Thursday, February 19, 2015

Arthur Shields - The Rising on the Street, Stage and Screen

On the 11th February 1926, rioting greeted the Abbey Theatre performance of Sean O'Casey's "The Plough and the Stars" because of what was viewed as it's anti-Irish sentiment. Yeats tells the audience "You have disgraced yourselves again".

From the Arthur Shields Family Collection is a photograph from that production, featuring G Fallon, Arthur Shields, FJ McCormack and Shelah Richards(T13/B/246). In spite of the controversy surrounding aspects of the play, it played to full houses, and had many re-runs and revivals, as well as a film version in 1937.

In a reply to critics, printed in "The Irish Times" on 19 February 1926, O'Casey tackled some of the criticisms of the play, and went on to state.
The politicians - Free State and Republican - have the platform to express themselves, and Heavens knows they seem to take full advantage of it. The drama is my place for self-expression, and I claim the liberty in drama that they enjoy on the platform (and how they do enjoy it!), and am prepared to fight for it.
In a unique twist, Arthur Shields, an actor and stage manager at the Abbey Theatre, was also an active participant in the Easter Rising of 1916, would star in the 1926 production of "The Plough and the Stars" at the Abbey Theatre and also feature in the 1936 film version of "Plough and the Stars", directed by John Ford.

For more on productions of "The Plough and the Stars" check out the Shields Family Collection at and programmes from the various Abbey Theatre productions of 'The Plough and the Stars' as part of the abbey Theatre Digital Archive, available at the Hardiman Library. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Symposium on Famine Memory, Thursday 12 February, Hardiman Building

Performing Famine Memory:
Irish Theatre and the Great Hunger Symposium
National University of Ireland, Galway, February 12-13, 2015.

Date: Thursday February 12, 1-7pm. Friday February 13, 10am -12pm.

Venue: Hardiman Research Building, G010.

Conference Convener and Contact: Dr. Jason King (
This symposium examines Irish Theatre and Famine Memory between the periods of the Irish Revival and the rise and fall of Ireland’s Celtic Tiger.  It places special emphasis on the performance of Famine remembrance to register moments of national crisis and forced migration in Ireland, both past and present.  The symposium brings together leading Irish theatre and famine scholars and theatre practitioners to explore recent productions about the Great Hunger in the era of the Celtic Tiger, such as DruidMurphy’s revival (2012) of Tom Murphy’s Famine (1968), Sonya Kelly’s How to Keep An Alien (2014), Moonfish Theatre’s bilingual English and Irish language adaptation of Joseph O’Connor’s novel Star of the Sea (2014), Jaki McCarrick’s Belfast Girls (2012), Fiona Quinn’s The Voyage of the Orphans (2012), Caroilin Callery and Maggie Gallagher’s “Strokestown - Quebec Connection Youth Arts Project - 'The Language of Memory and Return'” (2011-2014), Donal O’Kelly’s The Cambria (2005), and Elizabeth Kuti’s The Sugar Wife (2005).  Representations of the Great Famine during the Revival in Maud Gonne’s Dawn and early plays staged at the Gate Theatre will also be discussed. The performance of traumatic remembrance of the Famine and pivotal historical events in W.B. Yeats’s The Dreaming of the Bones (1916) will be explored in a keynote address by Professor Chris Morash.  Dr. Marguérite Corporaal will also deliver a keynote address on the development of international Famine studies and research networks and opportunities for collaboration.

Symposium Schedule Thursday Februrary 12:

1-2pm. Irish Famine Memory and Migration in Contemporary Theatre Productions:
Barry Houlihan (NUIG), Overview of Irish Theatre Archival Resources at NUI Galway.

Dr. Jason King (NUIG): “Performing the Green Pacific: Staging Female Youth Migration in  Jaki 
McCarrick’s Belfast Girls (2012) and Fiona Quinn’s The Voyage of the Orphans (2012)”.

 Dr. Charlotte McIvor (NUIG): 'The Cambria (2005) and How To Keep An Alien (2014): Famine Traces and the Palimpsestic Time of Irish Migration'    

 2-3pm. Staging Famine Memory: Theatre Practitioner Perspectives  

Máiréad Ni Chroinin (NUIG and Moonfish Theatre): “Moonfish Theatre's production of Star of the Sea, based on the novel by Joseph O'Connor” (2014).

Caroilin Callery (Cultural Connections Theatre Group): Strokestown - Quebec Connection Youth Arts Project - 'The Language of Memory and Return'.

3-3:30pm coffee break

3:30-5pm. DruidMurphy and Early Twentieth-Century Representations of the Great Famine on Stage:

Professor Patrick Lonergan (NUIG): DruidMurphy (2012) and Abbey Productions of Tom Murphy’s Famine.

Dr. Marguérite Corporaal (Radboud University Nijmegen): “Starvation in the Shadows: (Un)staging the Famine in Maud Gonne's Dawn (1904)”. 

Ruud Van Den Beuken (Radboud University Nijmegen): “'My blessing on the pistol and the powder and the ball!': Prospective Memories of Landlord Murders in the Earl of Longford's Ascendancy (1935)”.

6pm. Keynote address: Professor Chris Morash (MRIA, Trinity College, Dublin):

“Re-placing Trauma: Yeats’s The Dreaming of the Bones”.

Symposium Schedule Friday February 13 (10am-12pm)
Venue: Hardiman Research Building, G010.

Plenary Workshop: Dr. Marguérite Corporaal, “Building Irish Famine Research Networks”.

Deputy Thom Kluk from the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands will introduce keynote speaker Dr. Marguérite Corporaal (Radboud University Nijmegen). Dr. Corporaal will discuss her European Research Council funded project Relocated Remembrance: The Great Famine in Irish (Diaspora) Fiction, 1847-1921 ( and her Dutch Research Council funded International Network of Irish Famine Studies (INIFS) ( She will consider the challenges of building international research networks and explore the opportunities and themes for research collaboration.  

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

'Performing the Archive' conference, NUI Galway, July 2015

'Performing the Archive' Conference
National University of Ireland, Galway
22 – 24 July 2015

Co-sponsored by the American Society for Theatre Research

Professor Tracy C. Davis (Northwestern University)
Dr. Doug L. Reside (New York Public Library)
Professor Catherine Cole (University of California, Berkeley)
Dr. Hugh Denard (Trinity College, Dublin)
Professor Patrick Lonergan (National University of Ireland, Galway)
Professor Lionel Pilkington (National University of Ireland, Galway)
Dr. Emilie Pine (University College, Dublin)

'Performing the Archive' responds to new innovations in archival practices including digital methodologies and will bring together formative thinking among scholars, artists and archivists engaged in working with archival materials and on research and performance projects to explore the uses and possibilities of the archive today from theoretical and methodological perspectives.

We will debate: 

What is the status of archival research methodologies in published research and graduate training today? 
What are the possibilities of collaboration between researchers and practitioners working together to remount work based on the archives or research on new material? What working models exist and what have yet to be imagined? 
How has the digital humanities begun to reshape the possibilities of archival engagement? 
How can we support the labour of not only archival research methodologies but the maintenance of the archives themselves? How does the holding location of archives (university vs. community archive) affect the circulation of these resources?  How can partnerships be expanded or reimagined?  
How has the cataloguing of new/recent archives contributed to new learning and change?
Connection of archives, theatre and society: Documentary theatre and socially responsive theatre
Theatre, Peace and Conflict – How memory of theatre and conflict, especially that of Northern Ireland, is newly understood and experienced through the archives and contributing to resolution and reconciliation
The craft of the playwright: Drafting, editing and writing for stage or radio through adapting the archive
How is contemporary performance shaped by memory of past performance?

This conference capitalizes on NUI Galway’s unparalleled strength in Irish theatre and literary archives, taking advantage of holdings including the Abbey Theatre Digital Archive and archives of Druid Theatre, Lyric Theatre Belfast, Taibhdhearc na Gaillimhe, Thomas Kilroy, Siobhan McKenna and the Galway Arts Festival, among others, to facilitate a national and international conversation about the place of archives in not only theatre and performance research and teaching, but arts practice and perception of theatre history more broadly. 

Coinciding with the Galway Arts Festival, the conference will immerse participants in the living performance culture of Galway as the Galway Arts Festival links together artists from around the world to mount Ireland’s largest international arts festival. 

Participants will take part in intensive working group sessions as well as participate in keynote and plenary sessions with leading scholars, archivists and performers working at the intersection of practice and research. 

You may propose either an individual paper or panel of three speakers.  Abstracts for individuals for individual papers should be no more than 350 words in length and panels should submit their panel title and grouped abstracts to be considered.  Proposed papers can address practical projects in the area of digitization, curation, or archives administration as well as presenting creative, scholarly or theoretical case studies. 

Individuals will also designate a working group to be associated with for an intensive workshop during the conference.   

You can apply to the following strands: 

Archival Materials In/As Performance 
Digitization: Methodology and Ethics 
Early-Mid-Twentieth Century Irish Theatre
Irish Theatre After Beckett
Conflict, Memory and Trauma
Scenography and Theatre Technologies

Please submit a 350-word abstract for your proposed paper as a PDF file ONLY with brief bio by 30 March 2015 to

For more information, please contact Barry Houlihan (, Charlotte McIvor ( or Ian Walsh (


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

I mBeal na Farraige

In 1939 a young German folklorist, Heinrich Becker, came to Galway to research stories associated with the sea. Beginning first with the fishermen of the Claddagh, and later moving out to the shores of Galway Bay and the Aran Islands, he created a wealth of audio-tapes, photographs, transcripts of stories and associated material, and took a keen interest in what was happening around him. In 1955, having returned to Germany three years previously, he staged an photographic exhibition in the town of Duren based on his time in Galway.

The first photograph, taken in the 1940s, shows a barrel being unloaded off the Dun Aengus ferry onto a currach. The ferry was the lifeline to the Islands, bringing supplies and people over and back.
The second features a currach in the foreground, with a Galway hooker in the background under sail off the Galway coast. These boats were the workhorses of Galway bay and feature strongly in many aspects of the lives of the people as told through the stories gathered by Dr. Becker.
The third photograph in today's blog dates from 1939, and shows Dr. Becker recording the King of the Claddagh on an ediphone wax cylinder recording. He had acquired the machine from Seamus Delarga of the Irish Folklore Commission, and recorded many stories from the Claddagh, including chasing the sunfish.
The fourth photograph features Paitin Mhaitiu and Peadar Liogeach on board the Dun Aengus steamer, again from the 1940s. Having grown up on a river boat on the Elbe, Dr. Becker had a fascination with boats and the people using them, and this comes across in his interest in all aspects of sea transport on Galway Bay during his time here.
The fifth photograph is of Seosamh O Flaithearta (Joe Mhairtin an tSagairt) from Inis Oir, born in 1879 he provided Heinrich with many stories from the island, which he had received from his father Mairtin an tSagairt.

For an outline of the life and work of Heinrich Becker see most recently Brian O Cathain, 'Heinrich Becker: Bealoideasoir Gearmanach i mBun Oibre in Eireann' Leachtai Cholm Cille 43 (2013), 262-293. The material in the Heinrich Becker collection relating to Ireland is currently being listed, and will be available for consultation in the Special Collections Reading Room of the James Hardiman Library from Autumn.