significant rediscovery.
This summer, the Mint's reclamation of Deevy continues with The Suitcase Under the Bed, a quartet of four one acts directed by Bank. Three -- Holiday House, In the Cellar of My Friend, and Strange Birth -- are world premieres; Deevy's best-known short, The King of Spain's Daughter, rounds out the program. All four explore marriage with a hard-edged eye. Considering Deevy never wed, it's not a shock to find that they don't celebrate the institution.