Human Interest Feature Winter 2015: Inis Nua: History, Awards, This Season, and the Future

Written by: Marina Kazakidis, BABC Coordinator and Junior at Temple University

Inis Nua means “New Island” in the Irish Language. Founder and Artistic Director Tom Reing explained the name is derived from his travels to the United Kingdom. Inis Nua is recognized for translating old world nostalgia into modern day theater here in the US. Inis Nua’s mission is to produce contemporary, provocative plays from Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales that reflect the cultures’ current lifestyle in such a way that audiences find the same connections with plays now as they did with those from decades and centuries ago. This local theater company works with Irish and UK playwrights to bring Philly audiences new plays from across the pond. Having opened its doors in 2004, Inis Nua has grown into a remarkable theater company that, most recently, boasts numerous “Outstanding” Awards for: Overall Production of a Musical, Direction of a Musical, Leading Actress in a Musical, and Music Direction, as well as the June and Steve Wolfson Award for an Evolving Theatre Company given at the 2014 Barrymore Awards For Excellence in Theater.

Tom’s journey to Inis Nua started with a grant to go to Ireland as a teaching artist. After seeing how well-executed professional plays abroad were done, Tom pitched these plays to artistic directors but they didn’t think they fit their missions or that American audiences would get it. So he decided to produce them on his own. Beginning with one play per year, Tom and his theater company worked up to full seasons which gained and continue to gain national and international attention. Tom strongly believes this is not just a business venture, rather it’s one of connection; His favorite part of the role is to travel, and create and sustain those connections identifying talented playwrights from across the Atlantic. Tom takes great pride in selecting the right show to produce, and providing talented, (still rather unknown playwrights who show a lot of potential), the opportunity to showcase their artistry via Tom’s hardworking team here in Philadelphia. Inis Nua’s productions provide storytelling, comedy and intrigue. Thanks to a supportive Board of Directors, Inis Nua thrives with donors and audience.

When asked where he sees Inis Nua in five years, Tom was confident the theater company would continue to grow with American premiers of shows from across the Pond and collaboration from both sides on something Tom refers to as “the next big dream.” This next big dream would be shows that stretch across the Atlantic with actors from both the US and the UK, along with performances from each culture which is, no doubt, incredibly exciting for Inis Nua and its audiences.

Inis Nua is an active BABC Educational, Arts & Charitable Institutions Member. Tom spoke with us about the genesis of the theater company; his road to success; his plans for the future; and shared some insider information about this season’s second and third shows, Long Live the Little Knife by David Leddy which runs February 4-22, 2015 and Penelope by Enda Walsh which runs April 8-26, 2015.

Long Live the Little Knife is a tale of trickery and the ever-eventful double-cross where a husband and wife set out to become the world’s greatest art forgers. According to Tom, the play goes ever so quickly to the left and then ends, leaving audiences shocked. With such a smart and clever script, we’re excited to see what’s in store on February 5, 2015 for the BABC’s Theatre Night, catered by Victoria Freehouse, where members, friends, actors, and David Leddy himself will connect, watch the show, and toast the talented actors on their hard work during the preview night. As for Penelope, it’s a modern twist on the classic tale of Odysseus’ wife who is caught between waiting for her husband to return, after having disappeared for ten years, from the Trojan Wars or to find a new suitor. Will Odysseus return and claim his wife or will Penelope be forced to choose? You can find the answer on April 8-26, 2015.

As Inis Nua continues to wow us from their season performances to their prosperous path and everything in between, we thank Tom for taking the time to speak with us about the theater company. The BABC looks forward to collaborating with Inis Nua on February 5, 2015 and more events in the future. Please click here to register for our program. To learn more about Inis Nua, click here.

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