Five Burning Questions with Outside Mullingar Playwright John Patrick Shanley
January 1st, 2014
by Josh Ferri
Oscar, Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright John Patrick Shanley returns to Broadway with one of his most personal works to date, a romantic comedy set in Ireland. The world-premiere play Outside Mullingar, directed by Doug Hughes and starring Tony winner Brían F. O’Byrne and Emmy winner Debra Messing, begins performances at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre on January 2. BroadwayBox recently chatted with the genius behind Mullingar, Moonstruck and Doubt to ask him our five most burning questions.
1. If I only had 24 hours in Ireland, what’s the one thing I HAVE to do?
I’d just head straight for the country. I’d go out into the pastureland in one of those Druid formations with the cows walking through it because that’s Ireland. Ireland is the land.
2. What is your spirit animal? What animal is John Patrick Shanley?
I’ve had dreams where it was a bear, but I don’t particularly think of myself as a bear [laughs]. I guess in the sense that bears go through a period of hibernation and renewal, and I’m certainly a very cyclical being, so in that sense maybe I am a bear.
3. Think we’ll ever see Loretta and Ronny [Moonstruck] singing on Broadway?
I talk to people about it from time to time. We took one stab at it that went pretty well, but the stars weren’t in alignment and we all walked away from it and went on to other things. But I may go at it again.
4. What’s your ultimate way to unwind?
I imagine myself in the south of Spain at a lunch that goes on for five hours.
5. What makes Outside Mullingar’s love story special for you?
Well, I’ve put off writing about the Irish for 30 years, and I did it in part because they were too familiar to me. I grew up in a very Irish home in the Bronx—my father was an immigrant and my mother was first generation. I wanted something else. I was a young guy and I’d go into the Italian families’ homes in the Bronx, and they had this great good, and more interesting clothing and much freer attitude about sex and sensuality, and I thought this is great; this is what I want to learn about. So I wrote a lot about the Italians. Then in this, the third part of my life, I finally said, “Ok, it’s time for me to write about the Irish,” because I have gotten enough distance from them to see how delightful they are.