Brian Friel (born January 9, 1929) is a playwright and director from Northern Ireland.
Born in Omagh, County Tyrone, he received his college education at St. Columb's College in Derry and, briefly, the seminary at St. Patrick's College, Maynooth, as well as in Belfast. He taught at various schools in and around County Londonderry from 1950 to 1960.
Friel began his career by writing short stories for The New Yorker in 1959 and subsequently published two collections: The Saucer of Larks and The Gold in the Sea. His first radio plays were produced by the BBC, Belfast, in 1958. His first play - This Doubtful Paradise - premiered in 1959 and a few years later The Enemy Within (1962) gained him recognition in Ireland. Philadelphia Here I Come! (1964), The Loves of Cass McGuire (1966), and Lovers (1967) were all highly successful in Ireland, as well as overseas.
Dancing at Lughnasa (1990), probably his most successful play so far, premiered at the Abbey Theatre, transferred to London's West End and went on to Broadway, where it won three Tony Awards in 1992, including Best Play.
Friel's most recent work is The Home Place (2004), which after a sold-out season at the Gate Theater in Dublin, transferred to London's West End on May 25, 2005.
Most of Friel's plays have been performed extensively in Dublin at the Abbey, Gate and Olympia theatres, in many West End theatres in London and on Broadway. Dancing at Lughnasa was made into a motion-picture (starring Meryl Streep, directed by Pat O'Connor, script by County Donegal playwright, Frank McGuinness) in 1998.
Brian Friel was awarded an honorary doctorate by (see ) Rosary College, Chicago, Illinois in 1974. In 1989, BBC Radio devoted a six-play season to his work, the first living playwright to be so distinguished. Friel received a lifetime achievement award from the Irish Times in 1999. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the (British) (see ) Royal Society of Literature and the Irish Academy of Letters.
Friel co-founded (together with actor Stephen Rea and fellow alumni from St. Columb's, Tom Paulin, Seamus Heaney and Seamus Deane) the Field Day Theatre Company, where many of his pieces, including Translations (1980), The Communication Cord (1982) and Making History (1988) premiered.
On January 22, 2006 Friel was presented with a gold Torc by President Mary McAleese in recognition of the fact that that the members of Aosdána have elected him a Saoi. Only five members of Aosdána can hold this honour at any one time and Friel joins fellow Saoithe Louis le Brocquy, Benedict Kiely, Seamus Heaney and Anthony Cronin.
Friel lives in Donegal, which he moved to from Derry in 1967.