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Navigating Ireland's Theatre Archive

Theory, Practice, Performance

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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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Women and the Archive: What Vision of the Present Will Be Preserved for the Future? (Brenda Donohue)

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Brenda Donohue

Women and the Archive: What Vision of the Present Will Be Preserved for the Future?

How is women’s contribution to contemporary theatre in Ireland recorded; how is it preserved; and importantly, how will it be remembered? Will that memory, drawn up from the deep wells of archival material, truly reflect the theatre in Ireland as it was? Will the selection of material mirror a bias, or perhaps even perpetuate it? This article considers the relationship between women working in the theatre in Ireland today, the archive, and memory. Through an examination of the #WakingTheFeminists research project, which described the link between public funding and female representation in a sample of theatre organisations, it asks how women in Ireland are represented in the theatre archives, where their presence is recorded, and whether their legacy is in danger of being lost or buried. The research is a portrait of theatre in Ireland in the decade leading up to the rising commemorations, between 2006 and 2015.

Our study brought us into contact with collections of show and festival programmes, posters and marketing materials from a sample of ten of the top Arts Council funded organisations that either produce or present theatre in Ireland today. The team sought material pertaining to the most recent period of our theatre history, and used a variety of approaches in order to gather as much information as possible. It was discovered that arrangements for maintaining archives within theatre companies in...

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