|Born||Bernard Patrick Friel
9 January 1929
Killyclogher, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland
|Education||St. Patrick's College, Maynooth (BA, 1949)
St. Joseph's Training College, Belfast (1950)
|Notable work(s)||Philadelphia, Here I Come! (1964)
Dancing at Lughnasa (1990)
|Works with||Stephen Rea, Seamus Heaney|
|Awards||• Tony Award Nominations:
Philadelphia, Here I Come! (1966)
• NY Drama Critics Circle Award (1989)
• Olivier Award (1991)
• Writers' Guild of Britain Award (1991)
• Tony Award for Best Play for
Dancing at Lughnasa (1992)
Brian Friel (born 9 January 1929) is an Irish dramatist, author and director of the Field Day Theatre Company. He is considered to be one of the greatest living English-language dramatists, hailed by the English-speaking world as an "Irish Chekhov" and "the universally accented voice of Ireland". Friel is best known for plays such as Philadelphia, Here I Come! and Dancing at Lughnasa but has written more than thirty plays in a six-decade spanning career that has seen him elected Saoi of Aosdána. His plays have been a regular feature on Broadway throughout this time.
Philadelphia, Here I Come! was turned into a film in 1975, starring Donal McCann, directed by John Quested, screenplay by Brian Friel. In 1980 Friel co-founded Field Day Theatre Company and his play Translations was the company's first production. Neil Jordan completed a screenplay for a film version of Translations that was never produced. With Field Day, Friel collaborated with Seamus Heaney, 1995 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature. Heaney and Friel first became friends after Friel sent the young poet a letter following the publication of Death of a Naturalist.
He was appointed to Seanad Éireann in 1987 and served until 1989. Dancing at Lughnasa (1990) brought Friel great acclaim internationally, winning him several Tony Awards, including Best Play, the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Play and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play. It was also turned into a film in 1998, starring Meryl Streep, directed by Pat O'Connor, script by County Donegal playwright Frank McGuinness. His play Lovers was adapted into an opera by Richard Wargo entitled Ballymore (1999), which was premiered by the Skylight Opera Theatre, Milwaukee, in February 1999. The first part of Ballymore, "Winners" was given its Irish premiere at the Wexford Opera Festival in 2010. The second of the two parts, "Losers", had its premiere at the festival in 2013.
Friel is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the British Royal Society of Literature and the Irish Academy of Letters. "He has lectured in many European and American universities and has written and edited twelve books, including the definitive studies of Brian Friel and Lawrence Durrell, the histories of the Dublin Gate Theatre and of the Royal Irish Academy of Music, of which he is a Governor and an honorary Fellow."
Friel was born in Omagh, County Tyrone, the son of Patrick "Paddy" Friel. His father was a primary school teacher and later a councillor (or "corporater") on Londonderry Corporation (as it was, up until 1970, officially called), the local city council in Derry. Friel's mother, Mary McLoone, was postmistress of Glenties, County Donegal. He attended St Columb's College in Derry, whose fellow alumni include Seamus Heaney, John Hume, Seamus Deane, Phil Coulter, Eamonn McCann and Paul Brady. Friel received his B. A. from St. Pat's College, Maynooth (1945–48), and qualified as a teacher at St. Joseph's Training College in Belfast, 1949–50. He married Anne Morrison in 1954, with whom he has four daughters and one son; they remain married. Between 1950 and 1960, he worked as a Maths teacher in the Derry primary and intermediate school system, taking leave in 1960 to pursue a career as writer, living off his savings. In 1966, the Friels moved from 13 Malborough Street, Derry to Muff, County Donegal, eventually settling outside Greencastle, County Donegal.
He was nominated to be a member of Seanad Éireann by the Taoiseach in 1987 and served until 1989. In 1989, BBC Radio launched a "Brian Friel Season," a six-play series devoted to his work; he was the first living playwright to receive such an honour. In 1999 (April–August), Friel's 70th birthday was celebrated in Dublin with the Friel Festival, during which ten of his plays were staged or presented as dramatic readings throughout Dublin. A conference, National Library exhibition, film screenings, pre-show talks, and the launching of a special issue of The Irish University Review devoted to the playwright ran in conjunction with the festival. In 1999, he also received a lifetime achievement award from the Irish Times.
On 22 February 2006 Friel was presented with a gold Torc by President Mary McAleese in recognition of his election as a Saoi by the members of Aosdána. Only seven members of Aosdána can hold this honour at any one time, and Friel joined fellow Saoithe Louis le Brocquy, Patrick Scott, Camille Souter, Seamus Heaney, Seóirse Bodley, and Anthony Cronin. On acceptance of the gold Torc, Friel quipped, "I knew that being made a Saoi, really getting this award, is extreme unction; it is a final anointment—Aosdana's last rites."
In November 2008, The Queen's University of Belfast announced its intention to build a new theatre complex and research centre, to be named The Brian Friel Theatre and Centre for Theatre Research.
His 80th birthday was commemorated in 2009. The Gate Theatre staged three plays (Faith Healer, The Yalta Game, and Afterplay) during several weeks in September. In the midst of the Gate's productions, the Abbey Theatre presented "A Birthday Celebration for Brian Friel," on 13 September 2009 – an evening of staged readings (excerpts from Philadelphia, Here I Come!, Translations, and Dancing at Lughnasa), the performance of Friel-specific songs and nocturnes, and readings by Thomas Kilroy and Seamus Heaney. Although somewhat of a recluse, Friel attended the performance amid regular seating, received a cake while the audience sang "Happy Birthday," and mingled with well wishers afterwards. Also in 2009, the journal Irish Theatre International published a Special Issue to commemorate the occasion with seven articles devoted to the playwright.
1950s, 1960s, and 1970s
Friel began writing short stories for The New Yorker in 1959 and subsequently published two well-received collections: The Saucer of Larks (1962) and The Gold in the Sea (1966).
His first radio plays were produced by Ronald Mason for the BBC Northern Ireland Home Service in 1958: A Sort of Freedom (16 January 1958) and To This Hard House (24 April 1958). These were followed by A Doubtful Paradise, his first stage play, produced by the Ulster Group Theatre in late August 1960. While the play was politely received, such review titles as "Difficulties for cast in Group play" in the Belfast Telegraph and "New Ulster play at Group just avoids bathos" in The News Letter convey the play's reception.
While struggling as a working writer, Friel wrote 59 articles for The Irish Press, a Dublin-based party-political newspaper, from April 1962 to August 1963; this diverse series included short stories, political editorials on life in Northern Ireland and Donegal, his travels to Dublin and New York City, and his childhood memories of Derry, Omagh, Belfast, and Donegal.
He struggled with little initial success to gain recognition as a playwright from 1958 to 1964; at one point the Irish journalist Sean Ward even referred to him in an Irish Press article as one of the Abbey Theatre's "rejects" (1962). Friel later admitted in a 1965 interview that he feared that his play A Doubtful Paradise (1960) contributed to the collapse of the Belfast-based Ulster Group Theatre. While only on the Abbey stage for 9 performances, The Enemy Within (1962) enjoyed some success; it was revived by Belfast's Lyric Theatre in September 1963 and was aired on both the BBC Northern Ireland Home Service and Radio Éireann in 1963. Although The Blind Mice (1963) was later withdrawn by the author, it was by far his most successful play of this very early period, playing for 6 weeks at Dublin's Eblana Theatre, revived by the Lyric, and broadcast by radio Éireann and the BBC Home Service almost ten times by 1967.
Shortly after his return from a short stint as "observer" at Tyrone Guthrie's theater in Minneapolis, during May and June 1963, Friel wrote Philadelphia Here I Come! (1964), the play that immediately made him famous in Dublin, London, and New York. This play retains its status as a turning point in Irish drama (away from the genre of peasant plays) and one of the most important plays of the 1960s. The Loves of Cass McGuire (1966), and Lovers (1967) were both successful in Ireland, with Lovers also popular in America.
The Freedom of the City (1973) is an explicitly political work about the Troubles in Northern Ireland, while The Mundy Scheme (1969) and Volunteers (1975) are pointed, and in the first case bitter, satires of the Irish government. On 30 January 1972, Friel marched with the crowds in a Civil Rights Association protest against internment, in defiance of a government ban. In circumstances that remain under intense debate, the soldiers of the British 1st Battalion Parachute Brigade opened fire on the crowd, killing thirteen and injuring thirteen others in what was to become known as "Bloody Sunday." Although in a 1973 interview with Eavan Boland Friel pointed out that he had been working on the play for about ten months prior to the event, he later added in a 1982 interview with Fintan O'Toole that Bloody Sunday transformed and sharpened the earlier play that became Freedom of the City. Along with such plays as John Boyd's The Flats (1971), Stewart Love's Me Oul Segocia (1979), and Martin Lynch's The Interrogation of Ambrose Fogarty (1982), Friel's play has become one of the essential plays about the Troubles that remain popular in Ireland.
Volunteers (1975) stages an archeological excavation on the day before the site is turned over to a hotel developer, and uses Dublin's Wood Quay controversy as its contemporary point of reference. In this play, the Volunteers are IRA prisoners who have been indefinitely interned by the Dublin government, and the term Volunteer is both ironic, in that as prisoners they have no free will, and political, in that the IRA used the term to refer to its members. Using the site as a physical metaphor for the nation's history, the play's action examines how Irish history has been commodified, sanitized, and oversimplified to fit the political needs of society.
By the mid 1970s, Friel had moved away from overtly political plays to examine family dynamics in a manner that has attracted many comparisons to the work of Chekhov. Living Quarters (1977), a play that examines the suicide of a domineering father, is a retelling of the Theseus/Hippolytus myth in a contemporary Irish setting. This play, with its focus on several sisters and their ne'er-do-well brother, serves as a type of preparation for Friel's more successful Aristocrats (1979), a Chekhovian study of a once-influential family's financial collapse and, perhaps, social liberation from the aristocratic myths that have constrained the children.
Many plays of this period incorporate assertively avant garde techniques: splitting the main character Gar into two actors in Philadelphia, Here I Come!; portraying dead characters in "Winners" of Lovers, Freedom, and Living Quarters; a Brechtian structural alienation and choric figures in Freedom of the City; and metacharacters existing in a collective unconscious Limbo in Living Quarters. These experiments came to fruition in Faith Healer (1979), a series of four conflicting monologues delivered by dead and living characters who struggle to understand the life and death of Frank Hardy, the play's itinerant healer who can neither understand nor command his unreliable powers, and the lives sacrificed to his destructive charismatic life. Later in Friel's career, such experimental aspects became buried beneath the surface of more seemingly realist plays like Translations (1980) and Dancing at Lughnasa (1990); however, avant-garde techniques remain a fundamental aspect of Friel's work into his late career.
1980s and 1990s
Translations was premiered in 1980 at Guildhall, Derry by the Field Day Theatre Company, with Stephen Rea, Liam Neeson, and Ray MacAnally. Set in 1833, it is a play about language, the meeting of English and Irish cultures, the looming potato famine, the coming of a free national school system that will eliminate the traditional hedge schools, the English expedition to convert all Irish place names into English, and the crossed love between an Irish woman who speaks no English and an English soldier who speaks no Irish. Yet it was an instant success because of the play's deft ability to reference the Troubles and English-Irish relations without condemning or idealizing any side. The innovative conceit of the play is to stage two language communities (the Gaelic and the English), which have few and very limited ways to speak to each other, for the English know no Irish, while only a few of the Irish know English. Translations has gone on to be one of the most translated and staged of all post-World War II plays, having been performed in Estonia, Iceland, France, Spain, Germany, Belgium, Norway, Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland, along with most of the world's English-speaking countries (including South Africa, Canada, the U.S. and Australia).
Despite his growing fame and success, the 1980s are often referred to as Friel's artistic "Gap" because he published so few original works for the stage: Translations in 1980, The Communication Cord in 1982, and Making History in 1988. Privately, Friel complained both of the work required managing Field Day (granting written and live interviews, casting, arranging tours, etc.) and of his fear that he was "trying to impose a 'Field Day' political atmosphere" on his work. However, this is also a period during which he worked on several minor projects that fill out the decade: a translation of Chekhov's Three Sisters (1981), an adaptation of Turgenev's novel Fathers and Sons (1987), an edition of Charles McGlinchey's memoirs entitled The Last of the Name for Blackstaff Press (1986), and Charles Macklin's play The London Vertigo in 1990. Friel's decision to premiere Dancing at Lughnasa at the Abbey Theatre rather than as a Field Day production initiated his evolution away from involvement with Field Day, and he formally resigned as a director in 1994.
During the 1990s Friel was seen to return to a position of dominance of Irish theatre with the premiers of Dancing at Lughnasa (1990), a version of Turgenev's A Month in the Country for the Abbey Theatre (1992; revived by the RSC 1998), Molly Sweeney (1994), and Give Me Your Answer Do! (1997), along with the less critically successful Wonderful Tennessee (1993). Friel's reputation as a playwright who creates compelling plays for women rests largely on the works of this period. With 2 plays before 1975 with all-male casts (The Enemy Within and Volunteers ), and an overall male to female ratio of 4 male to every female character in his plays from 1963 to 1975, Friel was first considered a writer of the Irish male experience. However, he begins writing sororal plays—plays with numerous strong female parts—as early plays as Living Quarters (1977) and Aristocrats (1979), a development that culminates in the plays of the 1990s.
Dancing at Lughnasa (1990) is probably his most successful play; it premiered at the Abbey Theatre, transferred to London's West End, and went on to Broadway, where it won three Tony Awards in 1992, including Best Play. This play is loosely based on the lives of Friel's mother and aunts who lived in the Glenties, on the west coast of Donegal, and it is rumored to have caused some tension within his own family as many felt that he was staging too much of his family's history. Set in 1936, during the summer before de Valera's new constitution was approved by referendum, the play depicts the late summer days when love briefly seems possible for the five Mundy sisters (Chris, Maggie, Rose, Agnes and Kate) and the family welcomes home the frail elder brother, who has returned from a life as missionary in Africa. However, as the summer ends, the family foresees the sadness and economic privations under which the family will suffer as all hopes fade. Dancing at Lughnasa was turned into a film starring Meryl Streep.
Friel had been thinking about writing a "Lough Derg" play for several years, and his Wonderful Tennessee (1993) portrays three couples in their failed attempt to return to a pilgrimage sit to a small island off the Ballybeg coast, though they intend to return not to revive the religious rite but to celebrate one of their member's birthday with culinary delicacies and alcohol. As they await their ferryman who never comes, the couples are forced to spend a night on an abandoned pier, singing (both inspirational songs and show tunes), recounting local history, expounding on religious myth, and reminiscing on their lives, friendships, secrets, and mishaps. As the night fades into morning, they are seized with the passionate determination to sacrifice one of their group—unintentionally re-enacting a local murder in the 1930s that was inspired by religious ecstasies. Their friend survives, though all pledge to return next year to re-enact their ritual.
Molly Sweeney (1993) enjoyed considerable success on the stage, but it attracted little critical interest, perhaps because of its superficial similarities to Faith Healer (1979), another play composed of a series of monologues delivered on an empty stage by characters who have no interaction. This play is about a blind woman in Ballybeg who constructed for herself an independent life rich in friendships and sensual fulfillment, and her ill-fated encounter with two men who destroy it and cause her madness: Frank, the man she marries who becomes convinced that she can only be complete when her vision is restored, and Dr. Rice, a once-renowned eye surgeon who uses Molly to restore his career. In a note in the programme of the 1996 Broadway production, Friel says that the story was inspired in part by Oliver Sacks's To See and Not See.
Give Me Your Answer Do! recounts the lives and careers of two novelists and friends who pursued different paths, one writing shallow, popular works and the other writing works that refuse to conform to popular tastes. After an American university pays a small fortune for the popular writer's papers, their careers are cast into stark contrast when the same collector comes to review the manuscripts of the impoverished artist. They all gather for a dinner party as the collector prepares to announce whether he will recommend the papers to his university, but at the last moment the existence of two "hard-core" pornographic novels based on the writer's daughter forces everyone to reassess his career.
2000s and 2010s
Entering his eighth decade, Friel found it difficult to maintain the writing pace that he returned to in the 1990s; indeed, between 1997 and 2003 he produced only the very short one-act plays "The Bear" (2002), "The Yalta Game" (2001), and "Afterplay" (2002), all published under the title Three Plays After (2002). The latter two plays stage Friel's continued fascination with Chekhov's work. "The Yalta Game" is concerned with Chekhov's story "The Lady with the Lapdog," "Afterplay" had its world premiere at the Gate Theatre in Dublin. It is an imagining of a near-romantic meeting between Andrey Prozorov of Chekhov's Three Sisters and Sonya Serebriakova of his Uncle Vanya; "Afterplay" has been revived several times since its premier and was part of the Friel/Gate Festival in September 2009. However, the most innovative work of this period is Performances (2003), a meditation on an artist's fears of aging and the intersection of life and art in a long one-act play (70 minutes in performance), combining drama with a staged performance of Leoš Janáček's Intimate Letters for string quartet. In this play Anezka Ungrova is a graduate researching the impact of Janáček's platonic love for Kamila Stosslova on his work. She playfully and passionately argues with the composer who appears to host her at his artistic retreat, more than 70 years after his death, about his life and her life, while players of the Alba String Quartet interrupt their dialogue, warm up, chat, and finally play the first two movements of his Second String Quartet in a tableau that ends the play. In some transparent ways, Performances suggests Friel's personal concerns, since the composer Janáček is portrayed as Friel's age at the time of the play's composition (74 years), and expresses his anxiety over not being up to the challenges of scaling for a final time "the mountain" of creating a full-scale work.
The final, full-scale work that Friel had in mind while writing Performances was The Home Place (2005), the last of his plays set in Ballybeg. Although Friel had written plays about the Catholic gentry, this is his first play that directly considers the Protestant experience. In this work, he considers the first hints of the waning of Ascendancy authority during the summer of 1878, the year before Charles Stuart Parnell became president of the Land League and initiated the Land Wars. The play focuses on the aging Christopher Gore, who struggles to maintain his authority over both maturing son David and restive peasants, the latter under the growing influence of local Fenians. Gore's ability to claim legitimacy as one of the region's model landlords is threatened by the arrival of his cousin Richard, who demeans the tenants by subjecting the local peasants to cranial measurements intended to advance his anthropometric research. The resulting crisis places Christopher's son in an unresolved position as one who both usurps and submits to the paternal authority upon which the Gore family authority rests. After a sold-out season at the Gate Theatre in Dublin, it transferred to London's West End on 25 May 2005, making its American premiere at the Guthrie Theater (Minneapolis, MN) in September 2007.
Over the course of his career Brian Friel has guarded his private life to such a great extent that many of his basic biographical details remain under debate. For example, uncertainty remains as to whether his father was named "Patrick," which is the general consensus, or "Sean," as listed in "The Cambridge Companion to Brian Friel." Similarly, Dantanus, Pine, and Boltwood disagree regarding the length and itinerary of Friel's 1963 sojourn to the United States. While he was unusually responsive to interview requests from 1980 through 1985 because of his role as Field Day's premier artist, most of his career is marked by a public reluctance and reclusiveness. Thus, the two published versions of his "Self Portrait," both of 1972, have attained a place of primacy for those practicing biographical criticism; in his book, Boltwood argues for a greater prominence for The Irish Press series in understanding Friel's intellectual and ideological development. (Boltwood further argues that Friel has sought to expunge these essays from his body of work: they are not included in the otherwise comprehensive Friel Papers housed in the National Library of Ireland because, he argues, they are often too personal and revealing for the playwright.) Indeed, while Friel is occasionally filmed staring pensively into the distance in the authorized, year 2000 documentary produced by Ferndale Films (written by fellow playwright and Friel's personal friend Thomas Kilroy), he only speaks briefly at the film's end. Similarly, when Radio Telefís Éireann presented a series, entitled Reading the Future (1999), of hour-long interviews with Ireland's greatest living authors (including Seamus Heaney, Michael Longley, Edna O'Brien, and William Trevor), Friel was the sole designee not to participate. The Friel interview featured theater critic Fintan O'Toole, Irish scholar Declan Kiberd, and director Patrick Mason in a discussion of his work. Despite his famed public reticence, Friel is noted for his conversation and wit in private settings.
In 2006, Friel was elected as a Saoi of Aosdána, a select group of Irish artists.
On the occasion of his 80th birthday, Brian Friel, a man who clearly shuns the limelight, made his way to the studio of The Bogside Artists. There, the artists presented him with a print of their famous murals that comprise The People's Gallery of the Bogside, one of the biggest art draws in the UK. Friel's 80th birthday was also marked by A Feast of Friel (held in Glenties and in Paris), a series of RTÉ radio transmissions, a handprints ceremony at the Gaiety Theatre, and a celebration night in the Abbey Theatre in Dublin.
The Brian Friel Papers
The National Library of Ireland houses the 160 boxes of The Brian Friel papers (Manuscript Collection List No. 73 [MSS 37,041–37,806], given as a gift to the state in December 2000), containing notebooks, manuscripts, playbills, correspondence, contracts, unpublished manuscripts, programmes, production photos, articles, uncollected essays, and a vast collection of ephemera relating to Friel's career and creative process from 1959 through 2000. It does not contain his Irish Press articles, which can be found in the Dublin and Belfast newspaper libraries.
His papers were valued at n1.2 million.
In 2011, an additional set of Friel's papers (Manuscript Collection List No. 180 [MSS 42,091 – 42,093 and MSS 49,209 – 49,350] were made available in the National Library of Ireland. These additional papers consist mainly of archival materials dating between 2000 and 2010.
Significance of Ballybeg
Fourteen of Friel's plays have been set either in the fictional town of "Ballybeg" (from the Irish for "Small Town"—Baile Beag) or in its environs: Philadelphia, Here I Come!, Crystal and Fox, The Gentle Island, Living Quarters, Faith Healer, Aristocrats, Translations, The Communication Cord, Dancing at Lughnasa, Wonderful Tennessee, Molly Sweeney, Give Me Your Answer Do! and The Home Place, while the seminal event of Faith Healer takes place in the town. These plays present an extended history of this imagined community, with Translations and The Home Place set in the nineteenth century, and Dancing at Lughnasa in the 1930s. With the other plays set in "the present" but written throughout the playwright's career from the early 1960s through the late 1990s, the audience is presented with the evolution of rural Irish society, from the isolated and backward town that Gar flees in the 1964 Philadelphia, Here I Come! to the prosperous and multicultural small city of Molly Sweeney (1994) and Give Me Your Answer Do! (1997), where the characters have health clubs, ethnic restaurants, and regular flights to the world's major cities.
List of works
- 1988 Evening Standard Award for Best Play – Aristocrats
- 1989 New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Foreign Play – Aristocrats
- 1991 Laurence Olivier award for Best Play – Dancing at Lughnasa
- 1992 New York Drama Critics Circle award for best play– Dancing at Lughnasa
- 1992 Tony awards, including Best Play – Dancing at Lughnasa
- 1995 New York Drama Critics Circle award for best foreign play – Molly Sweeney
- 2006 Induction into the American Theater Hall of Fame 
- 2010 Donegal Person of the Year
- Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters
- Member of the British Royal Society of Literature
- Member of the Irish Academy of Letters
- Visiting Writer at Magee College (1970–71 academic year)
- Honorary doctorate from Rosary College, River Forest, Illinois (1974)
- Brian Friel in Conversation (ed. Paul Delaney). University of Michigan Press, 2000.
- Brian Friel: Essays, Diaries, Interviews, 1964–1999 (ed. Christopher Murray). Faber & Faber, 1999.
- Andrews, Elmer, The Art of Brian Friel. St. Martin's, 1995.
- Boltwood, Scott, Brian Friel, Ireland, and The North. Cambridge University Press, 2007.
- Corbett, Tony, Brian Friel: Decoding the Language of the Tribe. The Liffey Press, 2002.
- Dantanus, Ulf, Brian Friel: A Study. Faber & Faber, 1989.
- Bertha, C., Kurdi, M., Morse, D.E., "The Work has Value": The Dramatic Artistry of Brian Friel. Carysfort Press, 2006.
- Maxwell, D.E.S., Brian Friel. Bucknell University Press, 1973.
- McGrath, F.C., Brian Friel's (Post)Colonial Drama. Syracuse University Press, 1999.
- O’Brien, George, Brian Friel. Gill & Macmillan, 1989.
- O'Malley, Aidan, Field Day and the Translation of Irish Identities: Performing Contradictions. Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.
- Pelletier, Martine, Le théâtre de Brian Friel: Histoire et histoires. Septentrion, 1997.
- Richard, Pine, Brian Friel and Ireland’s Drama. Routledge, 1990
- Richard, Pine, The Diviner: the Art of Brian Friel. University College Dublin Press, 1999
- Friel, Brian, Selected Plays of Brian Friel. The Catholic University of America Press, 1986.
- Nightingale, Benedict. "Brian Friel's letters from an internal exile". The Times. 23 February 2009. "But if it fuses warmth, humour and melancholy as seamlessly as it should, it will make a worthy birthday gift for Friel, who has just turned 80, and justify his status as one of Ireland's seven Saoi of the Aosdána, meaning that he can wear the Golden Torc round his neck and is now officially what we fans know him to be: a Wise Man of the People of Art and, maybe, the greatest living English-language dramatist."
- "Londonderry beats Norwich, Sheffield and Birmingham to the bidding punch". Londonderry Sentinel. 21 May 2010.
- Canby, Vincent."Seeing, in Brian Friel's Ballybeg". The New York Times. 8 January 1996. "Brian Friel has been recognized as Ireland's greatest living playwright almost since the first production of "Philadelphia, Here I Come!" in Dublin in 1964. In succeeding years he has dazzled us with plays that speak in a language of unequaled poetic beauty and intensity. Such dramas as "Translations," "Dancing at Lughnasa" and "Wonderful Tennessee," among others, have given him a privileged place in our theater."
- Kemp, Conrad. "In the beginning was the image". Mail & Guardian. 25 June 2010. "Brian Friel, who wrote Translations and Philadelphia ... Here I Come, and who is regarded by many as one of the world's greatest living playwrights, has suggested that there is, in fact, no real need for a director on a production."
- Winer, Linda."Three Flavors of Emotion in Friel's Old Ballybeg". Newsday. 23 July 2009. "FOR THOSE OF US who never quite understood why Brian Friel is called "the Irish Chekhov," here is "Aristocrats" to explain – if not actually justify – the compliment."
- O'Kelly, Emer. "Friel's deep furrow cuts to our heart". Sunday Independent. 6 September 2009.
- Lawson, Carol. "Broadway; Ed Flanders reunited with Jose Quintero for 'Faith Healer.'". The New York Times. 12 January 1979. "ALL the pieces are falling into place for Brian Friel's new play, "Faith Healer," which opens 5 April on Broadway."
- McKay, Mary-Jayne. "Where Literature Is Legend". CBS News. 16 March 2010. "Brian Friel's Dancing at Lughnasa had a long run on Broadway"
- Osborne, Robert. "Carroll does cabaret". Reuters/Hollywood Reporter. 5 March 2007. "Final curtains fall Sunday on three Broadway shows: Brian Friel's "Translations" at the Biltmore; "The Apple Tree," with Kristin Chenoweth, at Studio 54; David Hare's "The Vertical Hour," with Julienne Moore and Bill Nighy, at the Music Box, the latter directed by Sam Mendes"
- Staunton, Denis. "Three plays carry Irish hopes of Broadway honours". The Irish Times. 10 June 2006. "Three Irish plays will be among the contenders at tomorrow's Tony awards, when Broadway honours productions from the past year. Brian Friel's Faith Healer, Martin McDonagh's The Lieutenant of Inishmore and Conor McPherson's Shining City have a total of 11 nominations in seven categories."
- "Field Day Theatre Company". Irish Playography. Retrieved 17 July 2011.
- "The Nobel Prize in Literature 1995". Nobelprize. Retrieved 17 July 2011.
- Royal Society of Literature website.
- McGurk, Tom. "The bloody truth has finally set them free". The Sunday Business Post. 20 June 2010.
- De Breadun, Deaglan. "Wisdom of former taoisigh should not be ignored". The Irish Times. "Choices made by previous taoisigh have included the playwright Brian Friel, distinguished public servants such as TK Whitaker and Maurice Hayes, and prominent Northern Ireland figures such as John Robb, Seamus Mallon, Bríd Rodgers and the late Gordon Wilson"
- "Brian Friel receives award from McAleese". RTÉ. 22 February 2006.
- "Prestigious award for playwright Friel". Irish Examiner. 22 February 2006.
- McCrum, Robert. "A life of rhyme". The Guardian. 18 July 2009.
- "Poet 'cried for father' after stroke". BBC News. 20 July 2009.
- Dantanus, Ulf, Brian Friel: A Study. Faber & Faber, 1989.
- Pine, Richard, The Diviner: The Art of Brian Friel. University College Dublin Press, 1999.
- Boltwood, Scott. Brian Friel, Ireland, and The North. Cambridge University Press, 2007.
- Andrews, Elmer, The Art of Brian Friel. St. Martin's, 1995.
- Vincent Canby, "Seeing, in Brian Friel's Ballybeg", New York Times, 8 January 1996.
- Jackson, Patrick. "Chekhov revived in Afterplay". BBC News. 20 September 2002.
- "Brian Friel's papers valued at n1.2m". Donegal Democrat. 12 April 2010.
- McElroy, Steven. "The Week Ahead: Jan. 21 – 27". The New York Times. 21 January 2007.
- "Theater Hall of Fame honors August Wilson, seven others". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
- Egan, Barry. "Celebrating the life of Brian". Sunday Independent. Retrieved 20 February 2011.
- Brian Friel at the Internet Broadway Database
- Brian Friel at the Internet Movie Database
- Brian Friel at the Internet Off-Broadway Database
- Aosdána biographical note
- Faber and Faber – UK publisher of Brian Friel's plays
- About Friel: The Playwright and the Work ed. by Tony Coult
- Brian Friel in Conversation ed. by Paul Delaney
- The Diviner: The Art of Brian Friel by Richard Pine
- Brian Friel, Ireland, and The North by Scott Boltwood
- Le Sujet et Les Je(ux) de Discours dans L'Oeuvre de Brian Friel by Noel Fitzpatrick