“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago, August 2, 1920, Abbey Theatre, Lower Abbey Street, Dublin, Ireland

Opening night.

Sara Allgood, 40, is ready. She has played the title character in Cathleen ni Houlihan many times, but not for a few years now. The play, billed as being by the poet William Butler Yeats, 55—but everyone knows that his fellow Abbey co-founder Lady Augusta Gregory, 68, wrote most of it—has become the Abbey’s signature piece.

Sara-Allgood younger

Sara Allgood

Premiered back in 1902, before the theatre even had this building on Abbey Street, the star then was Yeats’ love, English-Irish activist Maud Gonne, now 53, and the play caused quite a stir for its nationalistic themes. Some critics said Gonne was just playing herself.

The theatre has staged Cathleen many times, including for its own opening night as the Abbey, during the Christmas holidays in 1904, when Sara played a smaller part.

The seven performances this week—including the Saturday matinee—are the first time it’s been performed at the Abbey since St. Patrick’s Day last year. On the infamous night when Lady Gregory herself stepped into the lead role when the scheduled actress was taken ill.

So no pressure there, Sara.

original abbey theatre

Abbey Theatre, Lower Abbey Street, Dublin

After this run, she jumps next week right in to the lead in the late John Millington Synge’s masterpiece, Riders to the Sea. Just three performances for that gem, about a widow who loses all her sons to the sea. For a one-act, it’s an emotional roller coaster.

Later in the month, she’s scheduled to star in some of the smaller plays the Abbey is known for. She’s looking forward to working again with one of their new stars, Barry Fitzgerald, 32, who had his breakthrough just last year in Lady Gregory’s The Dragon.

A widow herself, having lost her husband to the Spanish flu two years ago, Sara is proud that she has been able to have a career as a full-time actress for the past fifteen years.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the book, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s, to be published by K. Donnelly Communications. For more information, email me at kaydee@gpysyteacher.com.

This fall I will be talking about writers’ salons in Ireland, England, France and America before and after the Great War in the Osher Lifelong Learning programs at University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie-Mellon University.

Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions.

My presentation, “Such Friends”:  Dorothy Parker and the Algonquin Round Table, is available to view on the website of PICT Classic Theatre. The program begins at the 11 minute mark, and my presentation at 16 minutes.

If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, you can download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”: Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.

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