The cry for "Author! Author!" at the curtain call of an opening night is an outdated tradition, like the front curtain and greasepaint. Such reverence for writers is a relic of more gracious days. However, on the opening night of the American premiere of The Burial at Thebes at The Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis in 2011, Seamus Heaney's appearance onstage, with the cast and director, created an audience roar that would have done credit to the amphitheatre at Epidaurus.
eamus and his wife Marie were paying their second visit to our theatre and he was embraced with the adulation usually reserved for rock stars. Heaney's magnetism, warmth and genuine affability endeared him to lovers of poetry and those who simply met the man and appreciated his combination of humility and lightly worn wisdom.
On his first visit here, in 1995, he read from the Guthrie stage. People still have vivid memories of how they were moved by poetry that "made sense of a life" in rural Ireland, far from their contemporary American urban experience.
Here, by the banks of the Mississippi, there is real sadness today and a sense of profound loss.
Joe Dowling is artistic director of The Guthrie Theatre, Minneapolis