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Navigating Ireland's Theatre Archive

Theory, Practice, Performance


Edited By Barry Houlihan

The historiography of Irish theatre has largely been dependent on in-depth studies of the play-text as the definitive primary source. This volume explores the processes of engaging with the documented and undocumented record of Irish theatre and broadens the concept of evidential study of performance through the use of increasingly diverse sources. The archive is regarded here as a broad repository of evidence including annotated scripts, photographs, correspondence, administrative documents, recordings and other remnants of the mechanics of producing theatre. It is an invaluable resource for scholars and artists in interrogating Ireland’s performance history.

This collection brings together key thinkers, scholars and practitioners who engage with the archive of Irish theatre and performance in terms of its creation, management and scholarly as well as artistic interpretation. New technological advances and mass digitization allow for new interventions in this field. The essays gathered here present new critical thought and detailed case studies from archivists, theatre scholars, historians and artists, each working in different ways to uncover and reconstruct the past practice of Irish performance through new means.

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‘Three cheers for the Descendancy!’: Middle-Class Dreams and (Dis)illusions in Mary Manning’s Happy Family (1934) (Ruud van den Beuken)


Ruud van den Beuken

‘Three Cheers for the Descendancy!’: Middle-Class Dreams and (Dis)illusions in Mary Manning’s Happy Family (1934)

In contributing to a volume that explores and reasserts the importance of Irish theatre archives in both theory and practice, it should be acknowledged that the marginalisation and possible emancipation of texts is inextricably tied to similar issues regarding the politics of identity and, more specifically, gender. Indeed, the many forms of discrimination with which women have had to contend in Irish theatre has recently become a hotly debated topic, with the 2015–2016 #WakingTheFeminists campaign, which took its cue from the underrepresentation of women in the Abbey Theatre’s Easter Rising centenary programme, providing a potent example of how present inequalities might be redressed.1 In a historical – and, by extension, archival – context, it might be argued that the Dublin Gate Theatre already began to contribute to the emancipation of female playwrights and theatre-makers in the 1930s.

As Gerardine Meaney, Mary O’Dowd and Bernadette Whelan have asserted, ‘the Gate Theatre was a forum where new and often radical ideas about modern women were presented to a public audience untroubled for the most part by the vigilance of the censor’s supervision’, not in the least because its ‘eclectic programming was more conducive to←141 | 142→ women’s participation’.2 While such statements seemingly invite scholars to examine the Gate’s female associates in more depth, sadly, a disproportionate number of plays written by women dramatists such as Christine...

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