THE WOMEN OF THE ABBEY THEATRE, 1897 1925
Boisseau, Robin Jackson
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ABSTRACT Title of dissertation: THE WOMEN OF THE ABBEY THEATRE, 1897 1925 Robin Jackson Boisseau, Doctor of Philosophy, 2004 Dissertation directed by: Professor Emeritus Patti P. Gillespie Department of Theatre The Abbey Theatre was established in Dublin in 1904 as part of the Irish cultural Renaissance of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century through the efforts of men and women who sought to create a theatre that would produce indigenous Irish drama using native Irish actors and actresses. Although substantial evidence exists suggesting that the contributions of the women involved with the establishment of the Abbey Theatre, such as Lady Augusta Gregory, Annie Horniman, Sara Allgood, and Sarah Purser, were significant, historians of this period have tended to focus instead on the contributions of the men connected with the theatre. This study highlights the contributions of these and other women to the establishment and perpetuation of the Abbey Theatre from its inception in 1897 until the granting of a governmental subsidy in 1925. Women's contributions are explored in areas of theatrical practice, such as design, management, acting, and playwriting, and are grounded within the multiple social, political, historical, religious, and cultural contexts of the period. In addition, several tensions or conflicts existed at the Abbey Theatre in which women played major roles. These conflicts included a clash between the nationalists, who desired to use the Abbey as a political forum, and the artists, who insisted on creating an art theatre; discord between the English and Irish cultures present at the Abbey; and, at the most basic level, tensions between the women and men who worked to create the theatre. The study concludes that women actively participated in all areas of theatrical practice at the Abbey Theatre initially; that the Abbey utilized women more than any other theatre in Dublin at the time; but that women did not flourish at the Abbey because their roles in the theatre were consistently diminished as the theatre itself became a more commercial enterprise.