Irish Playwright Brings Unconventional Theatre to MC

by Jilleen Barrett, Asst. A&E Editor

Award-winning playwright and stage actress Eva O’Connor came to Manhattan College to talk about her unconventional career on Monday, Jan. 27.

O’Connor, who grew up in Ireland and attended Edinburgh University, was involved in dance and theatre as a child and started writing plays during her freshman year of college. She wrote multiple plays throughout college, including “Kiss Me and You’ll See How Important I Am,” which was transferred to London. This play was the inspiration for her career as a playwright.

However, she also explained that despite this bout of success, she still experienced failure afterwards.

“I think it’s really important to talk about your failures,” O’Connor said. “What’s the point in editing out everything bad that you ever did when that’s actually what helped you get to a good point?”

O’Connor is in New York because her newest play, “Maz & Bricks,” is doing a run Off-Broadway at 59 E 59 Theaters. Written in 2015, “Maz & Bricks” highlights a time when abortion was still illegal in Ireland, an issue that affected O’Connor and many other women at the time. Along with writing the play, O’Connor also plays the female lead, Maz. She wrote the award-winning production “My Name is Saoirse” with the same cause in mind.

Eva O’Connor spoke to students about her experience as a playwright. JILEEN BARRETT / THE QUADRANGLE

“I wanted to mark that time in history even though I knew it would be kind of ugly,” O’Connor said.

In addition to her talk, O’Connor performed the opening from “Maz & Bricks” for the audience. The scene was both intense and laughable, with everyone in the audience completely captivated by her delivery.

O’Connor’s newest play is “Mustard,” which is the story of a woman who becomes obsessed with rubbing mustard all over her body after she finds out that her boyfriend is cheating on her. Eventually, her family had to get involved in order to end this sort of substance addiction.

“She has to move back to rural Ireland and abstain from mustard,” O’Connor explained. “I think what makes the play interesting and weird is the mustard part.”

“Mustard” was inspired by the experiences she had with an eating disorder during her childhood. This led to her inspiration for Overshadowed, a play about a young girl with anorexia that became adopted for television by the BBC in 2017.

While she wanted to write about her experiences, she quickly learned that she was going to have to become more comfortable with speaking about her disorder in order to promote her shows.

“I realized that doing this play was going to be a very large coming out process,” she said.

Finally, O’Connor discussed how learning about every facet of theatre helped her become more independent when it came to producing her shows. She found that it made it possible for her to work in television, too.

In addition to talking about her work, O’Connor gave advice to students aspiring to work in theatre.

“I would say write as much as you can and try to create as much as you can,” O’Connor said. “Be really brave and be willing to make terrible stuff and fail and not care what people think.”