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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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Compiling a New Composite Draft of J. M. Synge’s When the Moon Has Set (David Clare)


David Clare

Compiling a New Composite Draft of J. M. Synge’s When the Moon Has Set

In September 1901, J. M. Synge stopped off at Lady Gregory’s Coole Park in Gort, Co. Galway, ahead of his fourth visit to the Aran Islands. In his possession was his first completed play, a two-act drama called When the Moon Has Set, which he was hoping that W. B. Yeats and Gregory would accept for their burgeoning Irish Literary Theatre (precursor to the Abbey Theatre). In the play, the owner of a Co. Wicklow Big House has just died. His nephew and heir, Columb Sweeney, has rushed back from Paris to be by his uncle’s bedside, and, while staying in the house, has fallen in love with his cousin, Eileen, a Roman Catholic nun who has been nursing the ailing man during his final illness. Columb spends the majority of the play trying to convince Sister Eileen that, by remaining a nun, she is denying her sexual and maternal instincts; Columb urges her to leave the religious life and marry him. Eileen, after witnessing troubling events involving the family of one of the house servants, finally relents. In the play’s final scene, she and Columb go through an informal pagan/Christian wedding ceremony.

Yeats and Gregory rejected Synge’s play outright, and one can imagine that their decision was not based solely on the fact that When the Moon Has Set shows signs of being written by a dramatist...

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