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Irish Women Playwrights 1900-1939

Gender and Violence on Stage


Cathy Leeney

Irish Women Playwrights 1900-1939 is the first book to examine the plays of five fascinating and creative women, placing their work for theatre in co-relation to suggest a parallel tradition that reframes the development of Irish theatre into the present day.
How these playwrights dramatize violence and its impacts in political, social, and personal life is a central concern of this book. Augusta Gregory, Eva Gore-Booth, Dorothy Macardle, Mary Manning, and Teresa Deevy re-model theatrical form, re-structuring action and narrative, and exploring closure as a way of disrupting audience expectation. Their plays create stage spaces and images that expose relationships of power and authority, and invite the audience to see the performance not as illusion, but as framed by the conventions and limits of theatrical representation.
Irish Women Playwrights 1900-1939 is suitable for courses in Irish theatre, women in theatre, gender and performance, dramaturgy, and Irish drama in the twentieth century as well as for those interested in women’s work in theatre and in Irish theatre in the twentieth century.


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Chapter 5: Teresa Deevy: Exile and Silence / 161


ChAPTeR 5 Teresa Deevy (1894–1963) exile and Silence Anyone, especially a young girl, who struck out on her own and made good was a hero to her.1 Teresa Deevy was a contradictory figure; modest, quiet living, and devoutly Catholic, she set out purposively in her twenties to become a playwright, and achieved extraor- dinary success both in production and artistically. She was on the fringes of Dublin cultural circles, but she produced one of the most original and impressive bodies of work for the stage in 1930s Ireland. She was the youngest of thirteen children, born to a prosperous middle-class family on the then-outskirts of Waterford city. She experienced loss early on in her life; two of her siblings died in infancy, her father died when she was three years old, and later her sister Mary was a victim of the influenza epidemic of 1917. Deevy began writing while a boarder at the Ursuline Convent School near her home; articles she wrote about her active school life show her to have been optimis- tic, energetic and intellectually alive.2 Deevy’s relationship with her mother was key; from her she received the encouragement that made a writer’s career seem possible. Sadly Mary Feehan Deevy died in 1930, the same year in which Deevy’s first play, Reapers, was produced at the Abbey Theatre. When Katie Roche was published in Famous Plays 1935–19363 the dedication read: ‘To mother, as we planned.’ As a young adult, while she was a B.A. student at...

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