Cork actors making a mark in New York 

Cork actors making a mark in New York 

Michael Mellamphy, who grew up in Hollyhill, is co-curating this year’s ‘Origin 1st Irish Theatre Festival’ in New York — running until February 3 — alongside fellow northsider Sarah Street from Blarney Road.

A HOLLYHILL native is set to discuss his role in one of the world’s most successful video games as part of a prestigious arts festival in New York celebrating Irish culture.

Michael Mellamphy, who grew up in Hollyhill, is co-curating this year’s ‘Origin 1st Irish Theatre Festival’ in New York — running until February 3 — alongside fellow northsider Sarah Street from Blarney Road.

The pair have appeared in US shows like Law and Order and The Good Wife and are well known faces on New York’s theatre scene.

An online panel discussion titled ‘Irish Redemption — An Irish Invasion into the World of Video Games’ featuring Michael will offer insight into his contribution to one of the world’s most universally acclaimed video games Red Redemption 2. The video game was released for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in October 2018 followed by Microsoft Windows and Stadia in November 2019.

The event will see Michael chat with fellow Irish actors Roger Clarke — who played Arthur Morgan in the video game — and Penny O’Brien famed for her Red Redemption 2 character, Molly O’Shea.

Other highlights include the documentary The Burning of Cork, penned and directed by Corkman Conal Creedon, which documents the story of that fateful night and the historic events leading up to it.

The festival is the brainchild of Origin Theatre’s founding artistic director, Limerick native George C Heslin.

Michael and Sarah were selected for co-curator roles after making serious waves in the arts world.

Michael described his role in Red Redemption 2 as one of his proudest achievements.

“My role as Sean McGuire in Red Redemption 2 is something I’m very proud of,” he said.

He hopes that his panel discussion on Red Redemption 2 can broaden the demographic of arts lovers with an interest in Irish culture.

“People who normally wouldn’t have bothered with theatre will now be checking out these events,” he said.

“Whether it’s been on Netflix or YouTube, people have been consuming a lot of culture during the pandemic. Video games are no longer just about blowing up aliens. Red Redemption 2 has a real story-telling element. It’s a story that took seven years to make.”

Describing his character in Red Redemption 2 he said: “He’s a guy you spend a lot of time trying to rescue but later wish you didn’t as he is such a pain. The character brings a lot of comic relief. I had spent a year-and-a-half working on him to get it just right.”

Sarah Street was an obvious choice to co-curate the festival after receiving rave theatre reviews from publications like The New York Times.

“The first time I saw a picture of myself under a rave review in The New York Times I almost died,” she confessed.

“I was running around New York trying to pick up as many copies as I could.”

Sarah originally moved to New York City after receiving a scholarship to study at The New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts.

Her star has been on the rise ever since. In recent years she featured in a recurring role on the hit US series Law and Order.

“I was only meant to be in one episode but sometimes the writers get inspiration from one episode so I suppose I got lucky.”

Recalling her time on the show she said: “My character was Dr Janice Cole. She was a doctor taking care of a prisoner who had a fascination with redheads. She can only be described as one of those “bleeding hearts” doctors. The prisoner manages to convince me he is having a heart attack. I end up being found at home with a bullet in my head.”

Michael also appeared on the show as an Irish barman who cracks a serious criminal investigation.

“I got to keep my Irish accent for the role,” he said. “I didn’t actually realise I was the one who solved the case until seeing the programme.”

The Corkman’s family have always been supportive of his career.

My grandmother was delighted I got the part as she was a huge television fan. Unfortunately, she died the day after we finished filming. It was very sad at the time because she was the one who got me into acting. Without her influence, I don’t think I’d be doing what I am today.”

Sarah and Michael hope they can now use their experience with the arts to educate others.

Many of the events being organised for Origin 1st Irish Theatre Festival have a serious element with universal themes they hope will resonate with both US and Irish audiences.

A total of four new short plays by Irish playwrights on both sides of the Atlantic, will explore the topic of domestic violence during the pandemic. Commissioned by Origin Theatre, the compilation titled ‘Stay Home and Stay Safe’ is performed by actors on location in New York and Dublin. The footage was recorded by the actors themselves to establish a level of heightened immediacy.

The festival will include a number of ticketed events as well as free of charge offerings. To read the full list of events and how to sign up visit www.origintheatre.org.

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