Russell Thorburn

About Russell

Happy Birthday, James Joyce

The Playback

Growing Up Irish

The Long Labor of Seamus Murphy's Wife

Dylan Thomas in
New York

The Adventures of
Big Daddy and
Ned Nuclear

Drama Home


A Welshman trained in British drama was the first one to suggest staged readings of my one-act plays. He told me he could play James Joyce or any other character in my plays, Happy Birthday, James Joyce and The Playback. An Irish-American who was the oldest of sixteen children read the part of Sam Beckett. Then a local physician, originally from Ulster, read for the part of Lucia Joyce. A history professor took on Eugene Jolas and a landscape architect became John Sullivan. An employee of Northern Michigan University offered to play Peggy Guggenheim. Another woman became Nora Joyce. And that was how the Samuel Beckett Players were born. They directed me more than I did them in Happy Birthday, James Joyce. Later, a smaller cast performed The Playback. They brought the characters to life, and suggested ways to present them on stage and in the studio. We recorded them for the radio, and Happy Birthday, James Joyce premiered on Joyce’s birthday, February 2, 2001, on WNMU F.M., a National Public Radio affiliate. It was aired again on the 100th anniversary of Bloomsday, June 16, 2004. Both plays were performed with a New York City cast on Off-Off-Broadway. We performed Growing Up Irish, The Long Labor of Seamus Murphy’s Wife, and Dylan Thomas in New York on stage at the Arts and Culture Center, in the Community Room of Peter White Public Library, Marquette, Michigan.

Happy Birthday, James Joyce and The Playback are available on CD. All copyrights are in my name, except for Growing Up Irish, which is shared with Patrick Lynch.