In Memory of Sam McCready

Sam McCready, the actor, director, writer, painter, and teacher, a great friend to WB Yeats and to all lovers of Yeats around the world, has died.

Sam was a vibrant figure, and introduced generations to Yeats’s plays through performances at the Yeats International Summer School in Sligo. He repeatedly paid tribute to Mary O’Malley, founder of the Lyric Theatre Belfast where McCready got his break in the acting world in the late 1950s, and who pioneered productions of Yeats’s plays. Many have been paying tribute to him in his turn for his inspiring work in theatre and performance.

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland remembered him as a ‘legend […] revered internationally and remembered locally with unusual warmth and affection’.

The Lyric Theatre Belfast released a statement calling him ‘a titan of Ulster theatre’, and no wonder: for the Lyric he played numerous roles, including Captain Boyle in Juno and the Paycock, King Richard in Richard the Third and Christy Mahon in a musical version of The Playboy of the Western World called A Heart’s A Wonder. He founded the Lyric Drama Studio for younger actors and directed Martin Lynch’s The Interrogation of Ambrose Fogarty, becoming trustee and Artistic Director of the theatre

Most recently in April 2018 he performed his own adaptation of No Surrender, based on the memoir of a Belfast childhood by Robert Harbinson. His own memoirs of early years at the theatre are available under the title Baptism of Fire from Lagan Press.

McCready’s career took him from Belfast to Bangor in North Wales to off-Broadway productions in New York and to the University of Maryland, where he became Professor of Theatre and is remembered as ‘an extraordinary mentor, teacher, actor, director, and friend to generations of students and to so many people in the UMBC community’.

As an outspoken proponent of the arts McCready insisted on their value as community projects but also on high standards – and practiced what he preached. As he said, ‘one of the things that America has taught me is that people should go out and work for themselves. […] I have to bring that audience in. I don’t want anyone to get money for nothing and I don’t want the taxpayer to be handing out money for nothing. But at the same time the arts must be subsidised. Those in the arts must use that subsidy to do quality work and not see it as an opportunity to do mediocre stuff.’

At the Yeats International Summer School in Sligo McCready was a regular yearly contributor as speaker and director. With his wife Joan he taught inspiring acting and speaking classes and directed each year a production of one of Yeats’s plays: rarely seen theatrical wonders about whose performance he campaigned passionately.

He wrote, performed, and toured one-man plays on the life of Percy French, and The Great Yeats!, about WB Yeats’s father the artist John Butler Yeats. He was known throughout the world as a fine speaker of WB Yeats’s verse, and chose to speak the final lines from Yeats’s play The Resurrection at the closing of the Lyric studio in Derryvolgie Avenue.

Edmund Dulac, ‘The Nightingale’

In one of his last posts Sam recited lines from Keats’s ‘Ode To A Nightingale’: ‘Thou wast not born for death immortal bird / No hungry generations tread thee down’.

Keats’s lines (which continue ‘The voice I hear this passing night was heard / In ancient days by emperor and clown’) were a vital trigger for Yeats’s own meditations on music, death, and immortality, especially when he imagines himself transported among the goldsmiths of ancient Constantinople, posthumously singing to a (sometimes indifferent) royal audience.

Here follows Yeats’s poem ‘Sailing to Byzantium’, in fond memory of Sam McCready.

I

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees,
—Those dying generations—at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

II

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

III

O sages standing in God’s holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

IV

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

Jennifer Johnston & Rita Ann Higgins at Thoor!

Join us for an exciting Saturday afternoon in which two of Ireland’s best-loved writers come to Thoor Ballylee to give us the benefit their words, wit, and wisdom.

Grand Dames at Thoor

Jennifer Johnston

& Rita Ann Higgins

with readings and discussion

3pm Saturday 9th September 2017

Tickets on the door €10 (concessions available)

These two storied writers give an afternoon’s entertainment talking over and reading from their work, and thinking about history, politics, and culture in Ireland and beyond.

Irish novelist and playwright Jennifer Johnston is the author of almost thirty books and plays, including The Old Jest (1979), recipient of the Whitbread Book Award, The Invisible Worm (1991), The Gingerbread Woman (2000), and recently Fathers and Son (2012), A Sixpenny Song (2013), and The Christmas Tree: A Play in Two Acts (2015). Her novels range in theme from depictions of the decline of Ascendancy Ireland and the events of the First World War and the Troubles to evocations of personal and familial sorrow in what Penelope Lively calls her ‘hallmark style … economic and staccato’. She also joined other Irish novelists like Roddy Doyle and Anne Enright as a key contributor to Dermot Bolger’s group of linked stories Finbar’s Hotel (1997). Born in Dublin, she is a member of Aosdana and in 2012 received the Irish Book Awards Lifetime Achievement Award.

Rita Ann Higgins is a poet and playwright born in Ballybrit, Galway, and the recipient of numerous prizes and fellowships for her work. Her poetry collections include Goddess on the Mervue Bus (1986) and Higher Purchase (1996) (both Salmon Poetry), An Awful Racket (2001), Ireland Is Changing Mother (2013), and most recently Tongulish (2016) (all Bloodaxe), as well as a recent excoriating and energizing poem about Galway’s City of Culture bid. She has been writer in residence at NUI Galway, received several Arts Council bursaries, and been visiting Professor and Honorary Fellow in institutions around the world from Texas to Hong Kong. A member of Aosdana, she is especially known for the empathetic undercurrent running through her verse and plays, her evocation of voices, and the power of her public readings, all drawn from her close connection to Galway city and county.

 

 

 

Talk at Yeats & the West: The Theatre of Jack B. Yeats

A Vaudeville of Frustration: The Theatre of Jack B. Yeats

Public Talk

with

Dr Ian Walsh, NUI Galway

6pm Thursday 5 May

The Model Theatre, Sligo

La La Noo (2)

Alongside The Model’s Niland collection, and the exhibitions Yeats & the West and A Broadside this talk uncovers the rarely-read and even more rarely-performed plays of Jack B. Yeats, Ireland’s greatest painter. Beginning with children’s miniature theatre productions, voiced and written by the artist and for which he drew and designed stage, set, and characters with piratical cast, Jack B. Yeats always aimed athwart at conventional theatre. He developed an idiosyncratic theatrical voice that was both distinctive, and distinctively modernist, not quite like anything ever seen or heard in or out of the theatre. Despite Jack Yeats’s earlier close association with J.M.Synge, plays that were not accepted by his brother’s Abbey Theatre found a further life alongside his brother’s at Mary O’Malley’s Lyric Theatre Belfast. From Harlequin’s Positions and In Sand to The Green Wave and La La Noo, Jack Yeats’s drama engages directly with his artistic practice, often referencing his paintings and broadsides, and directly influenced Beckett’s absurdist dramaturgy.

Lyric Yeats brothers copy

Ian Walsh is Lecturer in Drama, Theatre, and Performance at NUI Galway. His monograph Experimental Irish Theatre After W.B Yeats was published in 2012 by Palgrave Macmillan. In 2015 his collection The Theatre of Enda Walsh co-edited with Mary Caulfield was released, the first critical collection on the plays and films of Enda Walsh. He has published widely on Irish theatre and has given invited talks across Ireland, Germany and the United States. Ian is also preparing a monograph on Popular Irish Theatre. Professional directing credits include Purple Path to the Poppy Field ( Hora Prima, 2006) and The Magic Flute (2011), Orfeo Ed Eurydice (2010), Riders to the Sea and The Wandering Scholar (2009) all for DLR Glasthule Opera.

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Ian Walsh appears in conversation with the curator of Yeats & the West, and Archivist in the James Hardiman Library at NUI Galway, Barry Houlihan.

Dr Adrian Paterson, NUI Galway, and curator of the exhibition, Donal Tinney, Chairperson of The Model, John Cox, NUIG, and Barry Houlihan, NUIG, at the NUI Galway Launch of Yeats & the West Exhibition at The Model, Sligo. Photo: James Connolly 24MAR16

Dr Adrian Paterson, NUI Galway, and curator of the exhibition, Donal Tinney, Chairperson of The Model, John Cox, NUIG, and Barry Houlihan, NUIG, at the NUI Galway Launch of Yeats & the West Exhibition at The Model, Sligo.
Photo: James Connolly
24MAR16

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Yeats & the West Exhibition Tours & Talks

Curators Tours 1pm. Public Talks 6pm.

Free entry

 The Model, Sligo

Tours Thursday at 1pm

Tours of the exhibition from the curators take place every Thursday at 1pm.  Find out what makes art and poetry so close, and observe the connection of books, and music, drama, and discover never before seen rare books and fine art from the collections of NUI Galway and The Model. Come and get an inside view of the crafts and cultures that made a western revolution.

Emer McGarry, Acting Director, The Model, Cllr. Thomas Healy, Dr Jim Browne , President of NUI Galway, Martin Enright, President of Yeats Society, Sligo, Dr Adrian Paterson, NUI Galway, and curator of the exhibition, Senator Susan O'Keeffe, Ciaran Hayes, Sligo County Manager, Barry Houlihan, NUIG, Donal Tinney, Chairperson of The Model, and John Cox, NUIG, at the NUI Galway Launch of Yeats & the West Exhibition at The Model, Sligo. Photo: James Connolly 24MAR16

Emer McGarry, Acting Director, The Model, Cllr. Thomas Healy, Dr Jim Browne , President of NUI Galway, Martin Enright, President of Yeats Society, Sligo, Dr Adrian Paterson, NUI Galway, and curator of the exhibition, Senator Susan O’Keeffe, Ciaran Hayes, Sligo County Manager, Barry Houlihan, NUIG, Donal Tinney, Chairperson of The Model, and John Cox, NUIG, at the NUI Galway Launch of Yeats & the West Exhibition at The Model, Sligo.
Photo: James Connolly
24MAR16

Talks Thursdays at 6pm

This series of talks on Yeats’s connection to the west and beyond takes us inside the makings of a western cultural revolution. Talks from experts in the field range from exploring the pioneering art and craftwork of the Yeats family to W.B.Yeats’s own life and loves, considering his some of his most controversial and sexy poems; they reveal the extraordinary plays of his brother, the artist Jack B. Yeats, and alongside the Model Gallery’s newly unveiled Broadside collection, showcase his design and print work; and they weigh the wider forces that turned a cultural revolution into a real one.

Speakers include the curators of the exhibition Dr Adrian Paterson and Barry Houlihan (NUI Galway), Professor Adrian Frazier (NUI Galway), Professor Margaret Mills Harper (University of Limerick and outgoing Director of the Yeats International Summer School), Dr Hilary Pyle (former Yeats Curator at National Gallery of Ireland), Dr Ian Walsh (NUI Galway), Dr Mary Harris (NUI Galway).

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All talks take place every Thursday at 6pm in the Model Theatre.

7 April – ‘Lake Isles, River Eyots: making Innisfree with the Yeats family’

Adrian Paterson, English, NUI Galway

14 April – ‘A Disturbing Influence: Maud Gonne in the life of W.B. Yeats’

Adrian Frazier, English, NUI Galway

21 April – ‘Jack B. Yeats’s A Broadside: a sheaf of ballads or a battery of guns?’

Hilary Pyle, former Yeats Curator at the National Gallery of Ireland

28 April – ‘W.B. Yeats and the Problem of Crazy Jane’

Margaret Mills Harper, University of Limerick, & outgoing Director of the Yeats International Summer School

5 May – ‘A Vaudeville of Frustration: The Theatre of Jack B. Yeats’.

Ian Walsh, Centre for Drama Theatre and Performance, NUI Galway

12 May – ‘Romanticism and Realism: Pearse, MacNeill, the Revival and the Rising’

Mary Harris, History, NUI Galway

For schools events Thursdays  enquire schoolvisits@nuigalway.ie

The Model opening hours

Tues-Sat: 10am – 5.30pm

Thurs: 10am – 8pm

Sun: 12 – 5pm

Mon: Closed

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