VILLANOVA, Pa. – Villanova University selected noted Irish playwright and scholar Owen McCafferty as the 2017 Charles A. Heimbold Jr. Chair of Irish Studies in its College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The visiting writer-in-residence program offers Irish Studies students the enriching experience of a close classroom experience with one of Ireland’s finest playwrights.
Prolific in his work, McCafferty has written nearly 20 full stage productions—earning him numerous awards and positive reviews from publications including the New York Times, The Guardian and The Irish Times.
“I concentrate on the notion of telling human stories as opposed to sticking to political themes,” said McCafferty of his plays.
McCafferty was born in Belfast, Ireland where he attended the College of Business Studies. He continued his education at the University of Ulster where he studied history and philosophy, and then began a career in accounting. In 1985, he joined the Belfast Writers’ Group, and his first production, Winners, Losers and Non-Runners, was performed at the Old Museum Arts Centre in Belfast in 1992.
McCafferty followed up with two more plays in 1993 and 1994 and found continued success in the next millennium. His 2003 play, Scenes from the Big Picture, won the John Whiting Award, the Evening Standard's Charles Wintour Award for New Playwriting and the Meyer-Whitworth Award—marking the first time any playwright had won all of these awards in one year. Quietly (2012) won Best New Play at the Irish Times Theatre Awards and the Fringe First Award at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2013. In 2016, Quietly enjoyed a three-month run Off-Broadway, at the Irish Repertory Theatre in New York.
Currently, McCafferty is writing the book and lyrics for Mojo Mickybo: The Musical as well as an adaptation of Julius Caesar for the children's Ark Theatre in Dublin. He has also been commissioned for a play called Beneath for The Abbey Theatre in Dublin—which produced Quietly and co-produced Death of a Comedian (2015) and has a long-standing relationship with the University through the Abbey Theatre Exchange Program.
The Charles A. Heimbold, Jr. Chair of Irish Studies, inaugurated in 2000, has become one of the most prestigious Irish Studies positions in the United States. Former Heimbold Chairs include luminaries from the Irish literary arts including Peter Fallon, Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill, Eamon Greenan, Marina Carr, Vona Groarke, Conor O’Callaghan, Michael Coady, Sebastian Barry, Justin Quinn and Claire Keegan, Gerald Dawe, John McAuliffe, Moya Cannon, Hugh Hamilton, Mary O’Malley and Eamonn Wall.
Villanova’s Center for Irish Studies provides collaborative, interdisciplinary courses open to all university students to study Ireland and its diaspora. Home to of one of the nation’s oldest and largest undergraduate curriculums of its kind, the Center also offers an exchange program with the Abbey Theatre, the National Theatre of Ireland. The Center for Irish Studies has been made possible by a generous gift from the Connelly Foundation.