Spokane native’s play explores divisions, loyalty
For Matthew Jackson, who wrote and performs in the two-person play “The Celtic Cross,” Friday’s performance at St. George’s School is a homecoming.
“I grew up in Spokane and I went to St. George’s,” said Jackson, who lives in Seattle. “The school just welcomed me with open arms.”
Jackson performs with his friend Bryan Sullivan, and the two have collaborated on the play for years.
“We are always working on it; this is probably the 10th version or something,” said Jackson, laughing.
The play is set in Northern Ireland, before the peace agreement, when two young men become friends: One is a Protestant loyalist who believes Ireland should remain part of the United Kingdom, the other is a Catholic Nationalist supporting the independent Republic of Ireland. Their friendship grows in spite of their opposing and deeply held personal views, until they are put in a position where they have to choose between their friendship and their beliefs.
“This play is not for the youngest audience,” Jackson said. “There is some swearing and some violence. It’s a powerful play.”
Jackson got the idea for the play while studying in Dublin.
“I saw this plaque dedicated to all the people who have given their lives in the conflict in Ireland and I couldn’t believe I didn’t know more about it,” Jackson said. The first idea that came to mind was to write a play. “I’d never written one before, but somehow that’s what I decided to do.”
He then called Sullivan because they had worked together in college theater productions. That was in 2008.
In the spring of 2009, the two put on the first version of “The Celtic Cross” at the University of Puget Sound where they both were in enrolled.
Then Jackson headed to South Africa for a year of volunteer work, and Sullivan moved to Seattle where he pursued acting and directing with Jet City Improv and other theater companies and venues.
In December 2011, Sullivan and Jackson were both in Seattle, so they began working on “The Celtic Cross” again.
“We had a pretty good three-week run at a small theater in Seattle, and now we are taking the play on a tour,” Jackson said.
Other stops include Portland and Denver, as well as the University of California, Santa Barbara in November.