Irish women and the national stage

Sir, – Women's visions are there if one chooses to see them; I have identified over 600 plays by Irish women since 1663, many of which are from the 20th century. The co-founder of the Abbey Theatre, Augusta Gregory, has written over 40 highly accomplished plays, from original works such as the Rising of the Moon to translations of the Cuchulainn Cycle. A devoted theatre-maker and cultural-nationalist, Gregory was sidelined during her life.

Many other women played major roles as cultural nationalists and revolutionaries in addition to writing for theatre, such as Maud Gonne, Alice Milligan, Dorothy Macardle, Constance Markievicz and her sister Eva Gore-Booth. These women were not included in the Abbey’s 2016 programme.

Furthermore, Irish-language plays must be produced on our national stage and a major production of Máiréad Ní Ghráda's An Triail, which courageously voices the deep moral and legal injustices perpetrated against Irish women and children, is long overdue.

No centenary programme is preferable to one that blatantly refuses to acknowledge women as subjective humans, artists and equal citizens of Ireland. – Yours, etc,

Dr MELISSA SIHRA,

Assistant Professor

of Drama,

Trinity College Dublin,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – The “grant cake” that too many depend on is too small. Creativity today is about conforming to pre-established criteria and frameworks designed by committee.

We’ve a question for #wakingthefeminists, which we support, how many of you have engaged with our unique International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival, which has staged and supported 3,000 performances of new works that prioritise feminism, identity (and masculinity) since 2004?

We identified that there was a paucity of women writers and opportunities for their work to be seen, so we worked on it. We mentored, fundraised, risked knowing audiences would be small, but created a valuable space. In total, after 12 years of identifying and supporting this vital work, we get combined (arts and tourism) grants of €71 to stage each performance and to run the festival. Has anyone ever raised an eyebrow, bought a ticket or during this debate referred to our achievements in this field long before it began trending on social media? The real debate should be about why people are excluded from theatre and accessing resources when they are doing what theatre should be doing. If all the feminists and their supporters turned up at our exceptional programme of feminist theatre staged in Dublin this year, we wouldn’t have had so many empty seats and so many female artists left in debt.

It’s cool to fill the Abbey Theatre when the cameras are there – it’s more valuable to support theatre when it’s being created and performed at bargain prices, in the hope that authentic voices can be heard in a sector crying out for invigoration and relevance. – Yours, etc,

BRIAN MERRIMAN,

Founder,

International Dublin

Gay Theatre Festival,

Dublin 8.