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The stage Irish [Elektronische Ressource] : a perspective on Irish drama and theater of the second half of the twentieth century / Daniel Patrick Shea

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460 Pages
English

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Daniel Patrick Shea Dissertation zum Erwerb des Doktorgrades an der Neuphilologischen Fakultät der Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg Promotionstag war der 3. März 2009 Stage Irishman, Stereotype, Performance: A Perspective on Irish Drama of the Second Half of the Twentieth Century Eingereicht im September 2007 unter dem Titel “The Stage Irish: A Perspective on Irish Drama and Theater of the Second Half of the Twentieth Century”. 2 Στη Βούλα 3 Contents Chapter 1: Introduction 5 Material 10 Writing on the Stage Irishman since the Founding of a National Theatre in Ireland 16 Outline of Chapters 2 through 5 40 Chapter 2: Imitations 47 This Other Eden 60 A Stage Production of Borstal Boy 87 An Adaptation of Love and a Bottle 112 Chapter 3: Entertainers 143 Heavenly Bodies 145 Clowns 177 Faith Healer 214 Chapter 4: Turncoats 262 Cries from Casement As His Bones Are Brought to Dublin 262 Double Cross 287 Mutabilitie 313 Interim Remarks 357 Chapter 5: Irish 359 The Weir, Someone Who’ll Watch over Me, Stones in His Pockets 396 Closing Remarks 436 4 Appendix 438 Productions of Plays Interpreted 438 A Chronology of Writing on the Stage Irishman since the Founding of a National Theatre in Ireland 440 Works Cited 444 5 Chapter 1: Introduction The last word on the Stage Irishman hasn’t been said.

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Published 01 January 2007
Reads 14
Language English

Exrait

Daniel Patrick Shea
Dissertation zum Erwerb des Doktorgrades an der
Neuphilologischen Fakultät der Ruprecht-Karls-Universität
Heidelberg
Promotionstag war der 3. März 2009





Stage Irishman, Stereotype, Performance: A Perspective on
Irish Drama of the Second Half of the Twentieth Century









Eingereicht im September 2007 unter dem Titel “The Stage
Irish: A Perspective on Irish Drama and Theater of the Second
Half of the Twentieth Century”. 2




Στη Βούλα 3
Contents
Chapter 1: Introduction 5
Material 10
Writing on the Stage Irishman since the Founding
of a National Theatre in Ireland 16
Outline of Chapters 2 through 5 40
Chapter 2: Imitations 47
This Other Eden 60
A Stage Production of Borstal Boy 87
An Adaptation of Love and a Bottle 112
Chapter 3: Entertainers 143
Heavenly Bodies 145
Clowns 177
Faith Healer 214
Chapter 4: Turncoats 262
Cries from Casement As His Bones
Are Brought to Dublin 262
Double Cross 287
Mutabilitie 313
Interim Remarks 357
Chapter 5: Irish 359
The Weir, Someone Who’ll Watch over Me,
Stones in His Pockets 396
Closing Remarks 436 4
Appendix 438
Productions of Plays Interpreted 438
A Chronology of Writing on the Stage Irishman since
the Founding of a National Theatre in Ireland 440
Works Cited 444 5
Chapter 1: Introduction
The last word on the Stage Irishman hasn’t been said. As
long as there is a country called Ireland so that people may
appear in plays as Irish, the Stage Irish will continue.
More than an answer to the questions just exactly who and
what is Irish, the Stage Irish encounter onstage what Irish
means and thereby make this stage a kind of Irish. The key
words here are onstage and stage because, as it is the theater
context which specifies the endlessly variable significance of
the word Irish, so I think it is the Stage in Stage Irish
which gives the name meaning by signalizing that this is a
performance of Irish and not the real thing—whatever that
looks like. Reality as fact and realism as an artistic style
have no privilege with the Stage Irish or in the study of
them. And any true Irishness expressed in a dramatic figure or
embodied by an actor seems to me of minor significance
compared to just how that figure or actor assumes this
Irishness or, in other words, how he acts Irish. (I
consistently apply Manfred Pfister’s structuralist terminology
for talking about drama, so here I replace the term character
with (dramatic) figure (160-164).)
Owen Dudley Edwards perspicaciously defines Stage Irishry
as an exercise in “masks and dialogue” (83), or, in a word, as
performance. Stage Irishry is, succinctly, Irish Performance.
This definition, because it reverses the head nouns
Performance and Irishry to focus the theater instead of a 6
national or ethnic group of Ireland, reflects the way I aim to
vary the perspective on the most famous stock character of the
English-language stage. An Irish Performance occurs when
people onstage act like Irish, and to ask whether the actor or
actress really is Irish or whether he or she knowingly just
plays the part is to neglect to see both the roles we play in
real life and the playing-of-parts which theater performance
is. The question to the intentions of performers is, at best,
an indirect one because conscious as well as unconscious acts
are continuously and simultaneously occurring onstage (from
the blinking of the eyes to the misread cue to the speaking of
the lines) and, also, because this question never concerns one
person alone but will apply together to the directors and the
producers backstage, the performers onstage, and the audience
in their seats. Stage Irishry is a game of Irish identity
because it is actors and dramatic figures doing as Irish do—an
imitation in the theater of a representation in reality. This
I find the touchstone of any Stage-Irish figure or any Stage
Irishry at all, and while researchers such as Declan Kiberd,
Joseph Leerssen, and Richard Cave have examined in Stage
Irishry the issues of the colonial politics of identity and
while others such as James Bartley and Annelise Truninger have
categorized examples of the Stage Irish according to literary
historical methodologies, if their work would have any
theoretical validity for this creature of the theater, they 7
must return to the performative aspect of the dramatic figure
at hand.
Since I view the Stage Irish as Irish onstage, it is the
stage and all the stage encompasses that are most important to
my study. I am writing on the Stage Irish also with the aim of
urging literary critics to rethink how they interpret dramatic
texts; therefore, I offer to consideration my approach of
interpreting a dramatic text as I’ve imagined it being staged.
The warning that a dramatic text is incomplete until produced
has long since become banal and has always been unhelpful to
the literary critic wanting sensitively to interpret that
dramatic text. The warning is unhelpful foremost because it
proceeds solely from the text and ventures into the realm of
the performance only to gather novelties that might well serve
one’s interpretation of the dramatic text. When it comes to
interpreting a play, I, on the other hand, consider the
dramatic text not primary nor secondary nor otherwise
hierarchically situated, but one equally relevant element of
the performance alongside the playwright, the director, the
producers, the actors and actresses, the audience, the
scenography, the lighting, the props, and anything or anyone
else that goes into making the performance. Even though Alan
Read offers throughout Theatre and Everyday Life devastating
criticisms of theater which is predominantly textually based,
he affirms that “there is nothing intrinsically untheatrical
about a text, and texts themselves have interactive qualities” 8
(99). What I always try to be interpreting, then, is a staging
of the play at hand, though not exclusively or even
necessarily an actual staging, but one as I imagine it
possible and worthwhile. This I call imaginative staging in
literary criticism. Although I give actual performances their
due, I recognize with Read that it is through the images
onstage and in the imaginations of the performers and their
audience that a play becomes intelligible and, therefore, (in
every sense of the word) meaningful. Because the imagination
is formative to what is said and done onstage and because it
belongs to a full understanding of theater performance, I
propose imaginative staging as a provisional yet workable
compromise between privileging the dramatic text over the
performance and unseating the literary critic from his
rightful place—as an audience to the dramatic text at hand, as
an actual member of past theater audiences, and as a potential
member of any future theater audience—in interpreting plays.
Because of my own imaginative staging in the following
interpretations or, in other words, because of my role as
critical spectator to these stagings of the plays, I subtitle
this literary critical study “A Perspective on...”; at the
same time, the subtitle credits J. Hillis Miller’s “hypothesis
of possible heterogeneity of form in literary works.” Miller
supposes the contingency as well as the peculiarity not only
of literary pieces, but also of one critic’s interpretation of
any piece or, as it is more fittingly expressed for dramatic 9
texts, of that critic’s perspective on the piece: “The
specificity and strangeness of literature, the capacity of
each work to surprise the reader, if he can remain prepared to
be surprised, means that literature continually exceeds any
formulas or any theory with which the critic is prepared to
encompass it” (5). I am not advocating for its own sake an
anything-goes approach to literature, but I am pleading for
what will derogatorily be called a subjective approach.
Sometimes the best, most convincing, even most rational
interpretations of literature result from exercises in
seemingly poor, untenable, irrational thought. In interpreting
literature I regard concepts not as the elements of a
systematic, disciplinal methodology, but as “tools,” as
instruments for opening a piece and extracting a meaning. This
is Gilles Deleuze’s philosophy “pragmatics”: “its goal is the
invention of concepts that do not add up to a system of belief
or an architecture of propositions that you either enter or
you don’t, but instead pack a potential in the way a crowbar
in a willing hand envelops an energy of prying” (qtd. in Read
237). Deconstructionism has been attacked for a criticism
without system and for a philosophy without positive tenets,
but for just these reasons I find it a good tool in the
unregulated activity of interpreting literature as well as in
my present task of understanding the Stage Irish.
Before sketching how my study of the Stage Irish proceeds
through the next four chapters, I first address my selection 10
of the material for inquiry and I then briefly review various
writing on the Stage Irishman.
Material
Choosing twelve plays to represent fifty years of drama
and theater in any country is very difficult, and Ireland is
no exception. In addition to or in place of the playwrights
I’ve chosen to study, many critics would consider the
following obligatory: Sebastian Barry (b. 1955), Dermot Bolger
(b. 1959), Marina Carr (b. 1964), J. B. Keane (b. 1928), Hugh
Leonard (b. 1926), Martin McDonagh (b. 1971), Jimmy Murphy (b.
1962), Thomas Murphy (b. 1935), or Donal O’Kelly (b. 1958). I
think good arguments can be made for the inclusion of every
one of these playwrights, but the play limit I’ve set myself
for more focused interpretations has forced me to exclude
them. I will, though, refer to their plays and others’ where
relevant. I have also not selected Samuel Beckett, but his
work has influenced my understanding of the Stage Irish, so I
refer to it intermittently.
Although the playwrights and their work usually comprise
the literary critic’s only material for study, they are
insufficient for a good understanding of the fields of drama
and theater. For this reason, in selecting the twelve plays I
have considered directors, producers, actors, companies, and
playhouses. These further aspects of drama and theater I have
documented in the first section of the appendix, “Productions
of Plays Interpreted,” but I mention them in the text, too,