Rehearsal Diary (Faith Healer, 1979) is Brian Friel’s riveting account of the ill-fated attempt to bring the text of Faith Healer from the page to the Broadway stage for its world première.
My heart sank; not because she was so bad but because I couldn’t see how she could improve. — 1 February 1979
Despite the commitment of the celebrated actor James Mason (‘Eager to establish his Britishness’) and the director José Quintero (‘he’s smoking grass’) rehearsals quickly collapse into a series of tensions and irreparable clashes.
Figures appearing ‘offstage’ include Seamus Heaney, Stacy Keach and Katharine Hepburn.
For anyone interested in the workings of contemporary theatre or, more specifically, Brian Friel or his play that is now recognized as a masterpiece this is compulsive reading. Completely candid, it is, ultimately, a story of all that might go wrong and, unwittingly, a self-portrait of a distinctly valiant writer.