Theatre in Dublin

22 Nov

Since coming to Dublin in September, I have attended three plays at three different Irish theaters as part if my Drama in Contexts class. All of the plays that we saw were Irish plays by Irish play writers. It may seem strange, but in the case of the theatres that we attended, Irish plays are the some of the only that one can see here in Dublin. Obviously, things are changed up every once in awhile,  but the Irish identity is a strong one, and it can definitely be seen in the country’s theatres.

The first we attended was Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot at the Gaiety Theater. Located down the street from St. Stephen’s Green,  it was opened on November 27, 1871 and still remains one of Dublin’s longest established theatres. It changed ownership multiple times during the 1900’s, until eventually falling into the hands of Joe Dowling, the former artistic director for the Abbey Theatre, when he becasme Gaiety’s new Director in the 1980’s. It was purchased by music promoters Denis and Caroline Desmond in the late 1990’s , who began to create a plan of refitting and refurbishing the theatre. Together with the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism, the restoration has been an extensive one, and will continue on as long as the building needs. John O’Donoghue, the former Minister for the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism, had this to say about the theatre while he was in office, “A landmark cultural facility with a rich and varied history… of bringing world-class entertainment to the people of Ireland,”. Along with theatre, the Gaeity has also seen its fair share of international stars such as Julia Andrews, Spike Milligan, Joan Rivers, and Luciano Pavarotti, as well as Irish stars such as The Dubliners and The Chieftains.

The second theatre we visited was The Abbey Theatre, where we saw Frank McGuinness’ The Hanging Gardens, his first new play at the Abbey in fourteen years. Also known of the “National Theatre of Ireland”, it first opened its doors on December 27, 1904 under the direction of W. B. Yeats and Lady Augusta Gregory. It was the first state subsidized theatre in the English-speaking world and since 1925 it has received an annual subsidy from the Irish Free State. In the theatres’ early years, it was closely associated with the writers of the Irish Literary Revival, many of who staged their own plays there. It was also a nursery of sorts for many leading Irish play writers such as W. B. Yeats, Sean
O’Casey, and John Millington Synge.

The last play we saw was Samuel Beckett’s Endgame at the The Pearse Centre Theatre. It is run by the Ireland Institute, which “is primarily an active intellectual environment for the study, discussion and promotion of Irish republican thought through historical and cultural research,” according to their website. In 2008, the Ireland Institute added a new hall and theatre to Pearse Street. The building is the historic Pearse family home with a modern theatre building to the rear. The Pearse Centre is located in a terraced, 2-bay, 3-story over basement, Georgian house, which was built around 1820.  The building is not exclusively used for theatre productions, as it is meant to be  able to accommodate many different types of culture, including parties and receptions as well; anything that encompasses Irish societal ideals. For example, the play we saw was a one act play performed by a new amateur theatre group from Dublin, but it is also common for the space to see rehearsals, recitals, poetry and readings, book and product launches, dance, lectures, and many more. The institute itself is known for encouraging budding Irish artists and writers, so the theatre also invited proposals and submission from emerging and established playwrights and practitioners.

All of these theatres are excellent examples of Irish culture, despite seeming so different. But that’s just the thing, are they really so different from each other? They all have one very important thing in common, and that is the goal of establishing and maintaining a high standard of Irish theatre, art and performance in Ireland. It is easy in today’s world to get caught up in the culture of the world, especially for a country as small as Ireland. The people who started these theatres all had the same goal in mind. They wanted a place where Irish theatre, a major outlet of Irish culture and societal creativity, would be able to thrive despite a lack of support elsewhere. It is important that places like these, that encourage Irish tradition, stay alive. They are vital to the culture of Ireland that is so unique, and it would be devastating to see them disappear.

——Elizabeth Zona





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