Brian Friel


1929

January 9: Born Catholic, in Omagh, County Tyrone in Northern Ireland. BF's father was a native of Derry and a primary school principal. His mother was from Donegal and BF spent many holidays there.

1939

The family moves to Derry, where BF's father has a teaching position at the Long Tower school. BF attends the same school and then goes on to attend secondary school at Saint Columb's College, Derry.

He attends the Republic of Ireland's national seminary, Saint Patrick's College, near Dublin but instead of going on to the priesthood, he takes a post-graduate teaching course in Belfast.

1950

Starts teaching in Derry, writing in his spare time.

1954

Marries Anne Morrison and has four daughters and one son.

1958

His first radio play, A Sort of Freedom, airs on BBC.

1959

His first short story, "The Skelper," appears in the New Yorker. His first stage play, The Francophile, is performed at the Group Theatre, Belfast.

1960

He retires from teaching to write full-time.

1964

His first major play, Philadelphia, Here I Come! is the hit of the Dublin Theatre Festival.

1969

Moves to Donegal, "partly to get into the countryside and partly to get into the Republic"; he leaves partly because of the political situation in the North, where he says, "The sense of frustration which I felt under the tight and immovable Unionist regime became distasteful."

1972

Elected to the Irish Academy of Letters.

1973

The Freedom of the City premieres at The Abbey. This is BF's commentary on the Bloody Sunday massacre. It is set in Derry, NI, in 1970, in the aftermath of a Civil Rights meeting, and follows three protesters who mistakenly end up in the Guildhall. This is interpreted as an "occupation," and the play illustrates their final hours in the Guildhall, their failed escape, and the whitewash of the into their deaths.

1980

With the actor Stephen Rea, founds the Field Day Theatre Company, which is committed to the search for "a middle ground between the country's entrenched positions" to help the Irish explore new identities for themselves. Translations is the first play produced by the group.

1981

Translations is awarded the Ewart-Biggs Peace Prize.

1982

Elected a member of Aosdána, the national treasure of Irish artists.

1987

Appointed to the Seanad Éireann (the Irish Senate, the upper house of Éire's bicameral legislature). Serves until 1989.

1990

Dancing at Lughnasa premieres at the Abbey.

1992

Dancing at Lughnasa wins three Tony Awards, including best play.

1993

Wonderful Tennessee premieres as BF's take on a "Lough Derg" play. Three couples attempt to return to a pilgrimage site on a small island off the Ballybeg coast.

2003

BF reflects his age on the stage with Performances, a one-act play concerning an artist's fears of aging and the mutual influences of life and art and art on life.

2005

BF premieres the last of his fourteen plays set in Ballybeg, The Home Place. Set in 1878, it addresses the resurrection of the Home Rule movement. A wealthy English anthropologist and landowner arrives in Ballybeg to record the physical characteristics of the locals. His methods and racist hypotheses ignite animosity in the town.

2006

Inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.

 

But we're always sniffing abut for it, aren't we? -- looking for disaster. The rents are going to go up again -- the harvest's going to be lost -- the herring have gone away forever -- there's going to be evictions. Honest to god, some of you people aren't happy unless you're miserable and you'll not be right content until you're dead!