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Welsh actor Matthew Rhys marks International Dylan Thomas Day May 14 with special performance in New York

A specially commissioned one-act play Dear Mr Thomas: A New Play For Voices by Welsh writer / director Christopher Monger will be premiered at 92nd Street Y and features the Emmy Award winning actor, along with his partner and The Americans co-star Keri Russell, plus Richard Burton’s actor daughter Kate Burton.

With Taylor Swift name dropping Dylan Thomas in her new album The Tortured Poets Department, there is a whole new generation curious about the iconic poet and son of Wales. Next week, an acclaimed cast will gather at 92NY to perform a specially commissioned dramatic reading of new play by Christopher Monger, the Welsh writer best-known for his film The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain.

The 92NY location is highly significant for next week’s performance, part of the venue’s 150th anniversary, as this is where Dylan Thomas’ famous play for voices Under Milk Wood, about a day in the life of a Welsh fishing village, premiered on May 14th 1953, and the reason why the poet is celebrated internationally on this date every year.

Dear Mr Thomas illuminates the fascinating back story this specific period in Dylan Thomas’ life, and how it was set into motion by a letter he received years earlier from John Malcolm Brinnin, the 92nd Street Y’s Poetry Center Director. The play, which centres on Thomas, is an intimate portrait of an iconic poet struggling to remain dedicated to his craft and bring a masterpiece to life – and how that struggle impacted those around him, including his wife, Caitlin, and the man who brought him to New York via that fateful letter, John Malcolm Brinnin.

Christopher Monger said: “John Malcolm Brinnin and 92NY were instrumental in introducing Dylan Thomas to America and crucial to the development of Under Milk Wood. Between 1950 and Dylan’s death in 1953, Brinnin organised four American tours for Dylan that cost both of them dearly. They greatly respected each other but ultimately one has to wonder at what cost. This play for voices is both my homage to Under Milk Wood and those involved, and an attempt to imagine the chaos of Dylan’s final years as John Malcolm Brinnin endeavoured to help Dylan and his family. It is a singular, resonating privilege to write something for 92NY that centres on 92NY especially since it involves a wonderfully talented fellow Welshman Matthew Rhys.”

Matthew Rhys starred as Dylan Thomas in the 2008 film, The Edge of Love. He won an Emmy Award for his performance in the spy drama series The Americans, and he has starred in several television series and films, including Perry Mason, Brothers & Sisters, and A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, among others. His theatre credits include Under Milk Wood (a 2003 production in Cardiff), Romeo and Juliet, and Look Back in Anger.

Keri Russell is well-known for her performances in a wide range of television series and films including The Diplomat, The Americans and Felicity (for which she won an Emmy Award), as well as Waitress, Cocaine Bear and Mission: Impossible III, among others. Her theatre credits include Burn This and Fat Pig.

Christopher Monger’s writing and directing credits include the critically-acclaimed HBO film Temple Grandin, The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain (starring Hugh Grant), Like A Woman (starring Julie Walters), and Waiting for the Light (starring Shirley MacLaine and Terri Garr), among others.

The cast also includes Kate Burton, whose father Richard popularised Under Milk Wood on BBC Radio in 1954 and starred in the 1972 film adaptation. Kate will be involved in next year’s celebrations for the centenary of her father’s birth. Also involved are actors Lorna Bennett, Gopal Divan, Taylor Trensch and Betsy Zajkc.

Dylan Thomas’ own centenary was celebrated in a year-long international festival in 2014, featuring the language and landscapes that inspired one of Wales’ greatest storytellers.

 

Image: Dylan Thomas statue which stands outside the Dylan Thomas Theatre in the Marina. Sculpted by John Doubleday it was unveiled in 1984 as a memorial to the much loved poet and writer

— Photo by lenschanger

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