Monday, February 15, 2010

Meet the Inspiration for the Show: Brian Keenan

Playwright Frank McGuinness has stated that the story of Irish hostage Brian Keenan was his inspiration for writing Someone Who'll Watch Over Me.  Watch a video of Mr. Keenan returning to Lebanon below and keep scrolling down for more information about this remarkable man.  Phase 3 Productions opens our production of the show next week!

Brian Keenan was born into a working class family in East Belfast in 1950. He left Orangefield School early and began work as a heating engineer. However, he continued an interest in literature by attending night classes and in 1970 gained a place at the New University of Ulster in Coleraine. Other writers there at that time included Gerald Dawe and Brendan Hamill. In the mid 1980s Keenan returned to the Magee College campus of the university for postgraduate study. Afterwards he accepted a teaching position at the American University of Beirut, where he worked for about 4 months.

On the morning of April 11, 1986 Keenan was kidnapped by Islamic Jihad. After spending two months in isolation, he was moved to a cell shared with the British journalist John McCarthy. He was kept blindfolded throughout most of his ordeal, and was chained hand and feet when he was taken out of solitary.

The British and American governments would not negotiate with terrorists and Keenan was effectively ignored. Because he was travelling on both British and Irish passports, the Irish government made numerous diplomatic representations for his release, working closely with the Iranian government. Throughout the kidnap they also provided support to his two sisters, Elaine Spence and Brenda Gillham, who were spearheading the campaign for Brian's release. He was released from captivity to Syrian military forces on August 24,1990 and was driven to Damascus. There he was handed over by the Syrian Foreign Ministry to the care of Irish Ambassador, Declan Connolly. His sisters were flown by Irish Government executive jet to Damascus to meet him and bring him home to Northern Ireland. He now lives in Dublin.

He returned to Beirut for the first time since being released 17 years later, and described "falling in love" with the city.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Meet the Artists: Dek Ingraham

Well, I can start by saying that it’s a real pleasure to be directed by Lisa Grande again! Some of my favorite experiences in the theatre were shows directed by her. I was her student at Marietta College and her collaborative directing style has heavily influenced my own when I’m sitting in the big chair. This is the first time that I’ve gotten to act with her since moving to Pittsburgh in 2005, so I’m really happy to be in this show!

Lisa is the person who first introduced this amazing little play to me about 10 years ago when I was a student in her Irish Drama class. When she brought it up as a possibility for this season, I was excited to rediscover this gem of a script. At first, I was a little bit afraid that the play was a bit of a “museum piece” since it is set in such a specific time, but as I read it again, I discovered just how timeless this play really is. The relationships between the three characters are incredibly realistic. It has just as much to say about the kinds of love and friendship that exist between adult men as it does about the nature of violence. It is an incredibly complex play that is absolutely effortless for an audience to feel and comprehend in performance. The more time that I spend with it, the more of a masterpiece of Irish drama I find it to be.

The rehearsal process itself has been a ton of fun. Ricky and Rich are great to work with onstage. Lisa and Cory are really insightful and keep the spirit of rehearsal light—much needed when working on a play with such strong emotional investments! Sometimes we devolve into giggling like 14 year old boys with some pretty inappropriate comments, but it’s all part of finding our relationships as artists and funneling that into our relationships as characters. Who ever thought that being chained to a wall could be this much fun? That’s part of the magic of this play. There is such joy found in such misery. It says volumes about the human condition without ever getting preachy or wallowing in self indulgence. The story is told with such dignity and humor that it really is impossible to resist.

Well, it will be great to get back at rehearsal after our week hiatus thanks to Snomageddon. I hope you’ll join us for this very special show!

--Dek Ingraham, Actor (Edward)