If you love theatre and the arts, then a great place to go for an afternoon is Abbey Theatre. The Abbey is the original National Theatre and was founded by Lady Gregory and William Butler Yeats. And the most exciting part is that it’s still in operation today! You can attend a show there, or, if you’re like me and you only have an afternoon to spare, you can take a backstage tour and see how the theatre is run.
The first stop on the tour is actually the foyer, where you will learn about the history of the theatre and how it was originally set up. What’s really fascinating about the theatre, is that it was actually used in the 1916 Easter Rising. During the Rising, the rebels were publishing illegal papers speaking in favor of Ireland’s independence. The printing press for these documents was hidden under the Abbey Theatre stage when it was not in use at the General Post Office or when the leaders of the rising believed that they would be searched.
After learning about some of the history of the theatre, the tour heads upstairs to the bar where you can learn a see portraits of the founders on the walls. There is a lovely portrait of Lady Gregory, who co-established the theatre with Yeats. Across the room from Lady Gregory are two portraits of the Fay brothers, who brought their theatre troupe into the theatre and helped gain a good reputation for the Abbey. Finally, there is a large portrait of William Butler Yeats himself, which was painted specifically for the theatre.
Next stop along the tour is the Abbey Stage itself. First, guests are led into the auditorium where they can observe the beautiful wood paneled walls. Then, the tour walks onto the actual stage. On most days, the production crew will be downstairs setting up for the evening’s performance, so you’ll really get to feel like part of the action!
The last stop on the tour is the costume and makeup department, which is upstairs above the stage. Inside the department you can see the many different wigs the actors wear, and learn a little bit more about the process behind designing them. You can also see photographs of different costumes from past productions and learn how they were designed. If you’re lucky, there might even be a few costumes out on display.
The tour ends up back in the foyer, right where you started. If you want to, you can stay at the theatre for an evening or matinee production. Or, you can step downstairs into the Peacock café for a coffee before heading back to Ariel House.
Next week I’ll be posting about a wonderful way to get out of Dublin and up to Northern Ireland for a day. See you then!