‘The Bread Man’ by Frank Mc Guinness

This year, the Allingham Festival Committee invited Ballyshannon Drama Society to collaborate on a new production for the Allingham Festival, and the fruit of that collaboration was a wonderful performance of ‘The Bread Man’ by Frank Mc Guinness, with the playwright himself visibly moved by the performance.

Once Mc Guinness had been confirmed as the guest of honour at the festival, he offered the committee the revised script of his 1990 play ‘The Bread Man’, which he hadn’t seen produced in nearly thirty years. Carl Duggan approached the other members of the drama society to gauge interest. With Keith Robinson available to direct, auditions were held, and a cast of 13 embarked on months of rehearsals.

‘The Bread Man’ is set in an unnamed north Donegal town in 1970s (easily recognisable as Buncrana). The play focuses on ‘The Sinner Courtney’, a bread man whose behaviour has become erratic following the death of his father, and the reactions of his family and other local characters to his unusual activities.

The show opened to a large audience on Wednesday November the 6th, with a special performance on Friday the 8th, as the play was preceded by a special tribute to Frank Mc Guinness by the Allingham Festival. The tributes began with a letter from former President Mary Mc Aleese, read by Mary Duggan, in which she recalled how the ‘brilliantly chosen words’ of Mc Guinness’s play ‘Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme’ created a ‘platform of shared memory’, ‘the might of words disrupting our lazy world with hidden truths we needed to face’. Following this, Caitríona Mc Laughlin, Associate Director with the Abbey Theatre, who also hails from Inishowen, took to the stage to talk about Frank’s contribution to Irish theatre. She spoke of how Mc Guinness’s ‘unapologetically-Donegal’ voice had been an inspiration to her own work in theatre.

Then it was time for the performance itself, which received a rapturous round of applause from the audience. The Chairperson of the Allingham Festival, Conor Carney, broke character at the end of play to announce that there was one more tribute to be shared, and proceeded to read a letter from Uachatarán na hÉireann, Michael D. Higgins, which pointed out that ‘as a playwright and a novelist he courageously pushed boundaries as he explored the social, religious and political truths that defined the island of Ireland’. Allingham Committee members Sally Stephens and Anne Drummond then presented Mr. Mc Guinness with gifts, including a photo by Emer O’Shea and framed copies of both presidential tributes.

Finally it was time for Mr. Mc Guinness to speak. Clearly moved by the performance, he thanked everyone involved in the production, particularly director Keith Robinson for bringing his show to life, lead actor Michael Mc Mullin who he declared ‘perfect’ as The Sinner, and the production team for showing him how the play should be presented, ‘as a picture’.

This was a fantastic end to the production, which brought a number of new actors into the society, and saw more experienced members of the society volunteering to assist in all aspects of the show. Congratulations to everyone involved, on and off stage, for creating a fantastic night of drama and celebration in the Abbey Arts Centre.

Director: Keith Robinson

The Cast:

The Sinner Courtney – Michael McMullin

Florence Courtney – Emer McShea

Dan Courtney – Ronan Drummond

Pat Courtney – Farah Bogle

Tommy Courtney – Conor Carney

Rose Kiely – Ailis McIntyre

James Kiely – Mark Kirby

Albert Casey – Ken Monaghan

Niall Wilmot – Niall McKee

Simon Breslin – Diarmuid McInerney

Eddie Rodgers – Sean McLoone

Susan Crilly – Roisin Lee-Fox

George Crilly – Terence McEneaney

Set Design: Trish Keane
Sound: Conor Beattie
Lighting: Mark Fearon
Producer: Carl Duggan

‘Earnest’ receives 4 nominations in All Ireland Final

Our time with Oscar and Earnest came to an end on Saturday night at the All Ireland Amateur Drama awards ceremony in the Radisson, Athlone. Congratulations to the overall winners, Prosperous Dramatic Society, whose production of ‘An Enemy of the People’ received awards in acting, directing and stage management.
‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ received four nominations in total:
Rachel O’Connor was nominated for Best Actress for her role as Lady Bracknell;
Sean Donegan was nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role as Algernon Moncrieff;
Trish Keane was nominated for Best Set;
Carl Duggan was nominated for Best Stage Management.
Congratulations to all the nominees! Unfortunately we didn’t take any trophies away on the night, but we are still immensely proud of the show we put on in Athlone last week, and we had a great night together to celebrate everything we achieved on the circuit.
Many thanks once again to all our wonderful supporters who have helped and encouraged us on the way.
Ballyshannon Drama Society will be taking a bit of a break from production after months in rehearsal and on the circuit but planning has already begun for the 2020 Confined Finals, and conversations about new productions have begun on the periphery.
Watch this space!

A Letter from the Chair

It was September 25th 2018, the meeting was a party of five and home made apple-tart was our appetiser on an evening where six scripts were discarded and a special one chosen.

Auditions were

Earnest Ballyshannon'19 (5)

advertised, excitement grew, and one week later ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ was given the breath of life, or should I say the breath of nine lives.

We had our first cast reading in our theatre’s green room. It was wonderful to hear the play read aloud, words weaving the comical story and characters coming to life. It was obvious by the end of the reading that “Earnest” was the right choice for our group .
Our Wilde Winter sport was set in motion. We had all stepped into a surreal world of 19th century language, a story first performed in London on February 14th 1895. 124 years later, Ballyshannon Drama Society performed the play, opening on February 12th 2019 for a four night run on our home stage in the Abbey Arts Centre, before embarking on the Open circuit journey, hoping to qualify for The All Ireland Finals in Athlone.
Earnest Ballyshannon'19 (12)

We competed in 8 venues around the country: Tubbercurry, Kiltyclogher, Castleblaney, Enniskillen, Ballyshannon, Carrickmore, Portadown and Strabane. We were placed in all 8 festivals and winning three earned us the maximum points to assure our place in the RTÉ All Ireland Drama Finals on May 8th in Athlone. During the festival run we picked up 39 awards in Acting, Costume, Set/Decor, Lighting, Sound, Stage Management and Directing.

We are so grateful for all the hospitality shown to us on the circuit. We appreciate all the time adjudicators spent with us to help pave our way forward.
Earnest Ballyshannon'19 (14)

We are thrilled with all the help and support from our community, and a special thanks to all our families and friends who tolerated our absence from the real world. This will be the fourth time we have qualified for this prestigious festival, first with ‘The Gingerbread Lady’ in 2014 , ‘God of Carnage’ in 2015 and ‘Old Times ‘ in 2016. We also came second in the One Act All Ireland Drama Finals 2017 with ‘Five Kinds Of Silence’.

On May 8th we promise wholeheartedly to represent Ballyshannon Drama Society with our gorgeous interpretation of Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Importance of Being Earnest (A Trivial Comedy for Serious People)’ . We are so lucky to have a theatre of the highest standard to rehearse in. We know we have the greatest supporters in the world behind us and an outstanding team of friends weaving and working this tapestry into something beautiful.
Earnest Ballyshannon'19 (20)

We are all very proud of our production. We have worked hard and we are ready to show it off in all its splendour on the All Ireland stage. We would love to see you all for our gala evening and preview performance on Monday 6th of May in the Abbey Arts Centre, when we will also take the opportunity to launch the 2020 All Ireland Confined Finals which Ballyshannon Drama Society will be proud to host. There will be a wine and finger food reception at 7.30 with curtain at 8.30.

Please come along to celebrate and support this wonderful achievement before we give our final performance in Athlone on May 8th.
We also need your blessings, good karma and everyone’s fingers and toes crossed on May 8th. Hold us close in your hearts and we will feel your presence.
Thank you all for everything!
Trish Keane
Chairperson, Ballyshannon, Drama Society

All Ireland Final Preview Performance: Monday May 6th, Abbey Arts Centre

‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ will return to the Abbey Arts Centre for one night only, Bank Holiday Monday the 6th of May! There will be a wine reception at 7.45pm in the foyer, with the show beginning at 8.30pm.

This will be your last chance to catch the award-winning production at home before we tread the boards of the Dean Crowe Theatre in the All Ireland on Wednesday May 8th. We’d love to get a good send off before we hit the road, so make sure you book early to show your support!

‘Earnest’ in Athlone on Wed May 8th

Dean Crowe PosterWe’re delighted to announce that we’ll be performing ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ on Wednesday the 8th of May in the Dean Crowe Theatre, Athlone, as part of the All Ireland Drama Finals. Tickets will be available via the Dean Crowe website later this week. We will also return to the Abbey Centre stage later in the month. Dates to be confirmed. We’ll keep you posted!

‘Earnest’ is off to Athlone!

The cast of 'The Importance of Being Earnest'Ballyshannon Drama Society will once again travel to Athlone to take part in this year’s All Ireland Amateur Drama Finals with our production of ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’!

Having placed in all eight festivals, we have three Firsts, one Second and four Third places. Many thanks to everyone who has helped in any way to make ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ an All Ireland finalist!

The finals begin on May 2nd in the Dean Crowe Theatre, with performances each night up to Friday May 10th, culminating in the gala awards ceremony in the Radisson Hotel on Saturday May 11th. We will compete against eight other acts, three of which performed at our own festival here in Ballyshannon in March: Butt, Corn Mill, Prosperous, Bridge, Brideview, Newport Players, Doonbeg Drama Group and Kilrush.

The draw to decide which night we perform in Athlone will take place on April 7th. Tickets will go on general saleon Wednesday the 10th of April. We will also have at least one more performance in Ballyshannon before we head out on the road for one last time. We’ll keep you posted!

Photo Gallery: Awards Ceremony, 67th Ballyshannon Drama Festival, March 17th 2019

The Ballyshannon Drama Festival came to a close on Sunday night with the Awards Ceremony. Thanks to adjudicator Scott Marshall, our sponsors, the committee members, the Abbey Arts Centre staff and of course our discerning and knowledgeable audiences for another fantastic nine nights of drama.