Thursday, June 16, 2011

Happy Bloomsday Lovers!

In case, I don't get a chance to write before tonite, the great day is here at last! Listen to us beginning at 7pm EST on WBAI 99.5FM in New York City or online at Los Angelinos can hear us at 7pm their time on KPFK 90.7FM. If you are in New York City, The Hudson Yards Cafe is hosting a listening party at their bar on 10th avenue and 35th Street. All are welcome. The cast members will be hanging out there after they perform and Molly will shuffle in around 3am. Don't be blue mouldy, come listen with us!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

One More Day til Bloomsday!

My bed is my office. I am still in my pajamas and my hair looks like a family of New York pigeons lives in it. Before I belt my jammies, thrown on a saucy pair of heels and run out the door to pick up my boy from preschool, I want to tell you how excited am I for the upcoming sonic explosion rushing our way. In addition to the incredible pre-records I have been mentioning all month, we have two dozen live performers throwing down throughout the broadcast.

Two fierce stage veterans Bernadette Quigley and Fiana Toibin open up our program by performing the first pages of the novel. Yes, a female Stephen Dedalus and Buck Mulligan will hit the airways in just over 24 hours. Bernadette has performed the Molly Bloom monologue at Symphony Space and Fiana was recently on Broadway with Vanessa Redgrave in A Long Day's Journey into Night. Irish actor Lawrence Lowry will be reading from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Comedienne Fiona Walsh performs the poetry of Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill. Jim Fletcher, who recently played the title role in the Elevator Repair Service's production of Gatz, performs John Milton. Ludlow street veterans and New York superstars Eco-Trippin's Corey Carthew (pictured above in orange) Faux Real Theater's Mark Greenfield, and Laura Barnett, Todo con Nada's Aaron Beall, Melanie Martinez, Anna Goodman-Herrick, The Treehouse Shaker's Mara McEwin and more perform from the Wandering Rocks episode of the novel. Irish writer Frank Delaney, author of the fantastic podcast Re:Joyce, does a Bloom monologue. Other fantastic live performers include Laura Ross, Barry Foley, Jimmy Reardon, and Routh Chadwick! Tune in LIVE tomorrow Thursday night from 7pm to 2am on WBAI, 99.5FM in NYC and on KPFK in Los Angeles. We will be live blogging the show. Send us notes and emails to

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

2 days til Bloomsday!

We are all running around like chickens with our heads cut off here at Radio Bloomsday Central with only 55 hours left until we go live in New York City (LA will hear us on a 2 hour time delay). Yesterday, the superlative Alec Baldwin recorded Tennyson's poem Ulysses which will be our invocation to the gods at the top of the show on Thursday night. It's incredible. We've also received an amazing batch of recordings from the students at Belvedere College in Dublin. Lead by their teacher Louise Curtin, they recorded the complete Nestor episode of the novel which includes the classroom scene as Stephen Dedalus attempts to teach his students the poem Lycidas. Text monster Jim Fletcher then performs that John Milton poem. Belvedere College (pictured above) is of course James Joyce's high school. I was a student at Muckross Park, myself back in 80s with my old friends Louise Butterly and Helen O'Connell.

Colin Middleton, Beau Carley, Cian Buckely rehearse The Nestor episode
at Belvedere College, Dublin for Radio Bloomsday.

Hudson Yards Cafe on 10th avenue and 35th Street in NYC will be broadcasting the entire show. KPFK in Los Angeles will devote 2 hours in the afternoon to our upcoming evening broadcast of Radio Bloomsday. I leave you now with a promo from Alec Baldwin.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Radio Bloomsday Cast List!

Over sixty performers have collaborated with us this year to create the most sonically satisfying Radio Bloomsday ever. Join us on Thursday, June 16th at 7pm to hear (listed in alphabetical order) :

Alec Baldwin, Laura Barnett, Aaron Beall, Shawnee Benton-Gibson, Marie-Louise Bowe, Cian Buckley, Charles Busch, Beau Carley, Corey Carthew, Routh Chadwick Janet Coleman, Art Coyne, Louise Curtin, Michael Corcoran, Naoise Dack, Frank Delaney, Paul Dooley, Roma Downey, David Dozer, Kate Ellis, Anne Enright, Jim Fletcher, Finbar “Barry” Foley, Lucas Grange, Leo Hanna, Ryan Hargadon, Robbie Harris, Anna Goodman-Herrick, Mark Greenfield, Larry Josephson, Garrison Keillor, Owen Killian, Sam Killian, John Lithgow, Lawrence Lowry, Marc Maron, Melanie Martinez, Emer Mayock, Nick McDonell, Michael-David McKernan, Mara McEwin, Colin Middleton, Paul Muldoon, Caraid O’Brien, John O’Callaghan, Jimmy Reardon, Laura Ross, Bob Odenkirk, Nick Roth, Conor Ryan, Wallace Shawn, Marc Singer, T. Ryder Smith, Jerry Stiller, Tarab, Bernadette Quigley, Fiana Toibin, Francesco Turrisi, Kate Valk, Fiona Walsh and Zeroboy!

And of course are amazing production staff and engineers including Nellie Gilles, Robert Auld, Mark Torres, Jon Almehleh, Reggie Johnson, Max Shawn Rhodes, Max Schmid and Daniel Dunne.

3 days until Bloomsday!

We are still working away here at Radio Bloomsday Central, touching up the final rundown for the big show this Thursday night June 16 from 7pm to 2am. Let us know if you are planning any Bloomsday Listening Parties and we will send people your way. The Hudson Yards on 10th Avenue and 35th Street has said they would tune in at the bar. The photo above is of Radio Foundation Producer Larry Josephson (working on his thirtieth Bloomsday), producing staff Nellie Gilles, director Caraid O'Brien and the wonderful actor Jerry Stiller.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Listen to the Radio B

Radio Bloomsday Preview Today at 11am!

Listen to a Radio Bloomsday preview hour today, Sunday, at 11am on WBAI 99.5FM or on Artistic Director Janet Coleman and Caraid O'Brien will discuss Ulysses during The Next Hour radio show. We will play some excerpts of the novel from previous Radio Bloomsday broadcasts including performances by Paul Dooley, Anne Meara, Aaron Beall, Nicole Wiesner, Tara Bahna James and more. We will also be playing some music by the wonderful new instrumental ensemble Tarab. If you miss the broadcast you can listen to it on the WBAI archive.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Radio Bloomsday Promo

Holles Street Maternity Hospital

Yesterday, T. Ryder Smith dashed over to The Radio Foundation in between performances for War Horse at Lincoln Center. He brilliantly performed an excerpt from the most difficult chapter of Ulysses, Oxen of the Sun. Stylistically, Joyce slaloms through the history of English literature in this episode and it is often the chapter where readers throw the novel against the wall in desperation. T Ryder Smith performed an excerpt written in the style of the seventeenth century poet John Milton as the drunken students chided Dedalus about his supposed sexual exploits.We were discussing how once you have the answer keys, the clues, to Joyce's references, stylistic choices, and plot points, the episode opens up like a beautiful flower and you breath it in. If you do the work to understand the text, and read it and then perform it, the experience is like having a conversation with a brilliant friend and finally understanding what he is saying. It's a rush of artistic and intellectual pleasure and understanding.
The episode takes place at Hollis Street Maternity Hospital where Bloom and Dedalus finally meet joining the drunken medical students as they all wait for the birth of Baby Purefoy. My first experience with Ulysses was a ten year old girl in Dublin waiting in the lobby of Hollis Street for my aunt to finish work. She was a matron at the hospital and would take me to see plays by my first literary heros Oscar Wilde and John B Keane starring those wonderful actors who shaped my theatrical consciousness like Robert O'Mahoney and Mick Lally. While waiting in the lobby, I would watch the tours of American tourists making their Bloomsday pilgrimage to the site of this most difficult episode as Joyce birthed his place into the consciousness of English literature alongside the long laboring Mrs. Purefoy.

On Monday, John Lithgow recorded another difficult excerpt from Oxen of the Sun, written in the style of Charles Lamb whose version of Ulysses, was Joyce's first experience with the Greek legend while a student at Belvedere College in Dublin. This year, several students at Belvedere are recording the Nestor episode of Ulysses as Stephen Dedalus tries to teach his students the John Milton poem Lycidas. Radio Bloomsday veteran Jim Fletcher, that fantastic performer of classic twentieth century literature, will be performing that Milton poem live from the WBAI studios on June 16.

The ethereal Kate Valk recorded the birth of Baby Purefoy for us a few years ago. This year, she reads an excerpt from Cyclops with Jim Fletcher and one of my favorite WB Yeats poem's The Stolen Child which had the whole studio in rapt attention as she performed it. Join us only six days away and listen in live to Radio Bloomsday on WBAI in New York City and KPFK in Los Angeles and on anywhere in the world.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Another Day at Radio Bloomsday Central

The legendary Jerry Stiller stopped by the Radio Foundation to record a couple of Bloom monologues for Radio Bloomsday, which is just 8 days away! First, he recorded an excerpt from Lestrygonians as Bloom thinks about all things people like to eat that he finds disgusting: oysters, unsightly like a clot of phelgm, snails out of the ground, Chinese eggs fifty years old, tainted game, jugged hare.

And then Jerry performed an excerpt for Aeolus, as Bloom walks into the newspaper office, stares at the old man setting the type backwards and thinks of his father and his Hebrew books at Passover: "Poor papa with his hagadah book, reading backwards with his finger to me. Pessach. Next year in Jerusalem. Dear, O dear! All that long business about that brought us out of the land of Egypt and into the house of bondage alleluia. Shema Israel Adonai Elohenu. No, that's the other." He was brilliant, rattling off the Hebrew like no other in the middle of this Irish novel.

On Monday, the incredible John Lithgow recorded a dense excerpt from the Oxen of the Sun episode of Ulysses written in the style of Charles Lamb. This is definitely shaping up to be our most incredible Bloomsday celebration ever. In addition to Jerry and John, our cast list includes Alec Baldwin, Wallace Shawn, Kate Valk, Jim Fletcher, Zeroboy, Aaron Beall, Bob Odenkirk, Paul Dooley, Mara McEwin, Corey Carthew, Laura Barnett, Mark Greenfield, John O'Callaghan, Marc Singer, Roma Downey, Melanie Martinez, Laura Ross, Janet Coleman, David Dozer, the students of Belvedere College in Dublin, Fiona Walsh, Fiana Tobin, Bernadette Quigley, Laurence Lowry, Shawnee Benton-Gibson, Marie-Louise Bowe and many more! Director Caraid O'Brien pictured above with Jerry in a photo by Nellie Gilles will perform the complete Molly Bloom episode live beginning around 11.30pm. Don't forget to tune in on Thursday, June 16 at 7pm on WBAI in NYC and KPFK in Los Angeles and on anywhere in the world.

Bloomsday: A Very Brief History

Every year, we encourage our listeners to host their own Bloomsday listening party, at home, in a bar or wherever they like to celebrate. Tips and menu suggestions available here. One of our advisors here at Radio Bloomsday is Professor Michael Groden, the esteemed Joyce scholar. He is Distinguished University Professor in the Department of English at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, Canada. He is the author of Ulysses in Progress, general editor of the manuscript facsimile series The James Joyce Archive, and author, most recently, of Ulysses in Focus: Genetic, Textual, and Personal Views. Below, Professor Groden explains the history of the world's most famous literary holiday.

Bloomsday: A Very Brief History
June 16, 1904 – Bloomsday – is surely the most famous single day in literature, a day celebrated all over the world. As its 2004 centenary approached, a newspaper headline shouted, One Day Turns 100. Why the day is famous is clear: James Joyce set the events of Ulysses on that day. Why Joyce chose this particular day is less certain. He never said why, and we can only speculate. Not much happened in the world on that day – at least in the Western world – but newspapers did report big events from the days before, including a Russian retreat in the Russo-Japanese War and the sinking of the General Slocum excursion boat in New York’s East River, with the loss of over a thousand lives. According to Richard Ellmann’s biography, Joyce chose this date for a more personal reason, as a gift to his partner and eventual wife Nora to commemorate the day on which she first went out walking with him and changed his life.

Joyce’s first biographer, Herbert Gorman, who wrote with the novelist’s cooperation, claims that nothing unusual happened to Joyce on June 16th. Several scholars have pointed to the absence of letters or any other evidence to show that Joyce and Nora met on that specific day. Joyce might simply have settled on a day in mid-June around the time of his walk with Nora that met his main requirements: no major world events, no Saint’s Day in the Catholic Church. We can’t know. But Ulysses is a novel that tempers its sadness, satire, and irony with a hearty dose of sentiment, occasionally even with sentimentality. Ellmann’s sentimental explanation for the date remains powerful, the kind of story about a particular day that we’d like to believe is true.

Not long after Ulysses was published in 1922, June 16th began to be called Bloomsday. The Oxford English Dictionary added an entry on Bloomsday in 2005 and cites the word’s first appearance in a letter Joyce wrote in June 1924. The practice of gathering together on the day to celebrate started early on as well, in 1929, when Sylvia Beach and Adrienne Monnier invited Joyce and thirty other guests to a luncheon at the LĂ©opold restaurant near Versailles to honor both the publication of the French translation of Ulysses and Bloomsday’s 25th anniversary. The lunch took place on June 27, eleven days after Bloomsday, but no one seemed to mind.

For many years Dublin had a vexed relationship with Joyce, but the first celebration of Bloomsday there took place 57 years ago, on June 16, 1954. Irish writers Flann O’Brien and John Ryan brought a small group together at the Martello Tower, the setting of Ulysses’ first episode, and from there they took a Hades-like carriage ride through Dublin. One of the men, Anthony Cronin, noted with fascination that in the 1954 Gold Cup race, a horse with the Homeric name of Elpenor won at 50 to 1 odds, even more an outsider than Throwaway was in 1904. Leopold Bloom faces problems when several Dubliners mistakenly think that he has inside knowledge about the Gold Cup and has won a huge pile of money when the 20-to-1 long shot Throwaway wins the race. Especially intriguing to Cronin was the fact that Joyce’s equivalent of Elpenor in The Odyssey is Paddy Dignam, the man whose funeral Bloom attends in the Hades episode.

On June 16, 1967 the first gathering of Joyce scholars took place in Dublin, with academic conferences continuing as annual Bloomsday events in various European and North American cities. Popular celebrations have sprung up not only in Dublin (which started embracing Joyce in 1982, the centenary of his birth) but also in such diverse cities as New York, Philadelphia, Toronto, Buenos Aires, Tokyo, and Beijing. Many Dubliners now consider Bloomsday to be Ireland’s second most important holiday, and some even rank it above St. Patrick’s Day.

New York can lay claim to the longest continuous association of any city with Bloomsday. The James Joyce Society was founded at the late, lamented Gotham Book Mart in 1947. One of the Society’s meetings each year has usually been on Bloomsday. The annual readings at Symphony Space, broadcast on WBAI, began in 1981. This is Radio Bloomsday’s fourth annual reading devoted exclusively to radio performance and broadcast on the Pacifica Radio Network. So join us in celebrating Bloomsday’s 107th anniversary in the best way we can think of: listening to the people and the city of Dublin, and the day come alive in the words James Joyce gave us on the pages of Ulysses.