Jeremy to Announce Theater Master’s Visionary Award Winners

Broadway and film star Jeremy Irons will announce the second annual Theater Master’s Visionary Award winners on Thursday, May 14th at a gala reception at the Manhattan home of Theater Masters’ founder Julia Hansen.

Theater Masters selects acclaimed theaters to propose candidates for this honor. Winning playwrights are invited to attend Aspen Institute’s noted “Aspen Ideas Festival,” and are jointly commissioned by the nominating theatre and Theater Masters to write a full-length play that embraces timeless values and powerful issues.

This year’s program will include New York’s Primary Stages and The Dallas Theater Center. Celebrated actors Marian Seldes, Simon Jones and Karen Ziemba will also be attending the event.

Based in Aspen, Colorado, Theater Masters is a non-profit organization whose core mission is to seek and nurture the next generation of artists for the American Theatre and present their work. “Along with some of the country’s finest regional theatre artistic directors, we have found these remarkable writers who are some of the finest young playwrights this country is developing” said Julia Hansen, Theater Masters founder and Artistic Director – and former President of New York’s Drama League. “In many ways, how I started the Drama League’s “Director’s Project” is how I am now fostering new playwrights and giving them chance to have their work nurtured and developed.”

In 2008, Theater Masters initiated the Visionary Playwrights Award, in partnership with the Aspen Institute and three of America’s top regional theaters: Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago, La Jolla Playhouse in California, and Playwrights Horizons in NYC.

Theater Masters Advisory Board includes: Alec Baldwin, Andre Bishop, Gordon Davidson, Scott Ellis, A.R. Gurney , Doug Hughes, Judy Kaye, Andrew Leynse, Samuel Liff, John Lithgow, Robert Moss, Brian Murray, Jack O’Brien, Neil Pepe and John Rando.

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Jeremy is nominated in the category of Best Leading Actor in a Play.

Impressionism is nominated in the following categories:

Best Scenic Design
Best Lighting Design
Best Costume Design
Best Direction of a Play (Jack O’Brien)
Best Featured Actress in a Play (Marsha Mason)
Best Featured Actor in a Play (Andre DeShields)
Best Leading Actress in a Play (Joan Allen)
Best Play
Best Sound Design

Irons’ good Impression – from IrishCentral.com

Irons’ good Impression

Oscar winning actor Jeremy Irons and Tony award winning director Jack O’Brien talk to IrishCentral about their Irish backgrounds and working together on Broadway in the new play “Impressionism”


Oscar winner Jeremy Irons’ voice, which is famously rich and resonant, is known to every child in America who’s grown up in the past 15 years as the shake-in-your-shoes voice of Scar, in Disney’s “The Lion King”

But Irons, 60, is more famous for his grown up portraits in classic series like “Brideshead Revisited” and his unforgettable Oscar winning turn in “Reversal of Fortune,” where he portrayed Claus Von Bulow, the man eventually acquitted of his society heiress wife’s murder. (Sunny von Bulow lived almost 28 years in a persistent vegetative state until her death in a New York nursing home on December 6, 2008).

These days, between the acting stints that he says in recent years had lost a lot of their appeal, Irons has worked on the restoration of Kilcoe Castle, his 15th century castle in Cork, on which he has reportedly spent a million pounds bringing up to shape. If that wasn’t enough he then decided to paint the entire building an eye-catching pale pink, which has made it a must see curiosity on the local tourist trail.

“I’ve never told anybody how it cost to restore but it was a fair amount. That was a great project,” Irons told IrishCentral.com.

“I got to a stage where I was getting a little bored with the work I was doing in movies. I wanted something that scared the pants off me basically and I looked at the castle which I knew to be a ruin. I thought someone should really do it up.”

The castle, which was built in 1450 by the Irish McCarthy clan, was sacked by the British Army in 1603, so there was a certain irony in an Englishman and his Irish wife taking it upon themselves to restore a colonial spoil to its former glory. The Celtic Tiger economy suggested to Irons that someone would probably get there before him, so he decided to start the project before someone else did.

“I restored both the interior and the exterior. The structure itself was still basically sound, but the top had been knocked off and all the carved stone windows had either been knocked out or ground down by the wind,” he says.

“All the woodwork was gone –- the way castles are built means that alternate floors are wood. We had a basic skeleton to go on and we worked from the outside, put a lid on it, plumbed it for water, heating and electricity and made it good. It was a big job,” he says laughing.

As for the irony of doing it in the first place he says, “It seemed right.”

Irons is one half Irish, which he can now say with complete conviction, having taken the trouble to research his ancestors. To his great surprise, it turned out that many of them had lived and died very near the castle itself.

“My ancestors came to the north in the linen industry and then eventually came south to Innishannon in Co. Cork, near to where my castle is situated. One of them married a Cork girl. That was the main connection,” he says.

“It’s fascinating to me because Innishannon is a place I come into on my way through Skibbereen to Cork and my ancestors grew their flax there, which they sent to the mills in Skibbereen. It’s a very close geographical connection to where I feel very instinctively at home now.”

To express his affinity for all things Irish, on St. Patrick’s Day Irons wore a green carnation on stage in his new play Impressionism, currently playing on Broadway. A homage to both St. Patrick and his fellow Irishman Oscar Wilde, it delighted the audience and the actors on stage.

“It amused me and a few other people, and I think it’s nice to mark an occasion when we can. I didn’t parade and I didn’t drink –- well, not more than normal –- so it’s nice to remember that day when you’re away from home.”

Long before he had even visited Ireland Irons found himself attracted to its music and literature. Soon he became aware of formidable Irish women, too.

“Years before I met Sinead I thought to myself, you know with my blood and my background I really need some Celt. I really need an Irish wife. My friend at school had married a red headed Irish girl and I remember thinking that’s a very sensible thing to do.

“I was thrilled when I had the chance to marry Sinead,” he adds. “It also brought me into the fold of her Irish acting dynasty. For me Ireland and the Irish have allowed me to focus on my wildness, on my romanticness, that is what Ireland is, it’s the way I see it. It’s less buttoned down than what I’ve come from. Think of its great literary tradition and its musical tradition.”

In Impressionism, in which he stars alongside actress Joan Allen (best know for her roles in the Bourne Identity movies) Irons gives a generally admired performance in a difficult, underwritten new play. But taking a chance on a new script makes his job interesting, a risk worth taking, he says.

“Basically you’re looking to pay the bills, but you’re also looking to find interesting characters to play. I’ve been gravitating toward new plays that I find interesting to see whether they work,” he says.

“After this I shall be filming in the autumn. I’ll always keep those balls rolling. I started off in the theater, although I spent 20 years in the middle of my career hardly doing anything at all. But new plays always up the stakes for an actor.”

Director Jack O’Brien, who has won three Tony Awards since 2000 for “Hairspray,” “Henry IV” and “The Coast of Utopia” (starring Brian F. O’Byrne) first came to prominence in San Diego where he worked as artistic director at the Old Globe Theatre.

“My own family has Kilgannons on one side and O’Brien’s on the other,” says O’Brien. “My father was born in Jackson, Michigan and I grew up there.

“But I recently uncovered my own Cork connections. I’m guided by Edna O’Brien, the Queen of Ireland. God knows I’m Irish, though –- I don’t shut my mouth. I like to have fun and I’m terribly funny in the way that the Irish are funny, and I can’t really stop it or help it or apologize for it.”

Working with Irons on “Impressionism,” which the critics roundly slated, shows both the challenges and shortcomings of untested new work. But O’Brien is philosophical and delighted he had the opportunity to work with Irons.

“He’s another crazy Irishman. I knew Sinead first and so he was disposed to like me. But he’s thorny, he’s no pushover,” O’Brien says.

“He’s a very wise and very smart guy who does not suffer fools lightly. The smart thing I did was invite him up to my place for the weekend, and I cooked the food and set up the liquor and we just screamed with laughter.”

Another testament to O’Brien’s Irish pride stems from a discovery he made late in his career.

“I’ve never been able to make Irish plays work in San Diego. I began to wonder, what is it with Southern California and the Irish? And I left immediately thereafter.”

“Impressionismis now playing at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, 236 West 45th Street, New York, N.Y. For tickets call 212-947-8844.

Jeremy and cast of Impression attend Meet and Greet

NEW YORK – FEBRUARY 17, 2009

Jeremy Irons, Joan Allen, director Jack O’Brien and the cast of “Impressionism” attend a meet-and-greet for the Off-Broadway show ‘Impressionism’ at the New 42nd Street Studios on February 17, 2009 in New York City.

Liz Smith on “Impressionism”

From the New York Post

February 17, 2009

TALK MAY be cheap, but there’s plenty of it about the coming Broadway pro duction “Impressionism,” which will star Joan Allen, Jeremy Irons, Marsha Mason – an excellent cast – opening March 12.

No wonder, it is being directed by the genius Jack O’Brien and was written by Michael Jacobs. Now here’s a story. Producer Bill Haber recently heard from a woman he’d represented 30 years ago, Susan Harris. He describes her as “the creator of ‘Soap,’ ‘The Golden Girls,’ ‘Empty Nest’ and a billion dollars worth of other writing. She is considered one of the smartest of all TV people.”

Susan said she’d seen the ad for “Impressionism” and talked CAA into lending her a script. She wanted Bill to know that the play “is the finest I’ve read in years. I went back and read it again! Who is this guy – Michael Jacobs? I’m going to stop writing plays since I can never match this. Thanks for doing something this adventuresome, courageous and sensitive.”

Now that’s the kind of pre-inside talk everybody wants. Haber says, “This moved me and reminded me again why we’re doing this play.”