[This article was written to be posted on Mainly Museums website in order to promote the Abbey Theatre all over the world]
‘IF WE MUST DIE, DIE GLORIOUSLY!’
‘If we must die, die gloriously.’ With these powerful and extremely impressive words Lady Gregory and William Butler Yeats drew the fundamental and essential ingredients of the Abbey’s ‘planet’. Well, you know, the Abbey Theatre in Dublin is not a mere traditional museum or a classical historical house. According to me that’s a special cultural building, the awesome house of Art and new ideas created in 1904 by visionaries in order to become the cultural cradle of the future Actors and Playwrights. In short, since the brilliant idea of its creation was clearly seen in the mind’s eye of these resilient visionaries and adequately imagined, this Theatre has been an ARENA for art and, above all, the National Theatre of Ireland with the holy and high purpose pointed out in its sublime manifesto ‘to bring upon the stage the deeper emotions of Ireland’ ( and later all the stronger emotions and sensations of other countries all over the world thanks to the several collaborations with foreign artists and the precious online version realized for some shows in partnership with LANDMARK PRODUCTIONS).
WHERE IS THE ABBEY THEATRE?
The building’s address is 26/27 Lower Abbey Street, Dublin 1, D01 K0F1. It’s located on the corner of Lower Abbey Street and Marlborough Street, a few minutes’ walk from O’Connell Street in the city centre. The entrance to its foyer is on Marlborough Street while the entrance to the Peacock Stage and Café is on Lower Abbey Street. Well, I assure you, you cannot get lost!
HOW GETTING THERE?
Don’t worry! You can get there by bus, by train, by car (or by foot if you love walking and enjoying the marvellous heart of the city).
Dublin Bus: take any route which stops on or near O’Connell Street.
Expressway/Intercity: the Abbey is a five minute walk away from Busáras, the main bus station in the city centre, located at Store Street, Dublin 1.
Dart: the nearest station to the Theatre is Tara Street.
Train: you have to get off at Connolly Station located at Amiens Street, North Dock.
Luas: Red Line to Abbey Street or Green Line to Marlborough
Car: you can leave your vehicle in the two following locations:
1.Irish Life Centre, Gardiner Street, Dublin 1 Opening Hours: Mon to Fri 6.30am – 11pm | Sat 8am – 11pm | Sun 10am – 9pm Charges: Exclusive Abbey Theatre evening rate, 5.30pm – close, €8 | Exclusive Abbey Theatre matinée rate, 1pm – 6pm, €6.Tickets must be prebooked by midnight the day before you park to avail of this offer.
2.Dublin Q-Park, The Spire, Cathal Brugha Street, Dublin 1 Opening Hours: 24 hours/7 days Don’t forget to use the code Abbey20 when you book online in order to get 20% off your parking.
HOW GETTING IN TOUCH WITH THE MAKERS?
If you are unable to visit the Abbey in person, luckily you have many opportunities to overcome the geographical distance. Actually you can listen to the interesting podcasts about the creative lives of theatre-makers and their alternative perspectives on making art, from the personal to the profound (on the Abbey website, Talks and Podcasts section), even though visiting and attending in person is definitely the best way to taste the historical atmosphere and breathe the electrifying cultural air. These precious series of Talks and Conversations about the production on stage, the world off it and the points of view of theatregoers and theatre artists represent a unique and fascinating occasion for theatrelovers. Moreover the Visitors have the fantastic chance to get closer through the Tours and Experiences available as add-ons to a performance or stand-alone options for a group visit. And again, we cannot forget to mention the Personal Theatre Tour , an extraordinary behind-the-scenes experience so as to admire all the areas of the building not included on the Backstage Tour and to get first-hand insight and perspectives from the excellent staff. For anyone with a deep and sincere passion for Irish culture and arts, that’s a truly special opportunity to discover Ireland’s national theatre. Finally, if you are fond of walks, you’ll be able to join the extravagant guided Walking Tour swapping the auditorium seats for the center streets for 2.5 km/ 1.5 miles with striking sculptures, historic sites and hidden gems that indicate and reveal connections to Irish theatre all around Dublin.
LET’S TAKE A DEEP DIVE INTO THE ARCHIVE TREASURE TROVE
Thanks to the fascinating ‘Instagram’Tour guided by the brave and exquisite Laura O’Shea last spring during her internship at the Abbey, I had the incredible occasion to explore the Archive and take a deep dive into the archive treasure trove. Yes indeed, that’s a definitely surprising place full of electrifying and mysterious secrets and treasures! The Archive is an extremely gorgeous resource containing posters, programmes, photographs, lighting plans, set and costume designs, scripts, audio and audio-visual files, administrative records and so on…The same bizarre and unusual atmosphere reigns at the Props Store if you decide to have a wonderful walk back in time in that wonderland or to enjoy a lovely trip through the Abbey’s Costume Hire, as Laura suggested, when she spent a jam-packed day in the Costume DEPARTMENT exploring the vast collection and organizing costumes from hundreds and hundreds of shows. And remember, dear readers, that tthese agnificent costumes are available for hire for amateur, student and professional productions, opera, dance, film, TV, photo and video- shoots. Each time the production ends, any costume is sent to the warehouse to live another life in new future shows both in Ireland and abroad. Thus, in this beautiful department, you’ll be able to discover an awful lot of costumes: for clarification, period and contemporary clothes, military uniforms or clerical wear and several Accessories.
I do believe that every Visitor should take a peep at the sublime Props with its antique radios, mobile phones, mahogany chairs, stuffed birds and a Victorian pram. Just to summarize, a lot of amazing surprises like the black swan in By the Bog of Cats by Marina Carr or a Notre Dame Cathedral made of matchsticks for Bookworms by Bernard Farrell. Well, you know, that’s a long list! Because the team nembers select the objects that root actors and audiences in a convincing world. All props get recycled and re-used at the expert and capable hands of the prop makers that are truly talented in repairing,restoring, re-inventing and re-upholstering. In short, they are magicians with magic powers! For any queries or curiosity relating to Props, please contact the talented Eimer Murphy.
WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS AND THE ABBEY
The biography of William Butler Yeats is strictly linked to the history of Irish Nationalism and, above all, to the most important cultural aspects of his country. And the Abbey definitely plays a fundamental role and a turning point in his life. In effect, art and culture have always been two powerful and vital ingredients of his experiences; moreover his father John, an artist and a free thinker, influenced his son in his love for art, particularly painting. Well, you know, in the 1890s he forms the most important friendship of his life as he meets Lady Gregory who takes him from cottage to cottage to collect Irish FOLKLORE and, especially, supports his extraordinary project concerning the Abbey: he aims to found a new literary theatre, fighting against the enemy represented by the ‘commercial’ theatre and the institutions. Due to the fact that at that time much Irish literature is in danger of being lost, this resilient Irish leader does believe that the Artist must play the necessary role of creation of a totally new culture based on the past elements and virtues. A new model that can be shared and loved by all the citizens, a sort of cultural Renaissance.
Thus, in December 1904 the Abbey first opens its doors to the public with two new plays: On Baile’s Strand by W.B. Yeats and Spreading the News by Lady Gregory. Then they are followed by Yeats’s Kathleen Ni Houlihan.
Some years later, in 1909, Bernard Shaw gives Lady Gregory a copy of his unpublished play ‘The Shewing Up of Blanco Posnet’. This play is banned in England by Lord Chamberlain’s Office. So, despite the Censor having no jurisdiction in Ireland, Dublin Castle tries to stop the production and withdraw the licence as it’s considered blasphemous. Thus,Lady Gregory and W. B. Yeats passionately fight with officials at Dublin Castle in order to ‘go on with the performance and let the Patent be forfeited, and if we must die, die gloriously.’
Here are Yeats’s best quotes, according to me:
‘Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.’
‘Let us go forth, the tellers of tales, and seize whatever prey the heart long for, and have no fear.
Everything exists, everything is true, and the earth is only a little dust under our feet.’
‘Think like a wise man but communicate in the language of the people.’
THE ABBEY THEATRE THROUGH MY EYES
Well, you know, last winter I first ‘encountered’ this phenomenal and sublime house of culture thanks to the fabulous ‘THE WEIR’ Production (a moving and excellent Play by Conor McPherson, an absolutely ‘sight for sore eyes’). Then, in May, I had the lucky opportunity to attending the intense online version of ‘GHOSTS’( by Henrik Ibsen, a new version written by Mark O’Rowe). Moreover I follow and appreciate all the Abbey’s daily Posts on Instagram. That’s all, all that I assure you is: the Abbey is more than a theatre or an historical building. I do believe it has its own soul and ideas and its Programme is built on two questions, as the Artistic and the Executive Directors state: ‘Who were we, and who are we now?’
FINALLY, I WOULD LIKE TO GIVE MY BEST REGARDS AND HEARTFELT THANKS TO ALL THE INVOLVED IN THE ABBEY’S TEAM ( particularly Caitríona McLaughlin and Mark O’Brien, Laura O’Shea and Eimer Murphy) . I’m truly grateful to the Abbey because my best article (written last January and posted here at ‘THE WEIR: A SIGHT FOR SORE EYES ‘ https://downtongazette.altervista.org/tribute-to-the-weir-a-sight-for-sore-eyes/ ) was just about The Weir Production at the Abbey…And my readers really enjoyed it ❤️❤️❤️Well, that’s a sincere sense of gratitude.
MY ARTICLE ABOUT ‘THE WEIR ‘ JANUARY 2023 AT https://downtongazette.altervista.org/tribute-to-the-weir-a-sight-for-sore-eyes/