Conor McGuigan and I have been trying to do this play, Stones in His Pockets, for a very long time. Years. A passion project, if you will.
It’s about how a big American movie company takes over the sleepy little village where they once filmed The Quiet Man with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. The new film has even hired the only surviving background actor from The Quiet Man and has big American stars with big American egos, and the havoc the production wreaks on the thatched little slice of heaven.
Along the way, we’ve faced several obstacles trying to mount a production.
- The play itself is challenging. It’s a two-person show, like Greater Tuna, where two guys play everybody and there’s very little guidance in the script as to who plays what and how any of that happens, or how costumes change, or if they change, or if scenes change, and so on. So it’s not an easy sell to a theater company, and not to a director, either. It isn’t an easy read on the page, either. You either love it or don’t get it.
- It’s an Irish play, and there’s no representative for U.S. performing rights [like Samuel French or Dramatist’s], so tracking down the right person to ask “mother may I?” has been challenging.
- It’s an Irish play with Americans, so you have to have Irish accents or no one will know WTF is going on.
- Irish accents. A lot of distinct, character Irish accents of various genders, ages, and regional dialects.
- The playwright has been very stingy with the rights, apparently. Especially in the U.S.
- It’s challenging to perform. There are many opportunities to fuck it up. It’s sweet and sad and hilarious [especially if you’ve ever worked on a movie set], but should never be maudlin or sappy. It’s a tightrope. With accents. And cows. [Truly, one of the characters is obsessively, poetically fixated on Irish cows.]
So, over the years we’ve had sever sort of deals sort of come together and suddenly fall apart with several theater companies because of the various challenges. Over things like, “Okay, but can we cast all the roles instead of just you two doing it? Get more butts in the seats?”
Conor’s dad, Jack, wanted to mortgage the house and produce and direct the production himself. He’s a legit poet and got [and loved] the play immediately, but yeah, no. Nobody’s betting the house on it. Not their real house.
Anyway, a little over a year ago, in December of 2018, I guess at the email address of the rights manager at the UK publishing house where the play was printed in paperback and scored a hit. A lovely woman named Tamara acted as go=between for myself and the author Marie Jones and her agents. I secured the rights for a production [much to everyone’s surprise] in a limited run with the option to extend. Then we found an interested director who wasn’t scared of the material, then a theater who saw the upside to doing a brilliant bit of Irish theater near St. Patrick’s Day, in the city with the Parade ranked #2 in the country by U.S. News and World Report back in 2011.
So, the long and short of it is we start rehearsals next month. We run Fri-Sat-Sun March 20th through the 29th. Watch this space.
:::Starts Googling regional Irish dialects:::