Abbey Theatre leaders cite Boston connection in asking help for Irish icon
By Ed Forry, October 31, 2013
BY ED FORRY
Leaders of Ireland’s legendary Abbey Theatre visited Boston last month for the second in a series of annual visits to develop support for Ireland’s national theatre.
Irish Senator Fiach Mac Conghail, who serves as the Abbey’s director (“Stiúrthóir”) was hosted by Tom and Shelly O’Neill, who together chair a Boston chapter in support of the Abbey Theatre Foundation. The O’Neills were joined by Mac Conghail and Abbey Theatre chairman Bryan McMahan at a dinner for some 40 guests at #9 Park on Beacon Hill.
MacConghail said that at the Abbey, “We try to reflect and tell stories from Ireland in an entertaining way, and we’re proud to continue that legacy. The connection between the Abbey Theatre and Boston goes back to 1911, when our first-ever international tour started at the old Plymouth Theatre. Last year, the first chapter of the Abbey Theatre Foundation was established in Boston, so we’re making history together again. In the next three years there are three important events that we will observe,” the theatre leader said. “Next year is our 110th anniversary; 2015 is the 150th anniversary of the birth of our founder, WB Yeats; and the big one is 2016 – the centenary of the Easter Rising. The Abbey was in the midst of the debate about Irish culture that went on during the founding of the new Irish state.”
MacConghail said the foundation also supports an extensive educational component, and partners with schools in Ireland to bring art to students. “We would like to do this with the great city of Boston,” he told the gathering. “In partnership with the Boston chapter, we are planning to partner with schools at a cost of about $100,000 over the next three years. We hope to build up to the great centenary anniversary in April 2016.”
The Abbey has established a 110th Anniversary Fund “to ensure we continue to fuel the flame our founders lit over a century ago,” the foundation states on its website. “This flame has often been sustained in the past by the generosity and passion of our American friends. With your support we can develop playwrights, support theatre artists, engage citizens, and present world renowned theatre both in Ireland and the US. “The Abbey Theatre is a key cultural institution for Ireland: one that makes the nation a richer place in which to live, and one which acts internationally as an ambassador for the country, highlighting the characteristics that make Ireland unique. Internationally it is seen as one of the most significant theatres of the twentieth century.” The Abbey Theatre Foundation is a New York-based 501 © (3) non-profit organization that supports the work of the Abbey Theatre in Ireland and in the United States. Contributions to the Abbey Theatre Foundation are deductible to the extent allowed by law