Stage Door News
Toronto: One Little Goat launches its 6-year James Joyce “Finnegan’s Wake Project” in June
Thursday, May 18, 2023
One Little Goat, the acclaimed Toronto-based theatre company, is tackling its most ambitious project to date… a sprawling 17-episode reading of one of the most mesmerizingly elusive novels of the 20th century, James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. The filmed readings of the book star Irish-Canadian actor Richard Harte, who reads each chapter in front of audiences of varying sizes, in unique locations in multiple cities. This first-of-its kind filmed audio book is directed and edited by Adam Seelig. Irish-Canadian performer Pip Dwyer will read Chapter 8 (the “washerwomen”). For tickets and info visit www.onelittlegoat.org.
Chapter 1, which was filmed in front of a small audience in Toronto during the pandemic, will premiere at the James Joyce Centre in Dublin on Bloomsday, Friday June 16, at the 69th annual Bloomsday Festival celebrating the life and works of James Joyce. The screening takes place in the Volta Room (time TBA). (On Thursday June 15 the Festival will also screen excerpts of the film as part of its “Joycean Shorts” program.)
A deep-dive into Joyce’s ribald humour and tongue-twisting virtuosity, Chapter 1, which runs 86 minutes, introduces us to the novel’s major themes (the perpetual rise and fall of humanity) and characters (HCE, Anna Livia Plurabelle), as the book’s vast dreamscape begins to unfold through its “riverrun” of language, much of which Joyce invented through multilingual puns. The Dublin-born Harte, known in Joyce circles for his 22-year involvement in Toronto’s annual Bloomsday readings, is joined by Irish-Canadian folksinger Kevin Kennedy who performs the Finnegan’s Wake Irish-American folk song that inspired Joyce’s title (and from which Joyce famously removed the apostrophe, transforming “wake” into a verb). This is Harte’s 7th production with “Toronto’s enterprising One Little Goat” (The NY Times), the company devoted to contemporary poetic theatre, which Seelig founded in New York in 2002 and which has been based in Toronto since 2005.
According to Seelig, Harte’s command of Joyce’s language, imagery and grammatical inventiveness is essential for a theatre-literary project of this unique ambition. (The filmed episodes render every word of every chapter, with subtitles that follow standard line numbers and pagination of the 628-page book.) At a pace of three Chapters a year (including 2023), the project is anticipated to film through 2028 and clock in at an estimated 30 hours.
“Richard Harte is one of the people on the planet to recite Finnegans Wake, Seelig comments. “Richard doesn’t just read it, he plays it, he almost sings it. He speaks fluent Joyce. If you’re familiar with the ‘Wake,’ you’re in for a wonderful interpretation. If you aren’t, Richard’s reading will open the door.”
Chapter 2 will be filmed in front of a live audience on Monday June 26 at Noonan’s Irish Pub in Toronto, followed by Chapter 3 in the fall (time and location TBD). A limited amount of tickets to attend the reading on Monday June 26 will go on sale on June 1, at www.onelittlegoat.org.
Seelig adds about the project: “While each chapter will premiere in a different city or location, each episode will be released individually online subsequent to its premieres. Our aim is to make one of the most celebrated – and bewildering -- novels of the 20th century widely available and accessible.” One Little Goat will screen and release the completed project in its entirety in time for the 90th anniversary of the book’s publication on May 4, 2029.
Finnegans Wake was published on May 4, 1939, simultaneously in New York (Viking Press) and London (Faber & Faber). The book’s composition took 17 years; Ulysses, its predecessor, was published in 1922. While Ulysses is Joyce’s daytime novel, exploring streams of consciousness, Finnegans Wake is his nighttime novel, exploring dreams of unconsciousness.
Finnegans Wake is made possible with support from the Emigrant Support Programme from the Government of Ireland.