From the late 1940s the activities of the Society increasingly favoured the presentation of stage productions of the Bard’s plays. The Society in the 1950s more closely resembled the DSS of today. At least 17 productions were presented in the decade. All but two were Shakespeare plays.
This increased output was undoubtedly helped by the acquisition of the Society’s first ‘permanent’ premises in a basement at 54 Fitzwilliam Square, which it occupied from 1952 to 1968. It was the first studio theatre established by the Group.
Another development came in June 1957 with a production by a long time member of the Society, Charles Horan, of Coward’s Hay Fever, in the new Studio theatre. This was the first production of a non-Shakespeare play by the Society. It would be the precedent for many other such productions over the next half-century.
The literary side was not ignored either. One issue dominated the academic side of the Society’s activities. This was the strong view held by the then President of the Society, Horace Kennedy- Skipton (an Oxford graduate), that the true author of Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets was John de Vere, 16th Earl of Oxford. The issue was hotly debated in the Society for a decade or more after Kennedy-Skipton first raised it in a lecture to the Society in 1952. In doing so, Kennedy- Skipton was supporting the case already made in public by the Shakespearean scholar G.W. Phillips, who was a personal friend of his. It appears that the whole debate became a rather divisive issue within the Society for a long period.
The 1950s was also the decade in which many actors who went on to become major names in theatre and/or film, started their acting careers with the Society. The most obvious examples include T.P. McKenna, who appeared in the Society’s productions of ‘As You Like It’ and ‘Julius Caesar’ in 1953, before joining Anew MacMaster’s company. Jim Norton played in the production of Richard III in 1951 along with his sister Betty Ann Norton.
The production of ‘the Scottish Play’ in 1952/3 saw Justice HA McCarthy in the lead role. This judicial figure was a regular cast member in the Society’s productions for many years, as was Al Byrne, brother of TV legend Gay Byrne. Gay is believed to have featured, as a teenager, in the 1953 production of Julius Caesar, with his brother Al playing Brutus,T P McKenna as Cassius and the redoubtable Justice McCarthy in the title role.
A brief dalliance with the lure of competitive glory on the All-Ireland circuit occurred in 1959 with a production of Hamlet, but it did not win the favour of the adjudicator in the finals at Athlone.
Among the cast was Mike Murphy, another major radio and TV personality who regularly acted with the Society between 1959 and 1962. There were other later forays into the world of competitive drama, for example in 1974, but this has not been a prominent feature of the Society’s activities down the years.