The Abbey Theatre of Dublin was opened to great acclaim in 1904 by a group of writers and benefactors who are considered responsible for the cultural renaissance of the time. Considered the Irish Literary Revivalists, W.B.Yeats, Lady Gregory, an Anglo-Irish aristocrat, and their collaborators began the theatre with the intention of highlighting the talents of many of Ireland's playwrights, authors, and actors.
The first building was gutted by fire in 1951. Designed by Michael Scott, the foundation stone for the present building was laid on 3 September 1963 after the rubble was cleared and has been in operation ever since. The patronage of Miss Annie Horniman, an Englishwoman, bought the premises on Abbey Street. The new concrete building was deemed ugly and boxy by some -- however, the interior is very spacious and offers wonderful acoustics.
Reputation for Excellence
The Abbey Theatre gained an international reputation for outstanding quality, due not only the outstanding works of playwrights such as John Millington Synge and Sean O'Casey, but also for the naturalistic acting style of its actors. Many Irish classics have been performed at the Abbey. Plays by Irish dramatists like Brian Friel, Tom Murphy, Hugh Leonard and John B. Keane premièred there. An uproar was generated at the performance of Synge's The Playboy of the Western World, during which the word "shift"(petticoat) was mentioned. This was considered a slight on the virtue of Irish women and caused riots in the city.
Other reputations were made or enriched by performances at the Abbey Theatre. George Bernard Shaw, Oliver Gogarty, F.R. Higgins, Thomas MacDonogh, Lord Dunsany, T.C. Murray, James Cousins, and Lennox Robinson are names affiliated with the theatre. The Abbey's sister theatre, the Peacock, showcases more experimental work. World War I and the Easter Rising of 1916 almost ended the theatre's life. In 1925, the Abbey Theatre was given an annual subsidy by the new Free State and became the first state-subsidized English-speaking theatre.
The Abbey Theatre Today
The state continues its support to this day, through an annual grant from the Arts Council of Ireland.
Found on 26 Lower Abbey Street, Dublin, the Abbey Theatre -- also known as the Irish National Theatre -- is still regarded as a barometer of native Irish theatre, dance and culture.
The Abbey Theatre and The Quiet Man
The Abbey style can be observed in John Ford's classic 1952 film The Quiet Man, which features many long-serving Abbey actors, most notably Barry Fitzgerald (who plays Michaleen Og Flynn) and his brother Arthur Shields (who plays Reverend Playfair). The brothers started acting in the Abbey from an early age. Like many of the actors, Arthur Shields was an Irish nationalist, and fought in the 1916 Easter Rising.