The Irish Theatre Archive, what a Treasure Trove!

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Anna ManahanThe Irish Theatre Archive, held at Dublin City Library and Archive in Pearse Street, was founded in 1981 and now consists of over 250 collections, and 100,000 individual items. Included are collections deposited by theatres, theatre companies, individual actors, directors, costume and set designers, as well as theatre critics and fans. Collections can include theatre programs, handbills, posters, newspaper cuttings, stage managers books, production notes, costume and set designs, correspondence, administration files, scripts, photographs and recordings.

Right: Anna Manahan.

A number of detailed descriptive lists of various collections are now online and the list online is set to grow. The names associated with those collections are readily identifiable as giants of the Irish theatre world, names such as Jimmy O'Dea, Micheál Mac Liammóir,  Vernon Hayden, Christopher Casson, Hilton Edwards and Anna Manahan.

The Anna Manahan collection indeed was formally donated as recently as June 2015, having been on temporary loan for exhibition purposes to the Irish Theatre Archive since September 2009, by kind permission of Anna’s brothers Joe and Val Manahan.

About Anna Manahan (Excerpt):

irish Theatre Archive GreatsAnna Manahan was born in Waterford on 18 October 1924. After early success with her native Waterford Dramatic Society, Anna Manahan enrolled in the Gaiety School of Acting, run by Ria Mooney in 1944. Her first professional job was with Shelagh Ward’s fit up company, and throughout the late 1940’s and 1950’s, she worked as a freelance actor in many of Dublin’s theatres.

In 1955, she married stage director and actor Colm O’Kelly. He died less than a year later whilst they were both on tour in Egypt with the Gate Theatre Company. Anna went on stage that same night dedicating her performance to her husband. She never remarried.

Right: Some of the greats featured in the Irish Theatre Archive.

In 1957, she came to national prominence for her critically acclaimed role of Serafina in the first Irish production of Tennessee Williams' The Rose Tattoo in 1957. The production achieved unexpected notoriety when the cast were falsely accused of using a condom, then illegal in Ireland, on stage.

Rarely at rest, during her 60-year career Anna play at theatres throughout Ireland, Europe, the USA and Australia. She received a Tony Award nomination in 1969 for her role in the Broadway production of Brian's Friel's Lovers. Returning to Broadway 30 years later, she won the 1998 Tony Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama for her portrayal of doomed mother "Mag" in Martin McDonagh’s The Beauty Queen of Leenane.

Playwright John B. Keane wrote the play Big Maggie specifically for her and in her last stage role in 2005, she starred in Sisters, written for her by Declan Hassett. Her roles in television included The Riordans, as Mrs. Kenefick in Me Mammy, the lead in Leave it to Mrs O'Brien and as Mrs. Cadogan in The Irish R.M., and Ursula on Fair City. She also appeared  in such films as Ulysses, The Viking Queen and Clash of the Titans.

Among the honours Anna Manahan received during her lifetime was the Gold Medal of the Éire Society of Boston in 1984, the Freedom of Waterford City in 2002, and an honorary doctorate from the University of Limerick in 2003.

She became the first Patron of Active Retirement Ireland, in 2008, after she spoke out strongly against government proposals to remove universal entitlement to medical cards for the over-70s. She died on 8 March 2009.

Visit the Dublin City Library & Archive, Pearse Street, Dublin 2.

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