Monday, January 27, 2014

CFP: Pushing Form - Innovation and Interconnection in Contemporary European Performance

European and Western performance discourse historically has often presumed a hegemonic and majority white field of practice despite an increasingly diverse European population. How does the present reality of European theatre and performance challenge traditional assumptions? And how specifically does formal innovation provide the space for critiques of power and hierarchy that may rework the concept of “Europe” as realized through performance? How have artists responded through form to neoliberalism and globalization in the wake of the most recent world economic crisis and how does their specifically European context set the terms of this response?

The spread of Live Art has put pressure on the institutional theatre as the primary cultural site for performance in many European nations. Yet, discussions about the usefulness and limits of postdramatic as an umbrella term for interdisciplinary work that resists overdetermining dramatic literature might seem to characterize this moment in European theatre and performance studies. This conference queries what it means to define the field of European performance. As such, we invite submissions that will consider key debates in terminology surrounding innovative emerging work, seeking also to build on older genealogies of practice in Europe and beyond. For the purposes of this conference, we will use “European performance” to designate work that happens within the continent as opposed to the European Union exclusively, although these differential power dynamics will be crucial to our inquiry.

Meanwhile, experimental performance methodologies including devising, site-specific approaches, performance art and new media are increasingly taught within universities, signaling an integration of knowledge that may confirm the field of the “contemporary” through institutional status, but suggests that these practices may no longer be the cutting edge. By considering macro-European trends in relationship to national case studies, “Pushing Form” will explore the meaning of “contemporary,” “European” and “performance” in relationship to each other. We hope to map not only the current field, but what may lie just beyond it.

For further information, please contact any of the conference organizers:
Dr Charlotte McIvor, NUI, Galway: Phone: 00 353 91 492631 
Dr Siobhán O'Gorman, Trinity College Dublin:
Dr Miriam Haughton, University of Ulster:

'Pushing Form' is sponsored by the Millennium Fund and NUI Galway Drama and English.

Book of the Month - Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (London, 1849).

The start of the new term brings the return of our Book of the Month from the Special Collections Library here at the Hardiman Building. Each month these treasures and gems from our collections will be on display in the Special Collections Reading Room in the Hardiman Research Building.

This month (and catch it while you can!) is Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (London, 1849). This beautifully bound three volume set was awarded to Richard Blair Bagley by Queen’s College Cork in the 1850s for a First in French. R.B. Bagley (d. 1869) went on to became Professor of Latin at Queen’s College Galway in 1854. 

Taking the dates and context of these volumes throws up an extraordinary link through time. They match by way of year of publication with the year of the opening of Queen's College Galway. (1849) It is fascinating to think that today, in our newly opened reading room, are these books awarded to one of our first professors and dating back to the year of their publication coinciding with the first students arriving here on campus and also exactly 160 years ago this year Bagley was appointed Professor of Latin.

Bookplate awarding the volumes to Bagley

If you would like to view/ consult this item, please submit an online request or contact the staff of the Special Collections Reading Room in the Hardiman Research Building at

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

New Stages: Theatre Tours to the Prisons

Earlier this week, as the Abbey Theatre look back in detail on Dublin life in 1913 at the height of the Strike and Lock-Out through the words and drama of James Plunkett's The Risen People, the play found a new audience in the prisoners and staff of Wheatfield Prison.  In terms of Irish touring theatre this is an unusual but not quite a unique departure.

As reported in TheIrish Times earlier this week:

The Great Dublin Lock-out became temporarily locked-in last night when, on an occasion that was historic in more ways than one, the Abbey Theatre presented its latest production behind bars.
The Risen People, a musical adaptation of James Plunkett’s play about the events of 1913, was transferred for an evening to Wheatfield Prison, where it was watched by 200 inmates, staff and invited guests.
The set was scaled down to fit the stage of the Wheatfield assembly hall, otherwise, this was the full Abbey experience, available in an Irish prison for the first time in its 110-year existence.

Though a first for the Abbey and yet another landmark in the story of its rich 110-year history, It was back in 1987 that Druid Theatre also crossed the gates and performed in Irish prisons. As part of their nationwide 1987 tour of Tom Murphy's Conversations on a Homecoming, the play was staged in Cork, Mountjoy and Arbour Hill prisons.

Within the Druid Archive here at the Hardiman Library, NUI Galway, is a letter of feedback from an unnamed prisoner within Arbour Hill. Entitled "Thank you for an evening's entertainment", the inmate wrote in detail a review and experience of the production in Arbour Hill. Comments include:

"Firstly, I would like to say a big thank you to one and all connected with the bringing this play to the prisons. . . We, the inmates or prisoners if you prefer, appreciated what must have been a very hard and apprehensive decision for you to make. Also, the prison staff deserve a clap on the back for making it such a wonderful evening."

The review continues: The characters by the cast were brilliantly performed.  .  .The professionalism was one of total enrapture for the audience which held our eyes constantly on every movement on stage. Any noise in the audience was met with a 'hush, hush, Silence please!' reaction from the rest of the audience."
Comments from prisoners, 1987

The letter concludes by comments from the prisoners with one being "It's nice to know that not everybody has forgotten about us in here, thanks a million to the cast of Druid Theatre Company."

This file on the 1987 Prisons tour by Druid Theatre is accessible at T2/144.

The Druid Archive catalogue can be viewed in full here

Press coverage of the 1987 prison tour (Click to enlarge)

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Brian Friel: Looking back to the Lyric Theatre, Belfast, of 1964

To mark the 85th birthday of the great playwright Brian Friel, we have dipped into the archives and are looking at how, 50 years ago in 1964, Friel was busy at work staging works in Dublin and Belfast. 

These letters and documents are from the Lyric Theatre/O'Malley Archive. The documents relate to the October 1964 production of The Blind Mice written by Brian Friel. This was the first and only production of the play at the Lyric Theatre and the play has since remained unpublished. The Blind Mice had received its Irish premiere in 1963 at the Eblana Theatre and produced by Orion Productions, which were founded by the late Phyllis Ryan. 

This extensive collection of papers relate to the foundation by Mary O'Malley of the Lyric Players Theatre in Belfast in the early 1950's and charts its growth from a theatre based in O'Malley's own house to becoming one of the most important cultural venues in Northern Ireland.

With specific reference to this 1964 production of The Blind Mice, the records of the Lyric Theatre archive contain the original and annotated scripts for the Belfast production, with scripts present marked "Stage Management",  "Lighting" and general copy with marked-up text of the play.

Also pictured here is a manuscript letter by Brian Friel written to Mary O'Malley written just weeks after the Belfast production of the Blind Mice and referring to the September 1964 and original production of Philadelphia Here I Come!  saying "The Dublin play went very well. It was one of those scripts that could have fallen flat on its face – and happily did not". Friel continues to outline his beliefs on writing a good satire and states where he falls somewhat short of his own expectations on this.

In the final paragraph of the letter, Friel wishes O'Malley continued good wishes for the Lyric Players Theatre: "Good luck with the new theatre – it could be great – and that is entirely up to you."

The Lyric theatre archive hold the following records for The Blind Mice:

T4/88 - Material relating to the production of The Blind Mice by Brian Friel at Derryvolgie Avenue. Includes two programmes and three copies of the script: a copy annotated with general production notes, a copy annotated with lighting directions, and a copy marked as being for the use of 'Stage Management'. This copy also has numerous notes and annotations. Also includes a portrait photograph of Sam Macready in costume as Father Chris Carroll.

The catalogue of the full Lyric Theatre/O'Malley archive is accessible here

Monday, January 6, 2014

Centenary of publication of "Dubliners"

This year marks the centenary of the publication of Dubliners, a collection of short stories by James Joyce.  The closing story of Dubliners, 'The Dead' takes place a century ago at a house party on the quays in Dublin on January 6, the feast of the Epiphany and the last night of Christmas. The James Hardiman Library is currently hosting an exhibition in the foyer of the Hardiman Buildings to mark the occasion.

The much-loved story, which was made into a film by John Huston starring his daughter Anjelica and the late Donal McCann, mainly takes place at number 15 Usher's Island, where Kate and Julia Morkan hold their annual dinner party on a snowy night.

Gabriel Conroy and his wife Greta are among the guests who enjoy the company, dancing and music. When, as she is about to leave, Greta hears the folksong 'The Lass of Aughrim' sung plaintively by another guest, she remembers the young man in Galway who once loved her and sang to her on another snowy night.

Back in their hotel later that evening Gabriel looks out the window at the snow falling and realises his marriage is not all he had imagined it to be.

Michael ‘Sonny’ Bodkin was the inspiration for Michael Furey in “The Dead”. His family lived at number 2 Prospect Hill in Galway where his family had a shop. He was a clerk in Galway Gas Company and a student at University College Galway. He contracted tuberculosis and died on the 11 February 1900, and was buried in Rahoon Cemetery. For more on this and other Galway links with the story see Peadar O’Dowd, ‘James Joyce’s ‘The Dead’ and its Galway Connections’, Journal of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society, 51 (1999), 189-193.

The James Hardiman Library and NUI Galway holds a number of collections of interest to those researching “The Dead”. It holds the archives of the director John Huston in relation to the making of his highly-acclaimed film adaptation of the short story. The collection consists of legal documents, scripts and some production material relating to the work of John Huston, as well as some material relating to other members of his family. The bulk of the material relates to the production of his film The Dead, an adaptation of James Joyce's short story to film. There is also some material relating to his grandmother Adelia, his mother Rhea and his son Tony. There are 13 boxes of material, in a variety of formats including some artefacts. The collection is in good physical condition. The descriptive list of the entire collection is available at and an online exhibition is available at .

Other collections with a strong Joyce connection include ‘Papers relating to the Will of Annie Barnacle’ The library also holds a range of Joyce’s published worked, including a rare edition of Pomes Pennyeach, which includes the poem “Rain over Rahoon”.