Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Druid's 'Beauty Queen' - from the Archive

Programme cover, The Beauty Queen of Leenane, 1996
The Beauty Queen of Leenane by Martin McDonagh was a point of departure for many reasons. When it opened to a world premiere production by Galway's Druid Theatre Company, in a co-production with London's Royal Court Theatre, on the first of February 1996, it also marked the opening of a new theatre building – Galway's Town Hall Theatre. The play would also be a whirlwind success for Druid and open up one of the most important and celebrated relationship's in contemporary Irish drama – that of director Garry Hynes and the plays of Martin McDonagh. it also, of course, exposed audiences both in Ireland and around the world, to a very different 'Irish' play.

Within two years of the play's opening in Galway, Beauty Queen would make history and secure four Tony awards, including Best Director for Garry Hynes, the first female director to win the award.
The play would tour extensively in Ireland, the U.K. and wider internationally, from Broadway to Sydney, over successive years, tours, cast changes and revivals between 1996 and 2000. A constant being that the message of the play remained the same – that Ireland and indeed Irish drama (and their numerous definitions) were being redefined through Beauty Queen and through the subsequent Leenane Trilogy which would premiere again in Galway in 1997.

Beauty Queen on Broadway, 1998

The long suffering daughter, Maureen Folan, questions her controlling and ageing mother, Mag, in the opening scene, "What country do you live in?" Mag responds: "Galway". The short exchange would sum-up neatly the questioning of region and nation, tradition and modernity, home and place that the play examines in wickedly black humour and violence and which has captivated audiences around the world for two decades. As Fintan O'Toole wrote in an article for the programme of the world premiere of the play in 1996, entitled "Changing Places":

"That unbounded Ireland is the one which Martin McDonagh belongs to, and the one in which Druid has always been willing to play itself. It is a nation that cannot be taken as read but must continually be written up, and acted out"

This year, 2016, Beauty Queen turns twenty years of age. It is currently undergoing a major revival, opening, as it first did back in 1996, at Galway's Town Hall Theatre, before embarking on a major Irish and international tour. Marie Mullen, co-founder of Druid Theatre Company, returns to the play and takes up the role of Mag, first portrayed by the late Anna Manahan. The archive of Druid Theatre Company, held at the Hardiman Library, NUI Galway, offers a fascinating insight into the play and its production and reception. Among a wide range of records include programmes, press files, flyers and posters from all productions in Ireland, the U.K., America and Australia. there are also files of photographs of productions and rehearsals; the prompt-script from the 1996 production as well as a first-edition published edition of the script and also a later edition which is signed by all cast members. Technical details such as design plans, sound and lighting plans, reveal how the play was a complex and challenging work to stage, as it presented and constructed a rain-sodden and wild west of Ireland setting. (Mag: "Wet Maureen?" Maureen: "Of course wet".) The archive of this play and of Druid itself is a unique resource to understand anew this play as we revisit McDonagh's Leenane, twenty years after we first did so. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

Culture Night 2016 at NUI Galway Archives!

This Friday, 16th September, sees another packed Culture Night across the country and across Galway city and county. The Archives of the Hardiman Library and NUI Galway bring you two events to keep you topped up with culture on this busy evening. First is a lunchtime event of music, song, spoken word and archives. Celebrating the heritage and culture of the West of Ireland, this event promises to be a special lunchtime gathering of a range of artists .The Galway Music Residency and NUI Galway invite you to join the Galway ConTempo Quartet in the President’s Drawing Room, NUI Galway, where you can view the historic art collection on display; a rare work by Lady Gregory’s son Robert, a portrait of actress Siobhan McKenna and more, with talks, readings and rare archival film, photographs and props from McKenna’s acting legacy and from the archives of Galway's celebrated company, Druid Theatre.

Time: 1300 - 1430
Location: President's Drawing Room, NUI Galway

At 6pm, join us for a special evening of encountering the University archives, stories and history during the turbulent period of 1913-1919. Staff and students of the University had prominent roles on and off the battlefields both in Europe and in Ireland during these formative years. Explore guided tours of our exhibition and behind the scenes look at the original University archives from the collections of the Hardiman Library. (tours begin at 6pm and 7pm and are c. 50 mins)

Time: 6pm and 7pm
Location: Foyer, Hardiman Building, NUI Galway
Details: http://www.culturenight.ie/regional_event/a-university-in-war-and-revolution-archives-at-the-hardiman-library-nui-galway/

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Seminar: Digitising the Abbey Theatre Archive: journey and destination

The Library at National University of Ireland, Galway, will host a seminar on Tuesday 4 October which will tell the story of the Abbey Theatre Digital Archive, created by the largest theatre archive digitisation project undertaken worldwide.

It reflects on challenges faced, lessons learned, new opportunities and impact on academic mission, library and archives.

Registration is free, with full programme details at https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/digitising-the-abbey-theatre-archive-journey-and-destination-tickets-27430060048

Niall O'Brien, Steven Rea and Kate Flynn in Brian Friel's Aristocrats, 1979

Friday, August 19, 2016

ESSE Conference at NUI Galway - Archive Tours and Exhibition

This week (22 - 26 August) NUI Galway welcomes to campus the 13th conference of E.S.S.E The European Society for the Study of English. The Society is a European federation of national higher educational associations which relate to all fields of study within English and the European study and understanding of English languages, literatures in English and cultures of English-speaking peoples.

The Archives service are delighted to support the conference with two exhibitions of literary works which highlight not only NUI Galway's rich collection of literary archives and special collections, writing in Irish and English from Ireland and the west of Ireland but also a visiting exhibition on-loan from the McClay Library of Queen's University Belfast. We hope conference delegates may take some time among a packed week to see the exhibitions and also take part in the daily lunchtime tour of the Archives.

The exhibition within our Archives and Special Collections Reading Room (Ground floor, Hardiman Building) offers a selection of highlights from our literary collections, such as first drafts and published first edition of John McGahern's acclaimed novel The Dark, known as "The Pit" in its initial writing; first editions of Thomas Kilroy's Booker-prize nominated novel, The Big Chapel; poetry in Irish from Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, letters from the late Seamus Heaney; programmes and images of Druid Theatre Company's many international successes such as its 1986 tour of Synge's The Playboy of the Western World and Tom Murphy's Conversations on a Homecoming. John Huston's film adaptation of James Joyce's short-story The Dead, with its deep Galway connections, is represented through material from the archive of Oscar-winning director, John Huston.

Exhibition in our Archives Reading Room
Also on display is a rare first edition of Cúchulain of Muirthemne by Lady Augusta Gregory, which was published in 1902 and represents a version of old Irish legends worked from oral and written folklore and stories collected by Gregory herself. The portrait of Lady Gregory, painted in 1912 by renowned artist Gerard Festus Kelly, also hangs in our Archives Reading Room.
Portrait of Lady Gregory at NUI Galway

Next to these published works are a wall-mounted display of water-colour sketches, painted by artist and playwright, Jack Butler Yeats. Brother of poet and senator, William, this 'Galway notebook' as it is known, contains many beautiful images of the landscape of the West of Ireland and captures the people, topography and culture of the West, through its fields and stone walls, Norman towers and castles and events such as the Galway Races.

In the foyer of the James Hardiman Library (through the electronic turnstiles) one can find the "Shakespeare Lives" exhibition. Assembled from the papers of celebrated Shakespearean actor and director, Sir Kenneth Branagh, located at the McClay Library of Queens University, Belfast, the exhibition offers a timely examination of the staging and reception of Shakespeare's work in Britain and northern Ireland both on-stage and on-screen.

Throughout the ESSE conference there will be daily lunchtime tours of Archives at 1pm, with a chance to see further material and explore in greater detail the documented heritage of the literary and theatrical collections of the Hardiman library. The meeting point is adjacent to the large 'Video Wall' in the foyer of the Hardiman Building. Please see your conference programme booklet for more information.

Looking forward to welcoming all ESSE delegates to Galway and to the Archives!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Gate Theatre Digital Archive now available to research at NUI Galway

The digital archive of the Gate Theatre, Dublin, is now accessible in the Archives Reading Room of the Hardiman Building. Comprising a wealth of material in a range of formats and media, the archive and documents of one of Ireland's leading theatres, from the late 1980s to present, is newly open to study and research.
Rosaleen lenihan as 'Mary Tyrone' in Eugene O'Neill's
'Long Day's Journey into Night', (1998)

The scale of the archive and its digitisation ensures it is a vast resource for the study and understanding of plays performed at the Gate but also of Irish theatrical, social and wider cultural history. Already available within the digital archive are over 10,000 photographs, 11,000 press files, 6,500 pages of programmes, over 2,000 pages of play scripts, 1,700 pages of annotated prompt-scripts, 600 lighting designs and wealth of other material such as posters and handbills. Audio-visual material, including video recordings of productions and audio files of sound scores and design, will also be made available over the course of the digitisation project over coming months.

Programme cover of Gate Theatre's Beckett Festival
The archive of the Gate Theatre comprises material mainly from the period 1980-present, during which the theatre has been managed by Michael Colgan. The Gate under Michael Colgan has distinguished itself internationally for its work with two Nobel Prize winners, Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter. There is extensive correspondence with both writers, as well as huge detail about productions of their work. This will be of interest not only to Irish theatre scholars, but to people from further afield. There is also extensive archival material relating to other major writers, including David Mamet, Conor McPherson and Brian Friel. Indeed, Friel premiered seven plays at the Gate during the last 20 years of his life.

The Gate also has a long tradition of working with some of the world’s great actors; the archive features material relating to Orson Welles, Michael Gambon, John Hurt, Penelope Wilton, Stephen Rea, Ian Holm, Liam Neeson, Charles Dance, and many others.

By connecting the Gate material to existing archival material at Hardiman Library on the Abbey and Druid theatres, playwright Thomas Kilroy, actress Siobhan McKenna and numerous other collections, NUI Galway’s status as the leading international centre for the study of Irish theatre is further enhanced.

This video provides an overview of the archive and its content.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

'Shakespeare Lives' - Exhibition now on at Hardiman Library

Shakespeare Lives through Kenneth Branagh on Stage and Screen

James Hardiman Library Foyer

16-26 August, 2016

Shakespeare Lives is an unprecedented global programme of events and activities celebrating William Shakespeare’s work on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of his death in 2016.

This exhibition celebrates the work of Kenneth Branagh in bringing Shakespeare to life on stage and screen and making the work of the Bard accessible to a global audience.
'Shakespeare Lives' exhibition at the Hardiman Library, NUI Galway

It features rarely seen artefacts from the Sir Kenneth Branagh Archive in Special Collections, the McClay Library at Queen’s University Belfast, which illustrate the actor-director’s remarkable Shakespearean career, from his debut as Henry V with the Royal Shakespeare Company aged just 23 to his Oscar-nominated screen adaptation of Hamlet, and beyond.

The exhibition is part of the programme, Shakespeare Lives across the Island: Conversations and Celebrations - http://www.britishcouncil.ie/shakespeare-lives-across-island 

It will run throughout 2016, exploring Shakespeare as a living writer who still speaks for all people and nations.

Kindly hosted by James Hardiman Library, National University of Ireland, Galway

Monday, August 8, 2016

Building an Exhibition - Jordan Markey, Research Intern, "A University in War and Revolution"

Experience as Research Intern in ‘A University in War and Revolution, 1913 - 1919‘ Project and Exhibition.

Jordan Markey
My name is Jordan Markey. I have just completed a B.A. in History and Geography in NUI Galway and I am currently starting my studies for the M.A. in History here. In the Spring of 2015 I was made aware of a number of exclusive places for undergraduate history students to get involved in an upcoming exhibition in the university based on the Irish revolutionary period of 1914 – 23. I was lucky enough to be chosen as one of the three students brought on to assist with the project – the only of which that wasn’t in the final year of their undergraduate students.

My role as a research intern consisted of perusing the variety of collections within NUI Galway’s Special Collections and archives for a range of materials relating to the involvement of University College Galway in nationalism, republicanism and the events of the Easter Rising in Galway. My research brought me to investigate a broad range of materials, such as personal collections, local and national newspapers, manuscripts, witness statements and memoirs. Gathering this material also involved external trips to institutions such as the National Library, National Archives and County Museums. The final phase of my work was to compile a report of what I had discovered, and make a critical assessment of what would be the optimal material and stories to feature in a visual exhibition.
Working on this project has been immensely enjoyable, intellectually rewarding and allowed me to challenge myself academically and personally.

 I have engaged with institutions such as archives, museums and libraries to an unprecedented extent in my academic career so far, leaving them being seen no longer as imposing, closed off spaces, but as very accessible, valuable and versatile places for many different avenues of research and learning. I have also met and forged professional relationships with various historians and archivists, as well as those in librarian and support services both in Galway and throughout Ireland. I have also challenged my critical thinking and research methodologies by being engaged with a project on an unparalleled scale to what I have been involved with before. It was also challenging, yet very exciting, to broaden my research interests by studying an area outside of my personal expertise.

Looking back, I am extremely glad that I decided to get involved in this project. While it was not without the odd hurdle, it was a very fulfilling few weeks and a great learning process for someone like myself who is interested in a career in history. The official launch of the exhibition was a moment of great personal pride and fulfilment for a lot of challenging work. If another such opportunity arose again I would absolutely not hesitate to put myself forward and get stuck right in. I would also encourage anyone in a similar position to myself, or just with an interest in historical studies and practice, to make the most of an opportunity like this.

I would like to extend my thanks to the project co-ordinators, staff in the James Hardiman Library/Special Collections and the History Department of NUI Galway for their guidance, assistance and giving me the opportunity to work on this very worthwhile project.