New York and Wales are joining forces to celebrate Dylan Thomas’ birthday week – with a performance of Under Milk Wood, an exhibition, poetry reading and much more taking place in the Big Apple.
The Welsh poet was born on 27 October 1914 and 2014, his centenary year, has seen an extensive celebration of his work, with international events taking place as part of British Council Wales’ Starless and Bible Black programme.
A New York production of Dylan’s play for voices Under Milk Wood starring Michael Sheen and Kate Burton has already ‘sold out’. The play will be performed on 26 October at the 92Y Poetry Centre where the full play was first performed in 1953. The performance will be broadcast live by BBC Radio Wales and online by the Poetry Centre at 8pm UK time - opening up this historic event to everyone.
‘Dylan Thomas in America’ an exhibition of photographs, letters, drawings and manuscripts that chronicles Dylan’s legendary trips to the US in the 1950s will also open on 26 October at the Milton J. Weill Art Gallery.
New York’s Bowery Poetry Club has organised a ‘Night of Poetry in Celebration of Dylan Thomas’ (26 October). The event will feature Welsh writer Gwyneth Lewis, Wales's National Poet from 2005-06 and the first writer to be given the Welsh laureateship; Kevin Powell, writer and International Ambassador for the Dylan Thomas Centennial in America and Bob Holman, American poet.
New York will also see the launch (27 October) at Bauman Rare Book Store of the Centenary Edition of The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas, edited by Swansea University’s Professor John Goodby, with special guest Michael Sheen.
A walking tour of Greenwich Village will take place on 29 October, using the ‘Dylan’s New York Haunts’ smartphone app created by his late daughter Aeronwy Thomas Elis and Welsh poet Peter Thabit Jones. Kevin Powell and Hannah Ellis will lead the tour of invited VIPs.
To round off the week ‘The Life and Legacy of Dylan Thomas: A Public Conversation’ (31 October) with Hannah Ellis, American poet Phil Levine and Kevin Powell will take place at the 92Y Poetry Centre.
Starless and Bible Black has already seen author Owen Martell and Welsh folk band Fern Hill travel to Argentina to take part in the Buenos Aires book festival in May.
In July as part of the programme, the world’s first synchronized headphone choir performed Pete M Wyer’s setting of ‘And Death Shall Have No Dominion’ on the streets of New York. The event can be viewed on You Tube http://youtu.be/96_b9EkLPhA
Musicians Richard James and Gareth Bonello and authors Rachel Tresize and John Williams took the Starless and Bible Black theme to the Melbourne Writers Festival in August.
Later this year Welsh and Indian poets will visit each other’s countries to generate new work inspired by Wales and Dylan, with performances at the Mumbai Literature Festival.
The finale of the programme will take place in July next year, when Theatr Iolo will perform their production of Dylan’s Adventures in the Skin Trade in Australia and make history as the first Welsh theatre company to perform at the Sydney Opera House.
Head of arts at British Council Wales, Dan Thomas, said: “The centenary hasn’t only been a chance to remind the world about Dylan’s work. By sending Welsh artists on international visits to perform work inspired by Dylan, the Starless and Bible Black programme has allowed us to share contemporary Welsh culture and literary and artistic talent internationally. I like to think Dylan Thomas would have approved.”