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The Wilde side of James Joyce

Marking its 10th year, Wilde Irish Women aim to bring ‘Ulysses’ to life

Rosemary Caine plays her harp at The Arts Block in Greenfield.
Recorder/Micky Bedell

Rosemary Caine plays her harp at The Arts Block in Greenfield. Recorder/Micky Bedell

Story by Kathleen McKiernan

In the streets of Dublin, renowned Irish novelist James Joyce tells the stories of everyday Dubliners, from the people in his life to the strangers walking on its cobbled streets.

On April 11 at the Arts Block, the group Wilde Irish Women will take Joyce’s characters off the pages of “Ulysses” and bring them to life through music and theater.

The production coincides with the Celtic group’s 10 year anniversary of performing in the Pioneer Valley and taking its shows to Ireland.

The show was created by Irish harpist and songwriter Rosemary Caine of Greenfield and it will be performed by a quintet of Pioneer Valley artists.

In all of her works, Caine strives to create something worthy of the community and its time. “I’m very fortunate to be constantly involved in the creative process and be surrounded by a supportive community,” Caine said.

Like much of the works performed by the Wilde Irish Women, the upcoming show will be organically grown and improvised.

This will be a shorter piece, running 40 minutes rather than the group’s typical productions of 90 minutes to two hours.

The Wilde Irish Women will utilize a narrative that tells the facts of Joyce’s life and six new songs written by Caine.

“Ulysses” is considered one of the greatest works of fiction writing in the English language. The 265,000-word book uses stream of consciousness, puns and parodies to tell the story of Leopold Bloom’s one-day journey through Dublin, Ireland, on June 16, 1904.

The Wilde Irish Women will focus on the three major women in Joyce’s life: his wife Nora Barnacle, the fictional character Molly Bloom and his daughter Lucia.

Jim Mead of Amherst will star as James Joyce, Stephanie Carlson of Northampton will play Nora, Justina Golden of Florence will star as Molly and Laurel Steinhauser of Amherst will star as Lucia. The group’s newest recruit, Danielle Connor of Northampton, will be the narrator.

Much of the show will portray a competition between Nora and Molly. Married to an ambitious writer, Nora became jealous of how much attention Joyce gave to his writing and characters, Molly in particular.

Also influencing events will be the conflict between Joyce’s free nature and the conservative rules set by Catholicism and Irish respectability.

The Wilde Irish Women will be accompanied by the band Trine Cheile, a name that means “cheerful disorder.” Caine will play the harp, Jim Ferry of Deerfield will play bass, Robin Foutz of Montague will play the cello and Michael Morgan of Amherst will play guitar.

The opening act will feature Sean McMahon, 26, a local singer now living in New York. He will present his solo project, “Workman Song,” a collection of folk songs detailing his journey through the city.

The April 11 show will start at 7:30 p.m. at the Arts Block, 289 Main St., Greenfield. Advance tickets cost $7. Tickets at the door cost $10. They will be available at the Arts Block.

The Characters

James Joyce

James Joyce is an Irish novelist known for his experimental use of language, including the internal monologue. His best known works are “Ulysses” (1922) and “Finnegans Wake” (1939).

Arguably talented, Joyce had difficulty publishing his novels. He spent nine years trying to get “Dubliners” published. Another 13 publishers rejected his “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.” “Ulysses” attracted the most controversy with the United States and England banning the novel due to a scene describing Leopold Bloom masturbating. “Ulysses” wasn’t published in its entirety until 1922, by Slyvia Beach, an American born bookseller and publisher.

In many of his writings, Joyce inserts his life, friends and family into the lives of the characters he created. “Ulysses” is full of real people Joyce knew in Dublin.

Nora Barnacle

Nora Barnacle was working as chambermaid at Finn’s Hotel in Dublin when a young Joyce spotted her walking along Dawson Street. Captivated, Joyce asked Nora for a date.

On the day of the date, Nora stood up the promising literary genius and so he wrote her a letter requesting another date.

Joyce found Nora to be natural and not bogged down with petty bourgeoisie and respectability, Caine explained. Of course, it has been speculated that Nora was a prostitute.

While she was 20 years old and Joyce was 22, she followed him to Paris without telling anyone.

The couple stayed together and did not get married until 31 years later. They had two children.

Molly Bloom

Molly Bloom was the fictional version of Nora and her biggest competitor for Joyce’s attention. In “Ulysses,” Molly Bloom is the wife of the main character, Leopold Bloom. The story tells of Molly Bloom’s affair with another man after 10 years of celibacy.

Lucia Joyce

Lucia Joyce was the daughter of James and Nora. A talented ballet dancer, she began dating Samuel Beckett, another renowned Irish writer living in Paris. Much of Lucia’s life was dominated by her declining mental state. In the 1930s, Carl Jung, famous psychologist, took her in as a patient and she was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Staff reporter Kathleen McKiernan has worked at The Recorder since 2012. She covers Deerfield, Conway, Sunderland and Whately. She can be reached at kmckiernan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 268.

Staff photographer Micky Bedell started at the Recorder in 2014. She can be reached at mbedell@recorder.com or 413-772-0261 ext. 273

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