Bridging the Gap | Meet the Origin Theatre Company

Freia M. Titland

Origin Theatre Company is a non-profit, cross-cultural theatre company dedicated to the ‘cultivation, development, and interpretation of new and emerging European playwrights.’ Founded in 2002, Origin has continued to tell stories that ‘stir the emotions and explore cultural identity from fresh new voices.’ With Origin’s Annual Benefit just around the corner, we sat down for an interview with Founder and Artistic Director George C. Heslin.

Past Honorees with Tom Moran of Mutual of America, Courtesy of Origin Theatre Company

Origin Theatre Company’s mission is clear: to premiere a ‘diverse range of contemporary European Theatre in New York City.’ Since its inception in 2002, Origin has been ‘devoted to discovering, nurturing, and introducing new, exciting voices from Europe, whose work provide unique perspectives on national identity, cross-cultural relations, and global understanding. Through both its main stage productions and theater festivals, Origin is proud to offer these artists an important gateway to America’.
George C. Heslin is no stranger to the stage. Having extensive Acting and Directing Credits, his many awards include ‘The Irish Examiner/New York Irish Man of the Year Award’ (2011), ‘The American Dance Federation Cultural Leader Award’, The New York City Council Award’, ‘The Global 100 Award from Irish American Magazine’ and the ‘CUNY Award of Cultural Excellence’ (2013) among others.

Meryl Streep with George C. Heslin, Courtesy of Origin Theatre Company

When asked about his inspiration for creating Origin Theatre Company and his ultimate goal, George said that when he first came to America [from Ireland] he was very ‘surprised at what American audiences were being given as contemporary theatre from Europe. Having lived in London, I have seen some really exciting theatre and was a bit amazed that those exciting playwrights were not getting a voice in America.’ George’s goal was to provide a ‘platform for up-and-coming playwrights and create a gateway to North America… so that Americans can hear exciting stories from Europe.’

Origin Performers, Courtesy of Origin Theatre Company

Over time, Origin Theatre Company has evolved from a ‘one-man army’ to a thriving company consisting of 14 Board of Directors, three full time staff members and a plethora of interns. Over the years, Origin has launched the work of over 100 playwrights here in America.
Aside from Origin’s regular season, they are entering their eighth year of the ‘1st Irish Theatre Festival.’ For the month of September ‘1st Irish’ premiers Irish Talent for an American Audience. George Heslin boasts that it is the ‘only festival in the world dedicated to playwrights from the isle of Ireland. The festival remains [our] number one cultural event in New York City because New York audiences have truly tapped into the energy of contemporary plays [from Ireland].’

Festival Winners with George C. Heslin, Courtesy of Origin Theatre Company

The Festival is an enormous opportunity for artists. 1st Irish has given over 107 Irish Playwrights an opportunity for their work to be seen by New Yorkers. The festival provides extensive networking opportunities not only for the playwrights, but also for actors, directors, producers and all involved with each production.
The ‘1st Irish’ Festival isn’t the only program Origin implemented over the years. The recent installation of ‘Culture Bites’ puts the general community in touch with European artists from all walks of life. This past year a small group of individuals were able to sit down with Downton Abbey’s Lesley Nicole, or ‘Mrs. Patmore’.

‘Waiting for Ikea’, Courtesy of Origin Theatre Company

If you’ve missed ‘Culture Bites,’ there are plenty of other opportunities to get involved with Origin. On June 18th, Origin will be holding their Annual Benefit. The Benefit, hosted by Mutual of America, honors community members who have truly given back. This year Origin Theatre is delighted to honor renowned restaurateur Mr. Ronan Downs. Born in Dublin, Mr. Downs currently lives and work here in NYC. He is the owner of Beckett’s Bar and Grill located at 81 Pearl Street, along with thirteen other establishments!

Origin Supporters & Board Members with Tom Moran & George C. Heslin, Courtesy of Origin Theatre Company

The Annual Benefit will feature entertainment, an Origin Showcase and a silent auction. Auction items range from a Hotel Stay in Limerick, Ireland to lunch with Irish International Rugby player Gordon D’Arcy.
Origin’s upcoming season is sure to be one to watch as their production of ‘The International will be returning to the main stage July 15th after having a completely sold-out run the year before. Get your tickets while you still can!

Leslie Nicol with George C. Heslin, Courtesy of Freia Titland

Origin Theatre Company, 520 8th Avenue, Suite 329A, New York, NY. +1 212-253-8300.
By Freia M. Titland

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