In my real life, I’m a novelist (novel #6, The Devil and Webster, will be published next March), so one thing I’ve learned to do is recognize a good idea when it alights. But one good idea that came to me eighteen months ago had nothing to do with a plot for a novel; it was about staging James Joyce’s classic holiday story “The Dead” in a gorgeous turn of the century mansion on the Upper East Side, and having the audience follow the actors upstairs and downstairs around the rooms. Somebody really ought to do that, I thought. I guess I don’t need to tell you that that somebody turned out to be me.
Or, more accurately, me and my sister, Nina K. Matza. Together we created a production company, Dot Dot Productions, and joined forces with The American Irish Historical Society at Fifth Avenue and 80th street (that would be the gorgeous mansion) and the phenomenal Irish Repertory Theatre company, whose interpretations of Irish plays and other works have been such an important part of our city’s cultural mix over the past quarter century. A script by myself and my husband, Pulitzer Prizewinning Irish poet Paul Muldoon, a superb leading actress, 3-time Tony nominee Kate Burton (Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy), and the kind of momentum and excitement I imagine all producers dream of, and you have our production, THE DEAD, 1904, coming to New York City this holiday season.
Ah, but wait a minute. You James Joyce fans out there will know that “The Dead” is set at a holiday party in Dublin on the Feast of the Epiphany (that’s January 6th), 1904, and much of the story takes place over dinner – how were we going to stage that?
©The Yule Log
It was one of the easier hurdles we faced. We just called Liz Neumark at Great Performances.
Years ago, I profiled Liz for Reader’s Digest, and I learned all about the company she created and, more importantly, her own roots in theater and performance. Who better to create a glowing holiday meal that reflected the Edwardian feast Joyce described in his story but still promised a delicious dinner for those in the audience who are used to sitting down to a meal in the year 2016? The Great Performances team took the descriptions of food in “The Dead” and interpreted them for our production, creating a menu that will nourish us, delight us, and take us back in time to 1904.
A Fat Brown Turkey Stuffed with Sprigs of Parsley and Herbs
Spiral Honey Basted Ham
Beef Tenderloin, Fig and Cocoa Glaze, Spicy & Sweet Fig Sauce
Duck Fat Roasted Fingerling Potatoes
Caper Berry & Pineapple Relish
Raisins on the Vine & Smoked Almonds
Smyrna figs, Pomegranates
Brandy Alexander Crème Brulee with grated nutmeg and white chocolate
Almond Blancmange, Raspberry Jam
An Assortment of Gold and Silver Dusted Chocolates
Irish whisky and spirits
Tickets for THE DEAD, 1904 are not yet on sale, but we invite you to explore our website, to learn more about the production, and watch a video from our “Curtain Raiser” evening in April, featuring the climactic scene of “The Dead” read by Kate Burton and John Slattery (Mad Men). There will be 50 performances only (from November 19th through January 7th), with only 40 audience members per performance, which means that fewer than 2000 people in all will be able to experience this extraordinary evening. To be informed when tickets become available to the public, please sign up here.
In the weeks before tickets go on sale, we are offering private performances for 40 at the premium price of $25,000. These performances will include special experiences including a pre-performance talk by Paul Muldoon or Princeton Professor of Irish Literature Clair Wills, and a post-performance reception with director Ciaran O’Reilly and the cast. Imagine, as an alternative to a usual holiday party, departing the 21st century for 1904 Dublin, borne aloft by one of the greatest stories ever written and an enthralling holiday feast from another time. For more information, email me!