The 1980s was a phenomenal decade for the Society, with a total of 51 productions presented, 16 of which were full productions of Shakespeare plays. The Society celebrated its 75th anniversary in 1982 under the Presidency of Jack Brereton, another stalwart of the Society, who brought his unique talents as musician, actor and raconteur to many of the Society’s shows and entertainment before ’emigrating’ to Donegal in the late 1980s.
An ambitious programme of 6 productions was presented during the 1982 anniversary year. It included The Winter’s Tale, directed by Jim O’Malley in March and a memorable adaptation by Celia Harte (de Freine) of Brian Merriman’s famous Irish language poem The Midnight Court, in May. Music was composed for the production by Fergus Johnston, who would establish himself as a leading Irish composer. Among the supporting musicians was a young Liam O’Maonlai – later of the Hot House Flowers. Liam’s father, Sean Manley, was an active member of the Society for many years, and President at one time.
The decade also saw the arrival of three new directors: Gerry Stembridge, Pat Burke and Paul Maher.
Gerry showed all the signs of the imagination and innovation he would bring later to the professional stage (and to film) in memorable productions such as Henry IV, Part I and Part II – generally regarded as one of the best productions in the Dublin theatre in 1984. His perambulating production of Richard III in 1988 brought the audience literally to their feet, by making use of the entire basement area of the studio space, including the back yard. Gerry would show another side of his many talents playing the lead part (Frank Hardy) in Pat Burke’s production of Friel’s Faith Healer in May 1987 – his first with the DSS.
Pat has brought his array of talents as an actor, director, tutor and lecturer to the service of the Society since 1987, and he occupied the position of President in the Society’s centenary year. Pat has a particular empathy with the plays of Ireland’s foremost contemporary playwright – Brian Friel. He has directed four of the author’s works for the Society over the years, as well as a number of other plays, including four by Shakespeare.
Paul Maher’s first production for the Society was the 1987 production of Julius Caesar at the Damer Hall. Since then he has helped to widen the range of the Society’s offerings to include classics of the modern theatre (e.g. Eugene O’Neill, Camus, Athol Fugard and his own translation of a work by the distinguished post-war Spanish playwright Antonio Buero Vallejo). Paul has also paid attention to work from the classical Spanish theatre (Calderon and Tirso de Molina). Paul’s collaboration with John Flood as designer has been one of the most fruitful artistic collaborations in the Society’s recent history. Other established members remained very active through the decade too.
David O’Brien, another Past-President of the Society, made his directorial debut with Miss Julie in 1979. He also contributed memorable productions such as Equus (1986) and A Man For All Seasons (1988) and remained active with the Society into the 1990s, before moving to the professional theatre. Equus involved a rare acting appearance by Dorothy Dennis, who joined the Society in 1978/9 and was a long-serving Secretary of the Society during the 1980s.
Many others members who were active during the decade, such as Liam Cunningham, Veronica Coburn, Joe Kelly, Anthony Brophy, Deirdre Kinahan, Derek Reid, Martin Maguire, Brid Ni Chumhail, John Morgan, Brenda Larby, Padraig Denihan, Anto Nolan, moved on to make their mark in professional theatre. Mention should also be made of Pat Moylan who featured in a number of the Society’s productions, before embarking on a very successful career as a theatre producer, and manager of the Andrew’s Lane theatre.
The decade ended with a severe blow when the Society was forced to vacate its long – held studio premises at 50 North Great Georges St. in 1988. The final production in the studio – Gerry Stembridge’s Richard III (referred to above) – took place in November 1988.
A temporary spell at 41 North Great Georges St. followed, and in an intensive period between May 1989 and October 1991 no less than 13 productions were presented in the new studio there. These included productions from established directors such as The Iceman Cometh (1989) by Paul Maher, Conversations on a Homecoming (1990) by Pat Burke, Twelfth Night (1990) by Gerry Stembridge and Mrs Warren’s Profession (1989) by Eilis Mullan. The latter production was the last involving the design talents of Martin Dorgan, who contributed many notable set designs to the Society’s productions.
But sadly, the Society found itself without a permanent home from the end of 1991, when it had to vacate its last exclusive studio.
The final production was by a new name on the roll of directors – Savio Sequira’s production of An Enemy Of The People, in Sep/Oct 1991. An achievement of that last tenancy was the imaginative use made by the various directors of the challenging spatial dimensions of the studio location.