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Sheridan, Peter 1952–

Sheridan, Peter 1952–

PERSONAL: Born 1952, in Dublin, Ireland.

ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Viking Publicity, 375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014.

CAREER: Theatre director, playwright, and author. Project Arts Center, Dublin, Ireland, theatre director; Project Theatre Company, Dublin, founder with brother, Jim Sheridan. Actor in plays, including Emigrants and Journal of a Hole. Director of plays, including Unless It Goes On beyond the Grave, 1970, Journal of a Hole, 1971, Mobile Homes, 1976, Dev, 1977, The Ha'penny Place, 1979, Somewhere over the Balcony, 1987, The Blind Fiddler of Glenadauch, 1990, Lake Horses, 1992, Sick, Dying, Dead, and Back, 1992, and I Keano, 2005. Director of films, including The Balcony Belles, Temple Films.

AWARDS, HONORS: Rooney Prize, 1978; Abbey Theatre Bursary, 1979.

WRITINGS:

PLAYS

Paint It Black, produced in Dublin, Ireland, 1971.

Women at Work, produced in Dublin, Ireland, 1976.

No Entry, produced in Dublin, Ireland, 1976.

(And director) The Liberty Suit (produced in Dublin, Ireland, 1977), Irish Writers' Cooperative (Dublin, Ireland), 1978.

(And director) Emigrants (produced in Blackpool, England, 1978), Co-op Books (Dublin, Ireland), 1979.

Down All the Days (adapted from the autobiographical novel by Christy Brown), produced in Dublin, Ireland, 1982.

Diary of a Hunger Strike, produced in London, England, 1982.

The Rock and Roll Show, produced in Dublin, Ireland, 1982.

(With Jean Doyle, and director) Shades of the Jelly Woman, produced in Dublin, Ireland, 1986.

(And director) Mother of All the Behans (adapted from the book by Brian Behan), produced in Dublin, Ireland, at the Abbey Theatre, 1987.

(And director) The Billy Club Puppets (adapted from the original play by Federico Garcia Lorca), produced in Dublin, Ireland, 1992.

The Illusion (adaptation of L'illusion comique by Pierre Corneille), produced in Dublin, Ireland, at the Samuel Beckett Theatre, 1993.

Finders Keepers, produced in Dublin, Ireland, at the Abbey Theatre, 2004.

SCREENPLAYS

(And director) The Breakfast, Irish Stage and Screen, 1998.

(And director) Borstal Boy (based upon a memoir by Brendan Behan), British Sky Broadcasting, 2000.

(And director with Ken Volok) Oxygen, EyeZenKino, 2004.

OTHER

44: Dublin Made Me (memoir), Viking (New York, NY), 1999.

Old Money, New Money, Poolbeg Press (Dublin, Ireland), 1999.

47 Roses, Viking (New York, NY), 2002.

Big Fat Love, Tivoli (Dublin, Ireland), 2003, published as Every Inch of Her, Penguin Books (New York, NY), 2004.

SIDELIGHTS: Irish playwright and theatre director Peter Sheridan found an appreciative North American audience for his 1999 autobiography, 44: Dublin Made Me. Born in 1952, Sheridan grew up in a boisterous Dublin home ruled by a lively, loquacious father. The second of seven children, Sheridan was the first student from his neighborhood school in a quarter-century to win entrance to a university. He and his brother Jim became involved in the Project Arts Centre in Dublin in the 1970s, and Sheridan spent a number of years as its director. There they staged a number of acclaimed plays that reflected their conviction in the power of the medium as a means of exposing social iniquities. These works included The Liberty Suit, dating from late 1970s, a drama set in a holding facility for juvenile delinquents—a setting that also crops up in Sheridan's autobiography—and Emigrants, a play chronicling the hardships of the poor rural Irish who emigrated to England in the 1800s. This latter work went on to a production at London's Royal Court Theatre, and at times Sheridan even appeared onstage himself. His brother eventually left the theatre and became a well-known cultural figure in Ireland with a career as a film director (best known for the acclaimed film My Left Foot).

44 borrows its title from the Sheridan family home at 44 Seville Place, near the River Liffey, and its coming-of-age narrative is shaped by the young Peter's gradual discovery of parts of the city farther away from that epicenter. In the tradition of other entrants into the genre of contemporary Irish memoir, family life plays a key role in the work, and the Sheridan patriarch, in particular, rules this household. "Da" is portrayed by Sheridan as full of bluster, and at times even a bit of blarney, but untinged by bitterness or rage. The elder Sheridan worked for the railroad, but devoted much of his free time to a second career—off-track betting.

Reflecting his long years in the theatre, Sheridan structured 44 around a number of dramatic and comic episodes, many of which occur in the Sheridan kitchen. In addition to the immediate family—the parents, the older brother, and five other siblings—a mutable roster of transient guests rounds out the cast. Some are extended family, others are fleeing the violence in northern Ireland, and the opinionated Da enjoys arguing with all of them. The paterfamilias also draws both the boarders and his young son, a clear favorite, into many of his schemes and ill-advised enterprises; these include an attempt to repair his own false teeth that results in food poisoning.

Yet as the title hints, Dublin itself plays a large role in the author's formative years as well: as he emerges from late childhood (the work begins in 1960) into early adulthood, Sheridan's experiences broaden along with his familiarity of the city and its diversities. Many of the cultural and political events of the decade also lend themselves into creating an atmosphere of simultaneous progress and tension across the span of the decade. Tobin Hardshaw, writing about 44 in the New York Times Book Review, found fault with the short shrift given to Mrs. Sheridan, a mother who seems to exemplify the tyrannized, browbeaten wife. Hardshaw contrasted her retiring attitude to that of her antithetical spouse, and pointed out that the author's "inability to illustrate her full complexity is most evident when death strikes the family." Nevertheless, Hardshaw enjoyed the structure of the book, describing it as "a series of set pieces, all peaking with a bout of hilarity or aggression or sorrow; and although these sketches never deliver the emotional climax they strive for, it's still a good deal of fun never quite getting there." A critic for Publishers Weekly wrote: "Readers of this friendly, direct book will easily be able to picture the author telling his tales in a cozy Dublin pub." Lisa N. Johnston described the book for Library Journal as a "colorful, funny, and moving autobiography." In the Atlantic Monthly, Phoebe-Lou Adams noted: "Sheridan describes this noisy, devoted, bright and funny clan with great affection and a fine sense of timing."

Sheridan followed 44 with another volume of memoir, 47 Roses. It recounts the author's discovery, following his father's death, of Da's decades-long extramarital involvement with an Englishwoman named Doris. He also learned that his mother was aware of the relationship, and even allowed Doris to visit her home occasionally. Sheridan went so far as to seek out Doris to hear her side of their strange story. 47 Roses is a "moving account of the lives of [Sheridan's] father, his mother, and Doris," stated Pam Kingsbury in the Library Journal. Sheridan's own musings are interspersed with italicized passages in which his mother and Doris tell their own stories. The result explores issues of love and betrayal, and provides readers "not only with shifting points of view, but also with rich Irish and British vernacular," commented a Publishers Weekly writer.

Originally appearing in Ireland as Big Fat Love, Sheridan's novel Every Inch of Her features the central character of Philo Nolan, an overweight homemaker who is the victim of physical and verbal abuse by her husband. She escapes him by taking refuge in a local convent, which is also the home of a day-care center for elderly people. Philo turns the lives of the nuns and the senior citizens upside-down and recaptures her own self-esteem in the process, in this "boisterously cheery and raunchy" novel, as it was described by a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Karen Traynor called the book "delightful" in her Library Journal review, and Margaret Flanagan, commenting on Every Inch of Her for Booklist, predicted that it "will captivate readers while restoring their faith in the unquenchable power of the human spirit."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Atlantic Monthly, June, 1999, Phoebe-Lou Adams, review of 44: Dublin Made Me, p. 137.

Booklist, June 1, 2002, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of 47 Roses, p. 1669; September 1, 2004, Margaret Flanagan, review of Every Inch of Her, p. 65.

Library Journal, May 1, 1999, Lisa N. Johnston, review of 44, p. 82; June 1, 2002, Pam Kingsbury, review of 47 Roses, p. 164; September 15, 2004, Karen Traynor, review of Every Inch of Her, p. 50.

New York Times Book Review, June 13, 1999, Tobin Hardshaw, review of 44, p. 11.

Publishers Weekly, March 15, 1999, review of 44, p. 36; May 27, 2002, review of 47 Roses, p. 46; September 27, 2004, review of Every Inch of Her, p. 38.

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