Friel, Brian frēl [key]
, 1929–2015, Irish playwright, b. Killyglogher, Northern Ireland. Treating themes that enmesh both Irelands, he became the most acclaimed Irish dramatist of the late 20th cent. 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. Beginning in the 1970s, Friel wrote 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 also wrote 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
(1975), Faith Healer
(1979), Making History
(1988), and Give Me Your Answer, Do!
(1999). Friel also wrote 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).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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