Brian Friel is a playwright and, more recently, director of his own works from Ireland who now resides in County Donegal.
Friel was born in Omagh County Tyrone, the son of Patrick "Paddy" Friel, a primary school teacher and later a borough councillor in Derry, and Mary McLoone, postmistress of Glenties, County Donegal (Ulf Dantanus provides the most detail regarding Friel's parents and grandparents, see Books below). He received his education at St. Columb's College in Derry and the seminary at St. Patrick's College, Maynooth (1945-48) from which he received his B.A., then he received his teacher's training at St. Mary's Training College in Belfast, 1949-50. He married Anne Morrison in 1954, with whom he has four daughters and one son; they remain married. From 1950 until 1960, he worked as a Maths teacher in the Derry primary and intermediate school system, until taking leave in 1960 to live off his savings and pursue a career as writer. In 1966, the Friels moved from 13 Malborough Street, Derry to Muff, County Donegal, eventually settling outside Greencastle, County Donegal.
He was appointed to the Irish Senate in 1987 and served through 1989. In 1989, BBC Radio launched a "Brian Friel Season", a series devoted a six-play season to his work, the first living playwright to be so distinguished. In 1999 (April-August), Friel's 70th birthday was celebrated in Dublin with the Friel Festival during which ten of his plays were staged or presented as dramatic readings throughout Dublin; in conjunction with the festival were a conference, National Library exhibition, film screenings, outreach programs, pre-show talks, and the launching of a special issue of The Irish University Review devoted to the playwright; in 1999, he also received a lifetime achievement award from the Irish Times.
On 22 January 2006 Friel was presented with a gold Torc by President Mary McAleese in recognition of the fact 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 joined fellow Saoithe Louis leBrocquy, Benedict Kiely (d. 2007), Seamus Heaney and Anthony Cronin. On acceptance of the gold Torc, Friel quipped, "I knew that being made a Saoi, really getting this award, is extreme unction; it is a final anointment--Aosdana's last rites."
In November 2008, Queen's University of Belfast announced its intention to build a new theatre complex and research center to be named The Brian Friel Theatre and Centre for Theatre Research.