Quotidian Theatre Company presents the US premiere of Conor McPherson’s The Veil, opening July 18. Stephanie Mumford co-founded QTC with artistic director Jack Sbarbori and plays Mrs. Goulding in the production.
A Quotidian Encounter with Conor McPherson
So, Jack says to me, “Steph, Conor McPherson has a new play. It’s set in 1822 in a haunted house in rural Ireland, and there’s a séance… Better still, Conor is directing the play himself.” It’s early 2011, and I am thinking how lovely it would be to go to London to see the world premiere of The Veil when it opens at the National Theatre in September. An impulsive decision is made. We get tickets to see three preview performances of the play during a four-day trip to England.
If you haven’t guessed, Jack and I consider Conor McPherson the greatest living playwright, which explains why we have staged seven of his plays since we fell in love with The Weir back in 2004. For me, it is his deep insight into the human psyche and how he conveys a character’s essence as much with ellipses as with words. And then there’s his great good humor and compassion for the lowest among us.
Forwarding ahead several months and two viewings of The Veil at the National Theatre, we are about to enjoy our third and last. We arrive in time to have a bite to eat at the open cafeteria in the lobby. I decide to get a cup of coffee at the espresso bar, having finished my meal. I leave Jack at our table and cross into the coffee shop. And right there as I enter the door I see a red-haired fellow in glasses whom I recognize immediately as Conor McPherson. And yet, instinctively, I walk right past him to obediently assume my correct position at the end of the coffee line. Then I think, “When am I ever going to get another chance to speak in person to one of my heroes?” So I boldly approach this very unassuming man and ask him if he is Conor McPherson. He says he is. He is with his good friend, Peter McDonald, the Irish actor who plays Fingal in The Veil. Conor is extremely polite and attentive to me as I introduce myself and tell him how much my husband and I admire his work. He then solicits my genuine response to The Veil, off of which he admits he has cut 30 minutes from the previous night’s performance. He says he enjoys directing his own plays, since it provides him the perfect opportunity to refine his work and to extract what isn’t needed. I appeal to him to walk the short distance into the lobby to meet Jack, who would be so disappointed not to say “hello”. Despite needing to get back to their work, both Conor and Peter McDonald graciously follow me to our table, where I find Jack looking down at his plate, “Look who I found,” I say. Stunned, and breaking into a rare smile, Jack rises to shake the hand of the man whose plays Jack adores.
Conor kindly stays to chat with us for about 10 minutes or more, though McDonald must leave to prepare for his performance that night. Conor apologizes to us for not taking off his sunglasses, explaining he misplaced his regular prescription lenses. He apologizes again for using the expression “s**t load” to describe how much he has cut from his play. I find this disarming, considering his liberal use of the “F”-word in most of his contemporary plays. Unique about The Veil is the complete absence of profanity, a tribute to Conor’s ability to convincingly write what seems to be a period play. I tell him how much I enjoy the surprising twists and turns in his plays like The Seafarer, in which a domestic drama about two down-and-out brothers coping with their differences turns into an epic Irish tale about a card game with the devil, who is after one of their souls. Jack inquires about the chances of Quotidian staging The Birds, and Conor immediately offers his support. So from our chance encounter with the celebrated Irish playwright, I take away Conor’s humility, his compassion, and the kindness he showed to two strangers from Bethesda who he treated like familiar peers.
Quotidian Theatre Company presents the U.S. premiere production of
by Conor McPherson
July 18 – August 17, 2014
The New York Times calls Conor McPherson “the finest playwright of his generation”. Set in a haunted mansion in rural Ireland in 1822, surrounded by a restive, starving populace, The Veil weaves Ireland’s troubled colonial history into a transfixing story about the search for love, the transcendental, and the circularity of time.
Featuring Christine Alexander, Michael Avolio, Jane Squier Bruns, John Decker, Steve LaRocque, Chelsea Mayo, Stephanie Mumford, and Michele Osherow. Directed by Jack Sbarbori.
All performances are held at The Writer’s Center: 4508 Walsh Street, Bethesda, MD. The venue is a short walk from the Bethesda Metro Station. There is free parking on Saturdays and Sundays.
Tickets are $30, or $25 for seniors and students, and can be purchased online at Brown Paper Tickets.
Show times are Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, and Sundays at 2pm, with one additional 2pm performance on Saturday, August 16.
Subscribers, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 301-816-1023 for reservations.