Brian Phelan papers
Held at: University of Delaware Library Special Collections [Contact Us]181 South College Avenue, Newark, DE 19717-5267
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Delaware Library Special Collections. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Award-winning Irish-born dramatist and screenwriter Brian Phelan (born 1934) writes predominantly for television. His dramas and adaptations have been praised for their historical accuracy and attention to detail.
Brian Phelan was born December 2, 1934, in Dublin, Ireland. At the age of eighteen, he immigrated with his family to Canada and obtained work as an apprentice builder. Phelan worked as a carpenter, stage hand, and stage manager in several Canadian theatres including The Crest Theatre, Toronto, and the Canadian Repertory Theatre in Ottawa. He later moved back to Dublin and acted in productions at the Abbey Theatre, the Pike Theatre, and the Gate Theatre in the 1950s. Most notably, he was a part of the cast of the production of Tennessee Williams'sThe Rose Tattoo at the Pike Theatre in 1957, where the director was arrested and the play nearly shut down. He also won Young Actor of the Year in Dublin in 1958. Phelan continued to act throughout the 1960s after his relocation to London until he established himself as a writer.
Phelan's first writing credit was onThe Tormentors, a play written for television and aired as part of the ITV Play of the Week series in 1966. His adaptations and "docudramas" focus predominantly on Irish characters, the issues of Irish emigration, socialist and feminist themes, and major world events. Phelan's works have appeared on the BBC, HBO, and Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTE), among others. His dramas and adaptations have been praised for their historical accuracy and attention to detail. He won the Cable Academy Award for Writer of a Dramatic Special for Knockback, (1984/85) and his drama Coded Hostile (Flight 007) (1989) was nominated for Best Drama of 1990. Phelan received the London Irish Post award for fostering understanding between England and Ireland, and his television movieThe Treaty (1992) about Irish revolutionary Michael Collins and the establishment of the Irish Free State was positively reviewed. Phelan also won the Golden Nymph award for best mini-series at the 42nd Monte Carlo Television Festival for No Tears , (2002) on the Hepatitis-C outbreak in Ireland in the 1970s due to a contaminated blood supply. He also won the Sapporo Prize at the Tokyo Television Festival for The Russian Soldier (BBC, 1986) and the Jacobs Prize in Dublin for Murphy's Stroke (1980).
Biographical information derived from collection."Brian Phelan." IMDb. 2013. 10 October 2013. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0679717/."Brian Phelan." Playography Ireland. 2014. 30 June 2014. http://www.irishplayography.com.
The Brian Phelan papers document forty years of the literary career of Irish-born playwright and screenwriter Brian Phelan (born 1934). Phelan's adaptations and docudramas focus on Irish characters, the issues of Irish emigration, socialist and feminist themes, and major world events. The collection, which spans from the 1960s to the 2000s, comprises Phelan's working and project files and include correspondence, screenplays, scripts, contracts, photographs, and research.
The collection is arranged into two series: I. Projects; and II. Correspondence, speeches, and personal.
Series I. Projects, consists of Phelan's working and project files. Material consists of research, treatments, drafts, notes, correspondence, production information, and published materials that went toward a project for television, stage, and/or film. Project and working files are present in various stages of completion. The series includes material toward Phelan's most well known works, includingThe Treaty (1992), Knockback (1984-85), No Tears (2002), Coded Hostile/Tailspin (1989), and Being Normal (1983), as well as the stage playsHimself and The Signalman's Apprentice. The series also includes many lesser known, proposed, unproduced, and cancelled works. These working and project files contain substantial amounts of correspondence, predominantly between Phelan and his agents Shelia Lemon and Stephen Durbridge, as well as between Phelan and directors, producers, and heads of television corporations and theatres. Some personal correspondence is also included. General correspondence not pertaining to a particular work is also included in Series II.
This series offers a comprehensive overview of Phelan's writing process, including extensive research, drafts, editing and correspondence about editing, proof copies or shooting scripts, and reviews.
The files are organized alphabetically by title and may include research material, autograph and typescript drafts, computer-generated drafts, notes, books, production material, printed programs and scripts, contracts, photographs of productions, clippings and reviews, and audiovisual material. Phelan's original organization for much of his working and project files has been maintained.
Series II. includes personal correspondence, general correspondence with his agents, speeches and lectures, and acting contracts from Phelan's early career.
Boxes 1-31: Shelved in SPEC MSS rcc
Box 32: Shelved in SPEC MSS rcc (6 in)
Boxes 33-35: Shelved in SPEC MSS mss (upright mss)
Box 36: Shelved in SPEC MSS mss (3 in)
Purchase, November 2007.
Processed and encoded by Rachael Green, January-July 2014. Issue of Stand Magazine containing the story "The Fordson" added July 2019.
- Actors--Great Britain--20th century
- Television writers--Drama
- Television--Great Britain--History--20th century
- English drama--Irish authors--20th century
- University of Delaware Library Special Collections
- Finding Aid Author
- University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
- Finding Aid Date
- 2014 April 30
- Access Restrictions
The collection is open for research.
- Use Restrictions
Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections Department, University of Delaware Library, https://library.udel.edu/static/purl.php?askspec
Projects consist of all the work Phelan did for each of his works for television, stage, or movies. Material consists of research, treatments, drafts, notes, correspondence, production information, and published materials. Not all projects were turned into finished productions and these have been halted at any stage of the writing or producing process.
Research onAsylum includes clippings, indices, magazines, photographs, interviews, and other publications on racism, refugees, and the Irish economy.
Research includes articles, notes, travel information, clippings, and videocasstes on terrorism and nuclear arms.
The "Famine" research binder consists mainly of research for the screenplay, most often in the form of photocopied historical newspapers. Research centers on topics such as Canadian immigration, Irish famine and laws, Grosse Ile and those who ran it, Irish nationalism and anti-Irish sentiment, and copies from the book "Flight from Famine." Also included is some correspondence about the research and screenplay as well as Phelan's treatments and comments about Phelan's writing.
This folder consists of information about the Belgian production of "The Signalman's Apprentice" ("Les Aiguilleurs"), including slides depicting scenes from the production and press info about the production.
This folder includes information about famous theatre directors and producers, including Jacques du Filtto (written in French), who worked with Phelan on a French production of "The Signalman's Apprentice." Research for "Famine" is also included.
The "scrapbook 1 binder" consists mostly of reviews of productions worldwide of "The Signalman's Apprentice." Many languages are represented in the reviews, including French, German, Finnish, Swedish, Hungarian, Dutch, and Flemish. Also included in the scrapbook is information on the publication of the play in the collection "Introduction 4" as well as correspondences about the various productions. Reviews of some of Phelan's other works are also in this scrapbook, including "No Tears," "Watch the Woman," "The Emigrants,"and "You've Made Your Bed, Now Lie in It."
This folder also includes an article about the controversial performance of Williams' "The Rose Tattoo" at the Pike Theatre in 1957, as Phelan acted in this performance. Also included are articles and information about Phelan himself.
It is unclear whether more than one work is contained in this file.
May be a second work.
May be a second work.
This series consists of any of Phelan's works and writings that do not forward a project. Writings include personal correspondence, correspondence with his agents about topics other than specific projects or projects with no other references in this collection, speeches and lectures Phelan gave, and acting contracts from Phelan's early career as an actor.
The "scrapbook 2 binder" focuses mainly on Phelan's acting career. Included in the binder are many reviews for plays in which Phelan acted, programs for these performances, and articles about Phelan himself as an actor. Phelan won "Young Actor of the Year" in Dublin in 1958 and acted widely in both theatre and television programs. The scrapbook also includes reviews and correspondences about Phelan's written works, including "Paddy," "Himself," "No Tears," "The Signalman's Apprentice," "The Tormentors," "Manika," "The Treaty," and "Whistle in the Dark." Two socialist newsletters are also included.
The scrapbook 3 binder is made up predominantly of reviews, correspondence, and reactions about Phelan's written works. "The Signalman's Apprentice," "The Fatted Calf," News," "Paddy," "Article 5," "The Tormentors," "Out of Sight Out of Mind," "Coded Hostile," "Russian Soldier," "The Complement," "A Woman's Estate," "Murphy's Stroke," "Being Normal," "Knockback," "In the Secret State," "Honeybaby, Honeybaby," and "Little Mother" are all represented here. In addition to Phelan's written works, the first two folders contain information about Phelan's acting career, including contracts, correspondence, and reviews. Information about his early theatre career in Toronto is also included.