New Village Arts to be first theater outside London, New York to produce Tony-winning ‘The Ferryman’

Playwright Jez Butterworth, and the company of "The Ferryman," accept the 2019 Tony Award for Best Play in New York.
Playwright Jez Butterworth, and the company of “The Ferryman,” accept the award for best play at the 73rd annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on Sunday, June 9, 2019, in New York.
(Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

The epic, 21-actor and live animal show about the Northern Ireland ‘troubles’ will open in January 2023 in Carlsbad


New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad has announced a major theatrical coup: The 100-seat downtown theater has landed the rights to become the first theater company in the world, outside London and New York, to produce the acclaimed 2019 Tony Award-winning play “The Ferryman.”

The epic drama about a farming family living through the “troubles” in Northern Ireland in 1981 will open in January 2023 at New Village’s soon-to-be-revamped arts center on State Street at Christiansen Way in Carlsbad Village.

Kristianne Kurner, who cofounded New Village 21 years ago and has served as its longtime executive artistic director, said she can’t think of a better way to celebrate the company’s history, the new building and its future than landing the rights for such an acclaimed play.

“I read ‘The Ferryman’ when it came out in 2017, and I was shaken by how impacted I was by the story,” Kurner said. “Through telling the story of this rural family going through the troubles, you’re looking at the impact of violence on everyday people. I think the timing of this is very important right now.”

Kurner will direct the production, which she’ll begin preparing for in August when she travels to Ireland with cast members and production consultant Grace Delaney to do research for the project. The large-scale play asks a lot of a theater company. It requires a cast of 21 actors as well as a live human baby, rabbit and goose, as well as breakfast being cooked onstage and things catching fire.

“With my training at the Actor’s Studio in New York, for me it’s always been about celebrating ensemble and a space where actors can do their best work. This play is like the perfect match for me and also a way for me to celebrate running this company for 21 years.”

Kurner said she thinks she was successful in landing the rights because she asked for them during the pandemic, when most theaters were worried about committing the resources to such an ambitious project. She was able to do so with the support of a generous grant from the Conrad Prebys Foundation, though she will also be seeking additional production sponsors in the coming months.

When the theater complex reopens on Dec. 1 with a remount of San Diego playwright Dea Hurston’s 2021 play “1222 Oceanfront: A Black Family Christmas,” the revamped building will have new names. The theater will be named the Conrad Prebys Theatre, and the overall building complex will be named The Dea Hurston New Village Arts Center. Kurner said it will be the first arts center on the West Coast to be named after a Black woman. A groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for July 7.