Merrimack Repertory Theatre Blog



“The best kind of theater aspires to music. It has to have its fast and slow movements, its ballads and its jigs.” – Conor McPherson

Conor McPherson

Conor McPherson

Born in Dublin in 1971, Conor McPherson, the author of The Seafarer has grown into one of Ireland’s best contemporary playwrights. He got his start writing at an early age, finishing his first work, Taking Stock, at age 18, and had his first play professionally produced in 1992 with Rum and Vodka.  Since then he has gone on to international recognition for his work, receiving the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play for The Weir in 1999, and Tony nominations for The Seafarer in 2006. Longtime Merrimack Rep subscribers may remember the theatre’s production of The Weir from 2002.

McPherson’s works have several recurring themes, including the supernatural and alcohol abuse, both of which play prominent roles The Seafarer. His interest in the supernatural grew out of his childhood love of ghost stories and horror movies. Says McPherson, “For me, that’s what life is about, ultimately — trying to understand (we never will, of course) the mystery of existence. Where do we come from? Where did the universe come from? That’s the context human beings live in. We’re aware that we’re alive and aware that we will die and we don’t know why. When I’m working on stories, it always has to have that feeling for me to make sense, because I feel that’s what life is ultimately.”

His ties to alcoholism are also, unfortunately, personal. In 2001, at just 30 years old, McPherson was enjoying incredible success. The Weir was in the middle of a successful Broadway run, and he had three films under his belt. But he would soon come down from this high, when at the premiere of Port Authority, McPherson collapsed from a near fatal case of pancreatitis that kept him hospitalized for 2 months. The cause was alcohol, which he states he had been abusing since 1997. He did not write while he was drinking, but he did get drunk every day, and his friends claim that most of his heavy drinking was done alone. Says McPherson, “I was tasting independence and freedom, but I was irresponsible and probably the wrong person to have it. I became dependent on drinking: you think it makes you feel better, but all you’re ever doing is keeping withdrawal at bay.” Since his illness McPherson has managed to get sober and turn his life around, but the memories of alcoholism and his recovery are remain a major influence on his writing.

Information for this article was gathered from The Goodman Theatre, The New York Times, and

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