The Abbey Theatre 1904-1970 | English | SIU

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College of Liberal Arts

The Abbey Theatre 1904-1970

The Abbey Theatre collection contains a representative sample of programs from 1904 to 1970. In addition, there are programs from the Apollo Theatre, the Dublin Gate Theatre, the Abbey Experimental Theatre, the Royalty and Royal Court Theatre, as well as from dramatic performances by the Abbey Theatre and Irish theatre miscellany.

The first Abbey program, dated December 27, 1904, is in the collection as well as at least one program from each year through 1908. Programs from 1910, 1912, 1913, 1914, 1915, and 1916 are also here. The years 1918 through 1940 are present in the collection, including the twenty-first anniversary program from 1925. Multiple programs from the 1920s have been collected. For example, there are twenty-three programs from 1926, thirty from 1927, and twenty-three from 1928.

In 1938, the Abbey held a Dramatic Festival of nineteen or twenty plays and lectures. The program gives short biographies as well as photographs of theatrical personages, including W. B. Yeats, Lady Gregory, John M. Synge, Lennox Robinson, Denis Johnston, George Bernard Shaw, Douglas Hyde, T. C. Murray, George Shiels, Sean O'Casey, Hugh Hunt, Walter Starkie, and Frank O'Connor. The list of plays includes Kathleen ni Houlihan, The Playboy of the Western World, Riders to the Sea, Purgatory, Maurice Harte, Church Street, and The Plough and the Stars.

After 1940, the collection becomes less representative but nonetheless remains interesting. The Abbey had responded to the resurgence of the Gaelic language by offering numerous performances of plays in Gaelic throughout the year. The brochures from 1946 and 1952 are printed in Gaelic for these performances. Various photographs document the burnt remnants of the theatre after its demise in 1959 as well as interior shots of the new theatre. There are also several other photographs of plays, including shots of Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night and Brendan Behan's Borstal Boy.

The new Abbey Theatre building, built over fifteen years, opened in July, 1966, is documented through a set of sixteen architectural briefs and the souvenir brochure and program. In addition, newspaper clippings from The Irish Times and The St. Louis Post-Dispatch announce the grand opening of the new theatre. The Nationalist and Leinster Times also announces the theatre's opening while scathingly denouncing its director Ernest Blythe.

There is an assortment of other material relating to the Abbey in the collection, including ticket stubs, checks, and receipts (primarily from 1904-1910), and a limited correspondence. Finally, four issues of the Dublin Gate Theatre magazine Motley from the years 1932 and 1933 complete the collection.