The 1960s

The 1960s was another good decade for the Society. The membership increased with the new emphasis on stage productions, but the records are somewhat incomplete as to the actual number of productions presented.

There are records of at least 6 productions of Shakespeare plays and the Society presented an O'Casey play, The Shadow of a Gunman, for the first time, in the studio in the early 1960's (The records don't give a date.) It was the last production there as 'the studio' moved to its most enduring premises – in the basement of No. 50 North Great George's St- in 1968. It would remain the Society's home until 1988.

One particular production of the 'Scottish Play' in 1962 provides an indication of the quality of the actors working with the Society then. The production featured a young Donal McCann (in two parts), later to achieve national and international fame as an actor, Maire O'Neill (Lady Macbeth), later of the Abbey theatre, the future film director Bob Quinn (Banquo), as well as Mike Murphy (Macduff). Later that year McCann and O'Neill took the leading parts in As You Like It.

Another 'high' during the decade was a production of Hamlet at the newly restored Casletown House, in 1969 by the late Liam McGuinness, a long time stalwart, and later President, who first joined the Society in 1952 and remained active until the mid-1990s. The main hallway of the House was used for the setting and the sweeping staircase was employed to provide an unusually dramatic entrance for the Ghost.
The commitment to the young generation – set out in the original objects of the Society was not forgotten. A notable development was an annual Shakespeare Festival for Schools. This commenced in the 1960s and, although it lapsed for a while, it resumed in 1977 and continued until 1987. By 1983 the competition was attracting upwards of 20 schools. The W.G. Mulvin Cup was awarded for the best production, while the Hugh Gunn memorial trophy was awarded for the best performer.

Two long-time members of the Society – Margaret Gunn ( now Margaret Healy-Doyle) and Rosemary Warner devoted considerable time and attention to organising these important annual Schools Festivals. Margaret is also an accomplished actress who played many leading roles in a long and distinguished career with the Society.

Posted in Decades, History.