Tag Archives: Queen’s Theatre

Political Context to the Queen’s Theatre Visualisation Project

Here’s another blog post I did in which I try to sum up some one hundred years of Irish history in 500 words. I mostly fail, I think the most telling part is when I stop to admit what I’ve been saying has little pertinence to the overall project, which can be found here. I also have a few inaccuracies and incorrectly used words, but I do slam de Valera, which is fun.

This blog post provides a historical context for the Queen’s Theatre by outlining Ireland’s political and economic situation in the first half of the twentieth century.Events such as the 1916 Rising and the ensuing Civil War cast a long shadow over Irish political discourse even today, as can be seen by the ongoing controversy as to how best to celebrate the 1916 Rising, or whether such an event should even be celebrated.

In 1914, the failures of constitutional parliamentarians such as John Redmond to both secure a definite deal on Home Rule with the British government and assuage the anxieties of Unionists in the North of Ireland led to a situation that more fringe minorities could take advantage of, as is demonstrated by the formation of both the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Irish Volunteer Force. In this environment, the Irish Republican Brotherhood became increasingly radicalised, as exemplified by Patrick Pearse’s inflammatory rhetoric at Fenian leader Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa’s funeral in 1915: “Life springs from death, and from the graves of patriotic men and women spring living nations.” A minority were determined to take advantage of the timing of the Great War. Others within the IRB, such as IRB’s chief-of-staff Eoin MacNeill, were reluctant to adopt violence as a means to independence : “To my mind, those who feel impelled towards military action on any of the grounds that I have stated are really impelled by a sense of feebleness or dependency or fatalism, or byan instinct of satisfying their own emotions or escaping from a difficult…situation.”

Reactions to the Rising were multiple and varied. Many urban dwellers seized the opportunity in the immediate aftermath to loot a number of shops in the surrounding area. For some members of a younger generation, such as then-medical student and later IRA officer Ernie O’Malley, the occasion was stirring and brought about an increase in Volunteers. It was not until subsequent events relating to the Rising that public opinion began to soften with regards to the actions of the Volunteers. Among these events were J.C. Power-Colthurst’s shooting of Francis Sheehy-Skeffington  during the events of the Rising, the excessive measures of the British government against those responsible (fifteen executions) and Dublin Castle’s attempts to pin responsibility for the outbreak of violence on moderate parliamentarians.

In the Irish Free State created in the aftermath of the civil war, the maintenance of income from agriculture was regarded as crucial to further prosperity. An economic policy of protectionism was adopted, albeit an incoherent one. Tariffs on imported goods were established but with no attempt made to create a domestic industry of production. This policy, combined with a lack of funding for the development of  employment schemes, led to widespread emigration. De Valera’s vision for rural Ireland as being made up of self-sustaining, frugal and anti-materialist family units ignored the metropolitan and anglicised lifestyle in urban centres such as Dublin, where 21.1% were employed in finance, 12% in administration, 13.7% personal services and 32.2% in agricultural production. Economic growth remained sluggish throughout ‘the Emergency,’ for the obvious reasons.

How the Queen’s theatre fits into a survey of Irish history of this kind can be difficult to quantify. Pearse’s uncompromising vision of an independent Ireland and ideologically driven economic mismanagement can seem to have little bearing on the function of the Queen’s Theatre as a venue for light entertainment. However, what is important to recall is that the Queen’s remained a site of cultural practice throughout many generations, and during one of the most tumultuous periods in Irish history until it closed in 1966. It furthermore remained a Dublin landmark until 1969. When The Plough and the Stars (1926)  was staged in the Queen’s, its political contentiousness perhaps did not match that of the earlier productions in the Abbey when widows of victims of the Rising, including Hannah Sheehy Skeffington,  disrupted the performance, but it was in a city that within living memory had been the site of a divisive conflict. When the Abbey Theatre Company took up residence in the Queen’s, the Irish Free State was only twenty-nine years old. For projects like this Queen’s Theatre Visualisation Project, it is important that the space inhabited by the theatre-whether that space is physical or social-be reconstructed also.

Information on the history of the Abbey Theatre Company at the Queen’s can be found here.

Further Reading

Brown, Terence. Ireland: A Social and Cultural History 1922-2002. London: Harper Perennial, 2004. Print.

Foster, R.F. Modern Ireland 1600-1970.London: Penguin Books, 1989. Print.

Kiberd, Declan. Inventing Ireland: The Literature of the Modern Nation. England: Vintage, 1994. Print.

Morash, Christopher. A History of Irish Theatre 1601-2000. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. Print.


Literary Context to the Queen’s Theatre Visualisation Project

The following is a blog post intended to establish the literary context to the Queen’s Theatre visualisation project, which I undertook as part of my MPhil in Digital Humanities and Culture. The project itself can be found here. I make an argument about a strong literary tradition being in some way a bad thing. I’m not sure what I was thinking. Very little.

The intention of this blog post is to provide a literary context for the Queen’s Theatre Project. This post deals with the Irish literary and cultural scene in the early twentieth century which can seem to have a somewhat tangential relationship to the Queen’s Theatre itself. Nevertheless, it is hoped that this brief survey will prove illuminating to those who are unfamiliar with the development of Irish cultural nationalism. Furthermore, the range of this cultural watershed is not limited to the years in which they could be said to have taken place. Critics such as Anthony Cronin have argued that the movement set in motion by Lady Gregory, William Butler Yeats and others had a stultifying influence on the literary generations that followed. From the biographies and works produced by authors such as Flann O’Brien, Brendan Behan and Patrick Kavanagh, one can see the negative effects of a powerful literary tradition resonate into the 1950’s.

In September 1897, Yeats, folklorist Lady Gregory and writer Edward Martyn began to plan the creation of an Irish National Theatre.  It should be remembered that discussions of a cultural renaissance involving organisations such as this literary theatre or the Gaelic League, reflect a political agenda shaped by a minority grouping of urban intelligentsia, while, as R.F. Foster writes, “life went on in eighteenth-century tenements [in Dublin city] bereft of water or sanitation.” Furthermore, the activities of the Irish National Theatre Society similarly reflect the niche interests of a small segment of society. Yeats’ intended audience was “that limited public which gives understanding,” and he records that he would “not mind greatly if others are bored.” Attendance of productions such as The Playboy of the Western World (1907) and Cathleen Ní Houlihon (1902) was far outstripped by the public’s interest in light-opera and music hall performances. As Christopher Morash writes in his A History of Irish Theatre 1601-2000 (2002), “on that same December night, as Maire Ní Shiubhlaigh was playing Cathleen Ní Houlihan…across the Liffey almost two thousand people were howling for the informer’s blood in Whitbread’s Sarsfield at the Queen’s.” This is, at least partially, the rationale for projects of this kind. By drawing attention to the more popular forms of Irish cultural life, it is possible that the oversights of Irish historiography can be corrected and the milieu of mid-twentieth century Dublin life can be reflected more accurately.

The events surrounding the reception of J.M. Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World further points to Yeats’ talents as regards the art of self-promotion. Yeats took a dim view of those who disrupted the second performance of the play, dismissing them as “commonplace and ignorant people,” who “had no books in their houses.” He also brought a sectarian dimension to the affair, drawing a line between the behaviour of the owners of the Irish Literary Theatre, mostly Protestants, and those disruptive members of the audience – and the public in general – objecting to the content of the play. For Yeats, their behaviour was indicative of characteristics inherent to members of the Catholic religion: “We have not such pliant bones, and did not learn in the houses that bred us a so suppliant knee.”

Much of the information we have about the Dublin literary scene at the time of the Celtic Revival and beyond has been obtained from the unpublished manuscript written by the architect and theatre fanatic Joseph Holloway. Holloway’s Impressions of a Dublin Playgoer (1895-1944) is a massive and rich resource containing a number of manuscript volumes in which he wrote extensive reviews and information about various performances he attended in almost all of Dublin’s theatres, such as the Abbey, the Queen’s and the Antient Concert Rooms. Holloway also designed the Abbey for the purposes of the Irish Literary Theatre and was commissioned to do so by Annie Horniman, a theatre manager and patron. For further information on Irish theatre, it is recommended to consult Holloway’s diaries and the texts provided in the Further Reading section below.

Further Reading

Brown, Terence. Ireland: A Social and Cultural History 1922-2002.London, Harper Perennial, 2004. Print.

Foster, R.F. Modern Ireland 1600-1970.London, Penguin Books, 1989. Print.

Kiberd, Declan. Inventing Ireland: The Literature of the Modern Nation. England, Vintage, 1994. Print.

Morash, Christopher. A History of Irish Theatre 1601-2000. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2002. Print.

Digital Humanities Internship Blog Post #3 – Dissemination and ‘Adding Value’

The following is the third blog post written in order to document progress on ‘The Lost Theatres of Dublin’ internship as part of an MPhil in Digital Humanities and Culture. A fundamental aspect of any project towards its end, whether it is in the digital humanities or otherwise, is a process of ‘stock taking.’ This entails some reflection and consideration of the value that a particular project can be said to have added or created. In this third and final blog post, the added value of this project will be considered aswell as potential plans for the dissemination of the TEI transcription of Joseph Holloway’s Impressions of a Dublin Playgoer (1895-1944) that refer to the Queen’s Theatre. What may be done with this resource in future projects that engage with the resource of this kind will also be touched upon aswell as the relationship that this prospective fully digitised edition of the Impressions will have with the end product of approximately 36000 words that came about as a result of this internship project.

If this project can be said to have added value to Holloway’s Impressions as a resource, it can be said that it provided added accessibility to the parts of the manuscript that have been transcribed. As has been said in previous posts, Holloway’s Impressions can be obtained only from the National Library of Ireland as they are contained within an unpublished manuscript. When excerpts from the Impressions have appeared in print form, they have only done so in a very restricted or partial format because of the variegated quality of its contents. Holloway has been quoted in various studies carried out by theatre historians such as in Christopher Morash’s A History of Irish Theatre 1601-2000 (2002). In contexts such as these, Holloway often proves useful in providing the kind of eyewitness testimony that only his writings in the Impressions can afford. Those excerpts published by the Proscenium Press also mentioned in previous posts appear in a heavily edited form and only feature subject matter deemed to be of interest to academic researchers or theatre historians. Admittedly, they serve as one among a small number of publications that correspond to a particular, post-Celtic revival era in Irish theatrical history that is barely dealt with in comparison to the wealth of literature and criticism produced on the Celtic Revival era.

This project does not necessarily improve on the very partial nature of publications of the Impressions. Like the Proscenium Press edition, this project had a limited scope in transcribing only those parts of the Impressions that dealt with the Queen’s Theatre. Furthermore, in order to feature in the transcription in the first place, it was deemed necessary that they be easily accessible according to Holloway’s idiosyncratic means of indexation. This project also had to operate on a limited time scale as it was being marked as part of a module on an MPhil course. As such, much of its allotted time was spent on coming to grips with the logistics of the resource itself. This was done firstly, in order to navigate it effectively in order to produce the project’s anticipated deliverable, secondly, in to document its idiosyncratic composition so that these potential stumbling blocks could be communicated to others. This was done both for the benefit of those who will be engaging with the resource in the future and in order to present the project and its results, which was a requirement of this internship. These difficulties were essentially a result of having to deal with a resource that is available only in the form of a microfilm held in the National Library of Ireland. Reformatting a manuscript onto microfilm obviously has its advantages, especially when dealing with a manuscript such as Holloway’s, which is, one of a kind. It is an extremely valuable resource. However, moving through a reel, often at high speeds entailed that it became very difficult to lose one’s sense of place. There is no doubt that the manuscript itself would have been more straightforward to navigate, but with the restrictions that accompany the viewing of a manuscript in the NLI, this was not a workable solution.

As this transcription will be disseminated on the digital platform WordPress, each entry will be tagged and it is therefore the case that these excerpts that have been produced will be far more easily accessible than in the form that they appear on the microfilm. It is primarily for this reason that the transcription will be uploaded into segments onto a WordPress site. WordPress was chosen as a publishing platform as it is a low-maintenance content management system. In contrast with more powerful and visually based content management system such as Omeka, it deals primarily in text, which is a means best suited to the dissemination of this project’s sequence of transcriptions. Furthermore, WordPress allows for the input of TEI mark-up in such a way that will not affect the text that the end-user or reader of the blog post encounters, while maintaining the added advantage of not losing the code when it is uploaded to WordPress. WordPress also has the added advantage of allowing one to schedule the date that a particular post will be published, allowing for Holloway’s account of a production to appear on the date that he initially wrote it, whether this be 120, 115 or 95 years ago. When one of these posts appears, a Twitter account will broadcast the publication of a particular post. It is intended that the tweet read: “On this day [x number of years] ago, Joseph Holloway attended [y performance] in the Queen’s Theatre Dublin.” This tweet will then include a link to the post in question. The addition of the date and the provision of the Impressions in a blog format will have the added advantage of engaging a wider group of people, such as amateur historians who would not normally have an interest in literature or theatre history, simply because an anniversary of a particular historical event will be more likely to attract the attention of a member of the general public, in contrast to critics with more specialised interests. It should also be noted that this means of dissemination is being adopted at a time when 100 year anniversaries are gaining a greater centrality in historical discourse surrounding various nations or institutions. One can see this from recent 100-year retrospectives on World War I, the Abbey Theatre’s ‘110 Moments,’ campaign and the upcoming centenary of the 1916 Rising. It should also be noted that many of these campaigns have a strong social media presence in order to generate increased publicity and draw the public’s attention to various events or informative articles about commemoration and their history. It is hoped that through this means of dissemination that mimics the celebration of historical anniversaries of prominence in public discourse that there will be an increase in interest surrounding Irish theatre and the Impressions in particular. By spreading information about the diaries through social media it is also hoped that the transcribed excerpts will then be of benefit to researchers in Irish theatre.

At the time of writing, it is anticipated that a fully digitised version of the Impressions is to be produced through a crowdsourcing model along the lines of transcription projects such as ‘Transcribe Bentham’ or ‘Letters of 1916.’ The planning of this project is still very much in the preliminary stages but if this initiative is to go ahead it is anticipated that it will make use of a TEI schema in much the same way that other successful crowdsourcing projects have in the past. If this is to be done it is recommended that the TEI schema that has been produced and justified in this internship’s second blog post will be maintained, not only so that the TEI document that this project produced will have proved useful but also because the features that have been marked up, names of actors, playwrights, dates of performances and titles of plays can make the text easily indexable and flag features of the text that will be important to critics, historians and amateur researchers. It should also be noted that were this crowdsourcing initiative to take place as planned, the social media presence of the Holloway diaries, the drawing of people’s attention to various anniversaries of particular performances would be an invaluable feature of this project’s crowdsourcing initiative and driving of potential contributors to the site. this would serve as an example of content which could increase and develop people’s interest in the content of Holloway’s manuscripts.

Permission was applied for from the National Library of Ireland for usage of excerpts from the Impressions for a blog site. This permission for usage is pending at the time of writing, but work will begin on the uploading of the transcription into WordPress once it has been granted.

Digital Humanities Internship Blog Post #2 – ‘Why So Called I Know Not:’ Transcribing and TEI Marking Up Joseph Holloway’s ‘Impressions of a Dublin Playgoer’

The following is the second blog post written in order to document progress on ‘The Lost Theatres of Dublin’ internship as part of the MPhil in Digital Humanities and Culture. This first post will detail the process of transcribing excerpts from Joseph Holloway’s ‘Impressions of a Dublin Playgoer’ that refer to the Queen’s Theatre and with the process of translating this transcription into a TEI document marked up according to the TEI-C guidelines.

It was decided at the start of this internship that the status of the manuscript itself would not form part of the TEI code and what mattered was the recording of the content, independent of the form in which it appeared. As such, features such as line breaks, blemishes or annotations were not transcribed.

Holloway’s punctuation is often inconsistent. His periods, commas and hyphens are used interchangeably and sometimes he will refrain from punctuating his sentences at all. Instead, they are allowed to run into one another. This led to procedural difficulties, not only because transcription becomes more difficult when dealing with jumbled syntax, but because at this point in the project it was decided that the end product would probably be provided on an open-access website. As Holloway’s diaries are presumably of interest to both amateur theatre enthusiasts as well as researchers, it was decided that as part of the transcription process the punctuation and spelling would be standardised, both in order for the code to make sense for the end-user or reader and in order to not give the impression that mistakes were made at the encoding or transcription stage. In one instance, in the entry given for the production of Sisyphus or the Forgotten Friend (1900), Holloway’s misspelling of the name of the character ‘Sisyphus’ as ‘Sisiphus’ was maintained and encoded using the element. The mistake was encoded within the element and the corrected spelling ‘Sisyphus’ was encoded by use of the element.

The TEI Header is a fundamental component of TEI documents and contains metadata relevant to the text that is being marked up. The element in turn contains and elements. It was decided that the title of this particular TEI document would be Excerpts from the microfilmed manuscript of Joseph Holloway’s ‘Impressions of a Dublin Playgoer’ from the years 1895, 1896, 1900, 1905 & 1910 as regards the Queen’s Theatre. This somewhat cumbersome title was used because if the title was simply Impressions of a Dublin Playgoer it could have been regarded as an inaccurate or misleading title, as if the full manuscript is being encoded, rather than just a series of excerpts. The was encoded as ‘Joseph Holloway.’ His birth and death dates, (1861-1944) were also provided inside this element.

The lists ‘Joseph Holloway’ as being the person responsible for originally preparing the manuscript. However, if Holloway was the sole individual credited with the creation of the text, it would ignore the role of those responsible for creating the microfilm of the manuscript. Unfortunately, in the ‘credits’ for the microfilm at the beginning of the reel, the individuals responsible for carrying out the work of converting the manuscript to film are not named. Instead, The American Microfilm Company, the company responsible for the project of converting the Manuscripts of the Irish Literary Renaissance, is named. The American Microfilm Company was therefore named in the as converting the manuscript into microfilm. ‘Chris Beausang’ was named as editor and transcriber.

The element gave the publication status of the manuscript as “Unpublished” and the fact that it is currently held by the National Library of Ireland. The address of the National Library of Ireland, Kildare Street, Dublin 2, was provided in the element.

The element was 2015, the year that this project commenced, rather than the year that the manuscript was written or the conversion into microfilm was carried out, in order to accurately reflect the time that the TEI file was created and written.

The element contained a element, to indicate the presence of bibliographic information about the resource being marked up. The following statement was inserted into this element: “Selections from Joseph Holloway’s ‘Impressions of a Dublin Playgoer,’ microfilmed by The American Microfilm Company in 1968.”

The and elements provide a good opportunity to summarise the rationale behind the project. The following text was placed within these tags between

tags: “This TEI document was prepared as part of a ‘Lost Theatres of Dublin’ internship. This was done in order to potentially provide a basis for a future, fully digitised, TEI version of the diaries. Each date, performance, actor, playwright and company was marked up. Each entry and year is contained in a separate ‘div’ element.” The contains in turn the elements and . In the element and through use of the

tags, it was indicated that punctuation is corrected ‘silently,’ meaning that their correction is not stated in the TEI code itself. As was stated earlier, this is because the preservation of the manuscript and its bibliographic codes was not a priority for this project. In the element, the following was embedded between the

tags: “Notes are not encoded as notes. Syntax and punctuation is corrected when the lack of punctuation corrupts the sense.”

When the first year being transcribed is encoded, the

element was used. The

was ‘year’ and the year was provided by using n= immediately afterwards. Here is an example for encoding the

for the year 1895:


When beginning a new entry for a particular performance, the

element is also used, but the div type is, in this instance, given as the word ‘performance.’ The element is also used, but the use of the element necessitated use of the element , as the TEI-C assumes that the use of would always be used in a context pertaining to bibliographic information. The result for the first entry in Holloway’s diary that pertains to the Queen’s Theatre is the play Forty Thieves and reads as follows: “

Forty Thieves.”

The text of Holloway’s entries is contained within the

tags. Though this was not a priority, this breaking of paragraphs only when a new entry is started has the serendipitous effect of being faithful to the layout of the manuscript as Holloway never uses paragraph breaks inside of a single entry.

Holloway provides the date of each entry in the following format: “21 September” followed by a dash or hyphen. This was embedded inside the element while a more expansive and detailed account of the date was provided inside the angled brackets. The result is as follows: “21 Monday”.

When a theatre company is referenced in one of Holloway’s entries, it is encoded as such, using the element . By way of example, the following is one instance of how the Milton-Rays company is encoded in TEI. Milton-Rays .

When Holloway’s writing was too difficult to decipher or the ink Holloway used blotted or the text had faded (either from the microfilm or the manuscript itself) the tag was used. Initially a guess as to what was said was embedded between the opening and closing tags but this practice was discontinued because of the likelihood that it was inaccurate. The unclear tags appear in the TEI document without these guesses and read as follows: “.” This has the advantage of allowing those who may wish to build on the work of this project to see where the absences in this project are and will allow them to be filled in more easily.

Performer’s names are encoded using the tag and the fact that they are performers is declared through use of the @type attribute. An example of this from Holloway’s first entry reads as follows: “Miss Ellie White.”

When Holloway refers to a character in the play by their name, the same element and @type attribute is used, as in the following example: “Lassim.”

Holloway sometimes notes what time that he gets home at or at what time the performance ended. Initially, this was marked up using the element, with the ‘when’ @type attribute, but this was discontinued, as Holloway only uses it a handful of times in the entire corpus. The fact that this was used only a limited number of times made it structurally insignificant.

When a playwright is mentioned, the element with the @type attribute is used to declare them as such. However, it seems that playwrights often appeared as performers in the plays that they write. Therefore, what they are declared as being depended on context and were decided on a case by case basis.

On or two occasions, Holloway mentions the person responsible for the scenery, probably in instances where the scenery was of sufficient quality to merit discussion. As these instances are as rare as they are, it was decided that another @type attribute would not be used. The mentioning of the scenographer is so infrequent, creating a new @type seemed gratuitous. Instead, the @type attribute ‘performer’ was used, which is not inaccurate, considering the porous nature of different roles in travelling theatre companies.