Lady (Isabella) Augusta Gregory

Definition

Theater

  • (1852 - 1932) Irish playwright, who with W. B. Yeatscofounded Dublin's Abbey Theatre. The first plays presentedat the Abbey (on 27 December 1904) were her own one-act comedy Spreadingthe News and Yeats's On Baile's Strand. A daughter of theAnglo-Irish ascendancy who had been converted to nationalism and theIrish movement in the arts, she wrote her first play at the age of51. Her best works were dialect comedies about Irish peasant life,including Hyacinth Halvey (1906) and The Gaol Gate (1906),although her tragedy Dervorgilla (1907) was also much acclaimed.As a director of the Abbey, she championed the works of J. M. Synge,George Bernard Shaw, and Sean O'Casey. The success of the ventureowed much to her formidable capacity for getting things done or persuadingothers to do them. In the cause of the Abbey she fought censors, bravedrioting mobs, and, in the 1920s, obtained the first state subsidyfor a theater in the English-speaking world.

    Lady Gregory also translated Molière's plays into Irishdialect as well as contributing to several works by Yeats, includingThe Pot of Broth (1902) and the fervently patriotic Cathleenni Houlihan (1902).

    If the audience was poor, she would go out by the stage doorwhen the curtain was up and come round to the front hall to enterthe auditorium in the dark and pass as a new arrival, thus encouraginga thin attendance. She knew every aspect of her theater...downto the bit of worn carpet leading to the stalls, the bit that mustbe cut out and have another sewn in because there wasn't enough moneyto buy a new carpet. The Abbey was the centre of her life, and becauseof her, and her partnership with Yeats, it survived.
    Ulick O'Connor: Celtic Dawn
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