NYC's Irish Rep Will Remember Late Hugh Leonard; Hughes, Murray Among Speakers

News   NYC's Irish Rep Will Remember Late Hugh Leonard; Hughes, Murray Among Speakers
 
The Irish Repertory Theatre will host a memorial for Tony Award-winning playwright Hugh Leonard on Feb. 23 at 3 PM at the Rep's Off-Broadway home at 132 West 22nd Street.

Expected to speak are Doug Hughes, whose father Barnard starred in Leonard's Da on Broadway, plus that play's director Melvin Bernhardt and star Brian Murray, and more.

Leonard's three Broadway plays were The Au Pair Man (1973), which starred Charles Durning and Julie Harris; Da (1978); and A Life (1980).

Da originated Off-Off-Broadway at the Hudson Guild Theatre before transferring to the Morosco Theater, running for 20 months and 697 performances and touring the United States for ten months. It brought Leonard both a Tony Award and a Drama Desk Award for Best Play. It was made into a film starring Martin Sheen and Barnard Hughes, who reprised his Tony Award-winning Broadway performance.

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As previously reported, the beloved Irish-born journalist and playwright died in Dublin Feb. 12, after a long illness, according to reports in Irish newspapers. He was 82. Leonard — born John Keyes Byrne in 1926, in the village of Dalkey in County Dublin — had the luck (and the talent) of the Irish for his three plays on Broadway. Each (including 1981's A Life and 1974's The Au Pair Man) was nominated for Best Play Tonys.

Over a long career, Leonard wrote for newspapers (including the weekly "Curmudgeon" column in the Sunday Independent), and penned screenplays, teleplays and radio plays.

Ireland's Minister for Arts Martin Cullen said in a statement, "As a storyteller he was creative and compelling. As an individual he was honest, engaging, with a sharp wit and an enquiring mind. His plays in particular evoked a sense of nostalgia and of the triumph of the human spirit. Hugh Leonard was an immense presence in the fine Irish literary pantheon. Ireland will truly miss its beloved 'curmudgeon.'"

Leonard took on his pen name in the 1950s because he feared his bosses in his civil service day job would disapprove of his creative writing, according to the Irish Times.

His many plays included The Big Birthday, A Leap in the Dark, Stephen D, The Poker Session, The Patrick Pearse Motel and more. The Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival produced 16 of his plays beginning with A Walk on the Water in 1960. He was program director of the festival from 1978-80.

Leonard also adapted classic novels "Nicholas Nickleby" and "Wuthering Heights," and the James Plunkett novel, "Strumpet City," for British television. He wrote two autobiographies: "Home Before Night" in 1979 and "Out After Dark" in 1989.

Leonard is survived by his second wife, Kathy, and his daughter, Danielle. His first wife, Paula, predeceased him.

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