The 1916 Rising in Irish Theatre/ The 1916 Rising as Irish Theatre
20-21 May 2016
Keynote speakers: Paige Reynolds and James Moran
Towards the end of his life, WB Yeats famously asked whether “that play of mine sen[t] out certain men the English shot” – whether, that is, Kathleen ni Houlihan so inspired the participants in the Easter 1916 Rising as to have cost them their lives. While that question may have arisen from Yeats’s desire to assert his importance to the realization of Irish independence, there is no doubt that theatre played a significant role in the lives of the Rising’s leaders, many of whom wrote and produced plays. Recent publications such as Fearghal McGarry’s Abbey Rebels and Adrian Frazier’s Hollywood Irish have also shown how Abbey actors were centrally involved in the Rising.
1916 also had a significant impact on subsequent Irish theatre. The events were dramatised vividly (and critically) by Sean O’Casey’s Plough and the Stars in 1926, and many dramas followed that sought to explore the Rising and its legacies. In more recent years, the impact of Performance Studies on Irish scholarship has allowed for an opening up of new questions about the Rising, which could be seen not just as a military insurrection but also as a staged event that was grounded in notions of martyrdom as public performance – an idea also recently explored by Roy Foster, who writes that, even before the Abbey, there was a ‘tradition of radical Irish nationalism which was inherently theatrical, focused on ritual display and public performance” (in Vivid Faces, 77-8).
In summary, there is much about the Rising that can be seen as theatrical, and much about the theatre in Ireland that has been influenced by the Rising.
This conference aims to explore the relationships between Irish theatre and the Rising, seeking to answer questions such as the following:
- How did playwriting and theatre practice figure in the evolution of the ideals of the Rising’s leaders and participants?
- To what extent is it valid to consider the Rising as a form of performance?
- How did the Abbey Theatre and other Irish theatres influence the Rising?
- How did playwrights and theatre producers respond to the Rising during the revolutionary period?
- How has The Plough and the Stars shaped the theatrical representation of the Rising?
- How did the Irish theatre respond to the legacies of the Rising during key anniversaries such as 1966 and 1991?
The keynote speakers are Paige Reynolds, author of Modernism, Drama and the Audience for Irish Spectacle and James Moran, author of Staging the Rising: 1916 as Theatre.
The organisers are now calling for papers on these and related topics. Papers should be 20 minutes in duration (approx. 2,500 words); panel proposals are also welcome.
Please send 300 word proposals with a short biographical note to Patrick.Lonergan@nuigalway.ie before 31 January 2016