The third day of my Dublin Theatre Festival trip was Thursday, October 5th. I need to mention the exact date to keep my days straight. For this day, the Irish Repertory Theatre had scheduled a walking tour at Cow’s Lane, Temple Bar. But I did not feel up to an hour and 45 minutes walk. My right knee was killing me and I had to reduce the amount of walking I was doing or I would become the cripple of Inishmaan.
So instead of the walking tour I went with a different group to the National Gallery of Ireland. I always like to visit art museums and if I had gone to Dublin on my own I probably would have gone there first. I did see some theater-related art work and photos. In the portrait gallery I saw a photo of Irish actress Olwen Fouéré who originated the character of Hester Swane in By The Bog of Cats. I also found a portrait of Brian Friel and excitedly posted about it to the WhatsApp group chat. I came across a painting of the founder of the Gate Theater, Micheal MacLiammóir, by the artist Muriel Brandt. I pointed this painting out to Emilia Smart-Denson, the Irish Repertory Theatre staff member who led this expedition.
Eventually the group headed to the cafe but I explored the upper floors until I found The Taking of Christ by Caravaggio. This was the most important and famous painting at the museum. And while you might not imagine it has any connection to theater, there is an Irish playwright who wrote a controversial play about this artist. Frank McGuinness’s play, Innocence, dealt with the painter Caravaggio.
I had lunch again at Hugo’s Restaurant on Merrion Row. I had the same sandwich but with the addition of tomato soup and French fries. The staff recognized me from the day before.
After lunch I went back to the hotel to rest. On a typical trip I would have taken every opportunity to walk around and find things and take photos. But with my bad knee I had to keep off my feet as much as possible.
The next activity was a tour of the Oscar Wilde House which fortunately was a short walk from the hotel. I must confess that I had never read anything by Oscar Wilde before this trip. I did read his plays and one novel at the start of my cram study. First we saw a short film on his family because this was the house he was raised in. Then the tour guide gave a very entertaining lecture on his tragic life. He may have tailored his lecture for an American audience since he recited every city Oscar Wilde visited on his extensive US tour. In a cabinet I saw some interesting old books on Oscar Wilde. Before leaving we had a cup of coffee and some refreshments, small cakes and pastries.
From the Oscar Wilde House we walked to the Abbey Theatre. This was quite a long walk. We had to cross the River Liffey. I was thrilled to see a play at the Abbey Theatre because this is the national theater of Ireland. Many of the Irish plays I have read were premiered or developed at the Abbey Theatre. It was unbearably hot in the theater even though I took my jacket off. Eventually I cooled down a bit. The play we saw was a romantic comedy called Somewhere Out There You by Nancy Harris. It featured many scene changes and a large cast. A glitter curtain came down to make the change of some scenes. This was a very simple way to indicate a change of scene without changing much on the set. Frankly, it may have been more appropriate for television. But I enjoyed the play and loved its premise. Although there was some attempt to make the play seem like a celebration of being accepted for your “identity” (picture my eye-roll) it was written long before that mania took hold. If anything the play was an escapist fantasy of escaping your true identity. It seemed like pure wish fulfillment to me. But in a way, that works against expectations so I still liked it. I noticed that Americans tourists are often used as comic foils in Irish plays.
After the play was over I got into a cab with some other theater enthusiasts in my group. Although I love walking back to the hotel in the dark after seeing a play, I could barely walk with my knee. Once I got to the hotel there was a discussion with Nancy Harris in the sitting room next to the hotel reception lobby. I was impressed that the Irish Repertory Theatre had the clout to get the playwright to chat with their tour group. But I guess it makes sense since the Irish Repertory Theatre would be giving a reading of one of her plays. This theater could be seen as a way to be introduced to the very important New York City theater market. No playwright would pass up a chance to crack that market. I think this is where I first heard mention of the Waking the Feminists campaign which was an attempt to give women a more prominent role in theater. Ireland seems to have been way behind the United States in this. There are many American women playwrights. I could rattle off a long list including some obscure names. Nancy Harris also talked about the development of her play. It was written years ago and it took many revisions and changes in the management of the Abbey Theater before this play made it to the stage. This was the first time I’ve ever attended a private party with a playwright after the first night of their play.