Dublin, Ireland’s Abbey Theatre Celebrates 100

Dublin, Ireland’s Abbey Theatre Celebrates 100
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Everyone in Israel is an archaeologist, while everyone in Ireland is a poet (or writer, playwright, or singer, or at the very least, a critic).

Mirth and merriment is woven deeply into the fabric of the Irish consciousness. You can sit in a pub and in the middle of a conversation they will break out in passionate song or quote prose and poetry from William Butler Yeats or other national literature heroes. After all, this is the Isle that invented the limerick.

The National Theatre of Ireland is celebrating its centennial in 2004 with nationwide events called Abbeyonehundred that not only sees wonderful staged plays at the theatre that W.B. Yeats built, but major museum shows about drama, acting, and even stage sets.

For ten decades the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, has staged provocative dramas and comedies and musicals by playwrights who have observed and absorbed the tumultuous changes that have taken place in Irish society. Since 1904 these distilled and poignant revelations have been revealed on the two national stages, the Abbey and the more recent Peacock.

The new Abbey Theatre in Dublin rests on the namesake of WB Yates' original theatre.

26 Lower Abbey Street
00 353 1 887 2200

The Abbey was founded at a time of social, political and intellectual ferment in Ireland and its story is well woven into the fabric of the nation. It has served with distinction in asserting the Irish identify under the yoke of English rule. The names of its champions are legendary and it is fascinating to see among them the names of so many women, among them Maud Gonne, Augusta Gregory, and the English philanthropist Annie Horniman, who bankroled Yeats' thespian endeavor. William Butler Yeats' own vision of the Abbey at its inception was a vision not only of the future for drama but the future of Ireland. The decades have seen considerable applause and a predictable quota of criticism and controversy prevaricated by the Abbey.

Dublin ’s Abbey Theater gave a stage to Yeats and other dramatists: J. M Synge, George Moore, and Sean O’Casey. Richard Sheridan and George Bernard Shaw were born in Dublin. James Joyce grew up in Dublin, the city of his birth, and it is reflected in the autobiographical book Portrait of an Artist As A Young Man, a work that cuts a deep slice into the city, the country, and the culture.

Trinity College in Dublin is the oldest in Ireland, and it has pumped out many distinguished writers, such as Thomas Moore and Oliver Goldsmith to Oscar Wilde. But Trinity has a Protestant tinge, while Joyce was a Catholic. Even though Joyce spent most of his time in Europe writing, his eye for discernment was distinctly as a Dubliner. His most famous work, Ulysses, was published in Paris in 1922, the same year the Republic of Ireland was formed after over 300 years of English lordship. Ulysses is about a single day, Thursday, June 16, 1904, the same year the National Theatre incubated the Abbey. The focus of the book is on a Dubliner named Leopold Bloom, and you meet numerous Dubliners throughout the novel. It is a tightly woven tapestry of Dublin. The Martellow Tower, a central point in the book, still stands in Dublin. The towers were built by the British to thwart a possible invasion from Napoleon.

It was an educated and sophisticated audience in attendance the night I attended the packed Abbey for the drama, Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards The Somme. The dire forewarning of a shaky independence spotlights the Ulster boys preparing and then fighting in the WWI trenches of France in 1916, the same year that the foment of Irish Independence rears its head, which was so magnificently captured in the movie, Ryan’s Daughter. It is also ironic that this drama would play in the Republic of Ireland’s largest city, while Ulster is in Northern Ireland.

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By Kriss Hammond, Editor, Jetsetters Magazine – Visit Jetsetters Magazine at

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By Kriss Hammond, Editor, Jetsetters Magazine. Join the Travel Writers Network at

Kriss Hammond