A Stage of Emancipation

BookA Stage of Emancipation

A Stage of Emancipation

Change and Progress at the Dublin Gate Theatre


April 29th, 2021


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An Open Access edition of this book is available on the Liverpool University Press website and the OAPEN library.
As the prominence of the recent #WakingTheFeminists movement illustrates, the Irish theatre world is highly conscious of the ways in which theatre can foster social emancipation. This volume of essays uncovers a wide range of marginalised histories by reflecting on the emancipatory role that the Dublin Gate Theatre (est. 1928) has played in Irish culture and society, both historically and in more recent times. The Gate’s founders, Hilton Edwards and Michéal mac Liammóir, promoted the work of many female playwrights and created an explicitly cosmopolitan stage on which repressive ideas about gender, sexuality, class and language were questioned. During Selina Cartmell’s current tenure as director, cultural diversity and social emancipation have also featured prominently on the Gate’s agenda, with various productions exploring issues of ethnicity in contemporary Ireland. The Gate thus offers a unique model for studying the ways in which cosmopolitan theatres, as cultural institutions, give expression to and engage with the complexities of identity and diversity in changing, globalised societies.
CONTRIBUTORS: David Clare, Marguérite Corporaal, Mark Fitzgerald, Barry Houlihan, Radvan Markus, Deirdre McFeely, Justine Nakase, Siobhan O'Gorman, Mary Trotter, Grace Vroomen, Ian R. Walsh, Feargal Whelan


‘The excellent essays in this collection add significantly to our knowledge of the Gate Theatre and its social and cultural practices and their contexts.’ Professor José Lanters, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

‘This rich stimulating collection revisions the work of Dublin’s Gate Theatre and celebrates how it posed radical challenges to Irish society’s social and cultural sore points and no-go-areas. Through a dazzling diversity of case studies in production, performance and theatrical practices the essays argue convincingly for the role of the Gate in confronting audiences with images and impacts that countered attitudes and assumptions about sexuality, gender, class divisions, racialization and Irish (including language) identity. While the Gate’s acknowledged theatrical aesthetics are not neglected, the book stresses the Gate Theatre’s achievement in juggling localism and cosmopolitanism with invigorating and engaging tension.’

Dr Cathy Leeney, University College Dublin

'A Stage of Emancipation is full of outstanding theatre scholarship from emerging and established voices. It provides fascinating insight into the role that the Dublin Gate Theatre has played in promoting social, economic, and cultural change within Irish society since the late 1920s. Most notably, it highlights the valiant efforts by key figures in the theatre’s history to bring marginalised stories and progressive attitudes to the Irish stage. This is an enormously valuable book for students, academics, and practitioners alike.'

Dr Fiona McDonagh, Mary Immaculate College, Limerick

'This collection makes room to breathe in Irish theatre – allowing us to inhale the extraordinary diversity of identities and artistry which were embodied on the Gate stage. Our eyes are opened once again to these forgotten legacies which challenge singular concepts of nation and society, transforming not only our understanding of the past but liberating our approach to theatre now.'

- Dr Melissa Sihra, Trinity College Dublin


Author Information

Marguérite Corporaal is Professor of Irish Literature in Transnational Contexts at Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands. Ruud van den Beuken is Assistant Professor of English Literature at Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands.

Table of Contents

Section TitlePage
1. Introduction
Marguérite Corporaal and Ruud van den Beuken
I: Liberating Bodies
2. Queering the Irish Actress: The Gate Theatre Production of Children in Uniform (1934)
Mary Trotter
3. Maura Laverty at the Gate: Theatre as Social Commentary in 1950s Ireland
Deirdre McFeely
II: Emancipating Communities
4. ‘Let’s Be Gay, While We May’: Artistic Platforms and the Construction of Queer Communities in Mary Manning’s Youth’s the Season–?
Grace Vroomen
5. Images and Imperatives: Robert Collis’s Marrowbone Lane (1939) at the Gate as Theatre for Social Change
Ian R. Walsh
III: Staging Minority Languages
6. Authenticity and Social Change on the Gate Stage in the 1970s: ‘Communicating with the People’
Barry Houlihan
7. Micheál mac Liammóir, the Irish Language and the Idea of Freedom
Radvan Markus
IV: Deconstructing Aesthetics
8. The Use of Minority Languages at Dublin’s Gate Theatre and Barcelona’s Teatre
Feargal Whelan and David Clare
9. Mogu and the Unicorn: Frederick May’s Music for the Gate Theatre
Mark Fitzgerald
10. Tartan Transpositions: Materialising Europe, Ireland and Scotland in the Designs of Molly MacEwen
Siobhán O’Gorman
V: Contesting Traditions in Contemporary Theatre
11. From White Othello to Black Hamlet: A History of Race and Representation at the Gate Theatre
Justine Nakase
12. Bending the Plots: Selina Cartmell’s Gate and Politics of Gender Inclusion
Marguérite Corporaal