Friel, Brian (frēl) [key], 1929–, Irish playwright, b. Killyglogher, Northern Ireland. Treating themes that enmesh both Irelands, he has become the most acclaimed contemporary Irish dramatist. Friel's family moved to Derry (1939), and he attended St. Patrick's College, Maynooth (B.A., 1949) and a teacher's training college. He taught for 10 years, published short stories, produced radio plays, and became a full-time writer in 1960. He studied (1963) with Tyrone Guthrie at his theater in Minneapolis, and while there wrote his first successful play, Philadelphia, Here I Come!, which deals with a young Irishman considering emigration to the United States. Since the 1970s Friel has written much about the political realities of the two Irelands, as in The Freedom of the City (1973) and Living Quarters (1977). In 1980 he and actor Stephen Rea formed the Field Day Theater Company, Northern Ireland, which soon (1981) produced Friel's Translations. Friel has also written of Irish family life, skillfully mingling it with surreal effects, in such plays as Aristocrats (1979) and the internationally known Dancing at Lughnasa (1990; Tony Award). Among his other plays are Lovers (1968), Volunteers (1975), Faith Healer (1979), Making History (1988), and Give Me Your Answer, Do! (1999). Friel also continues to write short stories.
See biography by G. O'Brien (1980); studies by E. S. Maxwell (1973), U. Dantanus (1985), E. Andrews (1995), and R. Pine, ed. (1997).
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