A Year-end Message from Solas Nua—Celebrating Our 15th Year in 2020
Beannachtaí an tSéasúir agus Nollaig Shona Daoibh
Looking back on 2019, Solas Nua can celebrate a hugely successful year, due to your help and that of the entire Irish-arts community. Thank you to our artists for your courage and creativity, and thank you to our audiences for showing up and engaging with us, to our generous friends and supporters who share our mission and passion and to our artistic and government partners for your commitment and encouragement.
Solas Nua had a colossal year, capped by our first Helen Hayes Award, after many nominations over the years for our exciting and innovative theatrical productions. Our production of The Frederick Douglass Project was nominated in six categories and won for “Outstanding Ensemble in a Play.” Solas Nua commissioned the play to celebrate the 200th birthday of the renowned abolitionist Frederick Douglass, whose visit to Ireland in 1845 changed his life and likely US history as well. Co-written by two award-winning playwrights, Dubliner Deirdre Kinahan and DC’s Psalmayene 24, the play was staged on a pier at the Navy Yard, in Washington’s Anacostia River, overlooked by the Douglass home. Our 2018 production of How to Keep an Alien was also nominated.
Solas Nua kept up the pace in 2019, with our acclaimed productions of Silent and The Smuggler, two one-man tour-de-force performances. With each of these productions, Solas Nua made major contributions to the welfare of our community. Pat Kinevane’s Silent gave us an extraordinary insight into the inner world of a homeless man and we gave local homeless organizations free tickets to distribute. The Smuggler raised over $4,000 in donations for legal services for immigrants and asylum seekers. The Smuggler quickly sold out its initial run, was booked into Round House Theatre for at least two more already-sold out runs, and was picked by The New York Times as one of the best shows of the year, nation wide. Together, the two plays have been nominated for 13 Broadway World awards. Thanks to all of you who contributed to the success of these productions.
The 2019 Capital Irish Film Festival (CIFF) was our most successful yet, bringing capacity crowds into the AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring, a terrific partner for several years now. The opening film, The Drummer & The Keeper, was one of the most popular and a big hit. Holding CIFF at AFI has allowed us to consolidate all our film screenings in a single venue over the 4-day festival, and we have booked it again for Feb 27- Mar 1 2020. Thanks to the film directors and actors who came over to share their thoughts and experiences with our audiences and to all the volunteers who helped put it on.
Solas Nua’s Visual Arts offerings once again expanded our horizons. This fall, we presented two of the most esteemed contemporary Irish artists, Aideen Barry and Alice Maher, in an exhibition at the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center. More than 6,000 people viewed the multi-artist show, where Aideen and Alice were featured and presented their work, entitled “fair is foul & foul is fair,” in a sold-out opening-night talk. The exhibition continues through Dec 15th.
Solas Nua presented the US launch of Jane Clarke’s two new poetry books. In DC, the acclaimed Irish poet held readings--including at the Irish Embassy and with the The Washington Post, conducted workshops for aspiring poets and DC school children, and was subject of a Library of Congress podcast. At right, Jane with Post reviewer Ron Charles and an appreciative Embassy audience.
Singer-songwriters Amanda St. John and Michael Brunnock were the musical highlights of Solas Nua’s celebrations around St Patrick’s Day. We also distributed free publications of new Irish writing at the Dupont Circle Farmer’s Market and at Solas Nua events throughout the year. Late in the Spring, young Belfast pianist Cahal Masterson wowed the crowd at a house concert rounding out Solas Nua’s musical offerings in 2019.
Your support enables Solas Nua to bring award-winning, thought-provoking and vibrant contemporary Irish art to Washington metro audiences. Please continue to show your support for us in 2020 by donating to Solas Nua. Go raibh mile agaibh! Thank you on behalf of the many talented artists emerging in a diverse and changing 21st Century Ireland.