Brian Patrick Friel was an Irish dramatist, short story writer and founder of the Field Day Theatre Company. He had been considered one of the greatest living English-language dramatists. He has been likened to an “Irish Chekhov” and described as “the universally accented voice of Ireland”. His plays have been compared favourably to those of contemporaries such as Samuel Beckett, Arthur Miller, Harold Pinter and Tennessee Williams.
Recognised for early works such as Philadelphia, Here I Come! and Faith Healer, Friel had 24 plays published in a career of more than a half-century. He was elected to the honorary position of Saoi of Aosdána. His plays were commonly produced on Broadway in New York City throughout this time, as well as in Ireland and the UK. In 1980 Friel co-founded Field Day Theatre Company and his play Translations was the company’s first production. With Field Day, Friel collaborated with Seamus Heaney, 1995 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature. Heaney and Friel first became friends after Friel sent the young poet a letter following publication of his book Death of a Naturalist.
Friel was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the British Royal Society of Literature and the Irish Academy of Letters. He was appointed to Seanad Éireann in 1987 and served until 1989. In later years, Dancing at Lughnasa reinvigorated Friel’s oeuvre, bringing him Tony Awards (including Best Play), the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play. It was also adapted into a film, starring Meryl Streep, directed by Pat O’Connor, script by Frank McGuinness.