History Timeline

Brief timeline of the century

1899 In pursuance of a plan made towards the end of the previous year The Irish
Literary Theatre founded by W.B. Yeats, Lady Gregory, and Edward Martyn,
presents the first productions of The Countess Cathleen by W B Yeats and The
Heather Field by Edward Martyn.

1900 The second season of the Irish Literary Theatre.

1901 The Irish Literary Theatre staged Casadh an tSugain by Dr. Douglas Hyde, its
first play in Irish and the first Irish play to be given a professional production.

1902 The Irish Literary Theatre becomes the Irish National Theatre Society, having
joined forces with Frank and Willie Fay, who brought with them a group of
talented amateur players.

1903 The Society paid their first visit to London, giving two performances in the
Queen’s Gate Hall, London.


1904 The generous patronage of Miss Annie Horniman allowed for the conversion of
the disused Mechanics Institute in Abbey Street. The Abbey Theatre opened on
27th December 1904 with three performances including premieres of On Baile’s
Strand by W.B. Yeats and Spreading the News by Lady Gregory.

1907 The first production of The Playboy of the Western World by J.M. Synge and
ensuing riots.

1908 The Fay brothers leave the Abbey.

1909 Death of J. M. Synge on 24th March. First production of George Bernard Shaw’s
The Shewing-up of Blanco Posnet, despite the refusal of the Lord Chamberlain’s
office to grant it a licence for production.

1910 Miss Horniman severs her connection with the Abbey Theatre because of the
Theatre’s failure to close following the death of King Edward VII on 7th May.

1911 3rd September 1911 – 4th March1912 – The Abbey Players paid their first visit to
America, opening in Boston. The cast of The Playboy of the Western World were arrested in Philadelphia in January 1912 for performing “immoral or indecent” plays. The case is dismissed.

1912 30th December 1912 – 19th April 1913 Second tour to America

1914 17th February – 27th April 1914 Third tour of America.

1916 The Easter Rising. Members of the Abbey Company and staff take part in the
Rising – Sean Connolly (killed in action), Arthur Shields (interred), Helena
Molony (interred), Barney Murphy, Peadar Kearney (author of the Irish National
Anthem) and Ellen Bushell.

1921 An economic crisis, largely due to the curfew imposed in Dublin, forces the
Abbey to curtail performances. Fundraising activities centred round an extended
season at the Royal Court Theatre, London.

1923 First production of The Shadow of a Gunman by Sean O’Casey.

1924 An offer to hand the theatre over to the government was made by Lady Gregory
and W. B. Yeats in 1924. In June of that year a subsidy of £850 was voted for the
financial year 1925-1926, making it the first State-subsidised Theatre in the
English-speaking world. Juno and the Paycock by Sean O’Casey opened on 3
March 1924 breaking all previous box office records.

1925 The Abbey celebrates its 21st anniversary.

1926 8 February – first production of The Plough and the Stars by Sean O’Casey. A riot
broke out on the night of the fourth performance. The rest of the week’s
performances took place under police protection. A public meeting was held on
1st March where both sides aired their views.

1927 The Peacock Theatre, with seating capacity of 102, opened in November 1927 as
an experimental annex to the Abbey Theatre. The blue upholstery matched by the
colour on the walls gave the theatre its name. The theatre also serves as the home
for the Abbey School of Acting and for the Abbey School of Ballet founded by
Ninette de Valois (1928).

1928 The Abbey rejected The Silver Tassie by Sean O’Casey. From 1928 to 1930 the
Peacock Theatre provided the first home to the Dublin Gate Theatre founded by
Hilton Edwards and Michéal Mac Liammóir.

1931 21st October1931 – 30th April 1932 Tour to America

1932 Death of Lady Gregory on 23rd May. 10th October1932 – 6th May 1933 Tour to America.

1934 8 October 1934 – 8 June 1935 Tour to America

1935 First Abbey production of The Silver Tassie by Sean O’Casey. Hugh Hunt
appointed as resident Director and Tanya Moiseiwitch as Set Designer.

1937 The Abbey Experimental Theatre opens in the Peacock Theatre under the
direction of Ria Mooney. Tour to America: 2nd October 1937 – 21st May 1938

1939 Death of W.B. Yeats on 28th January.

1940 ‘The Rugged Path’ by George Shiels ran for twelve weeks, the first ‘long run’
sanctioned in the Abbey.

1942- The work of An Comhar Dramaíochta, which was subsidised to produce plays in
Irish, sub-let its production of plays in Irish to the Abbey Theatre.

1945 The Abbey presented its first pantomime in Irish, Muireann agus an Prionnsa.
Originally billed for six nights only, it ran for forty nights.

1947 Death of F.J. Mc Cormick.

1951 On 18th July the whole of the backstage area of the Abbey was destroyed by fire. The theatre temporarily re-located to the Rupert Guinness Hall and later spent 15
years in the Queens Theatre on Pearse Street.

1954 The Abbey celebrates its 50th anniversary.

1955 The Abbey toured to Théatre des Nations Festival with The Plough and the Stars
by Sean O’Casey to critical acclaim.

1963 The foundation stone for the new Abbey Theatre was laid by President de Valera.

1965 Walter Macken appointed as Artistic Advisor.

1966 Opening of the new Abbey Theatre on 18th July by President de Valera. Tomás Mac Anna appointed as Artistic Advisor.

1967 Opening of the new Peacock Theatre on 23rd July by Mr. Charles Haughey, Minister for Finance.

1968 Tour to the Florence Theatre Festival, the World Theatre Festival in London and
the Edinburgh Festival. Premiere of Famine by Tom Murphy.

1969 The Abbey open the Théatre des Nations Festival in Paris with She Stoops to
Conquer by Oliver Goldsmith and Borstal Boy by Brendan Behan / Frank
McMahon. Alan Simpson appointed as Artistic Advisor (January – December

1970 Borstal Boy by Brendan Behan / Frank McMahon directed by Tómas Mac Anna
opened in New York and wins a Tony award. In September A State of Chassis by
Tómas Mac Anna and John D. Stewart opened in the Peacock causing another
protest. Initiation of The Young Abbey, Ireland’s first “Theatre-in-Education”
group. Hugh Hunt appointed as Artistic Director.

1971 Premiere of The Morning after Optimism by Tom Murphy.

1972 Lelia Doolan appointed Artistic Director. First production of Richard’s Cork Leg,
a posthumous play by Brendan Behan. It later transferred to the Olympia Theatre
and the Royal Court Theatre, London.

1973 13th February – Premiere of The Freedom of the City by Brian Friel.
King Oedipus by W.B. Yeats after Sophocles, directed by Michael Cacoyannis,
later transfering to the Edinburgh Festival. Tomás Mac Anna appointed as Artistic Director.

1975 Premiere of The Sanctuary Lamp by Tom Murphy.

1976 The Abbey take part in the American Bi-Centennial celebrations by presenting The Plough and the Stars by Sean O’Casey in New York, Philadelphia,
Washington and Boston. This year was also the golden jubilee of The Plough and
the Stars.

1977 Premiere of Talbot’s Box by Thomas Kilroy which later toured to the Royal
Court, London.

1978 Joe Dowling appointed as Artistic Director.

1979 The Abbey celebrates its 75th anniversary. Premiere of I Do Not Like Thee, Dr. Fell by Bernard Farrell and A Life by Hugh

1980 Irish premiere of Faith Healer by Brian Friel.

1981 Premiere of The Silver Dollar Boys by Neil Donnelly.

1982 Premiere of The Factory Girls by Frank McGuinness.

1983 First production of The Gigli Concert by Thomas Murphy and The Great Hunger
by Tom MacIntyre.

1985 Premiere of Observe the Sons of Ulster marching towards the Somme by Frank
McGuinness. Revival of Sive by John B Keane directed by Ben Barnes. Tomás
Mac Anna appointed as Artistic Director.

1986 Christopher Fitz-Simon appointed as Artistic Director.

1987 Vincent Dowling appointed as Artistic Director. Revival of The Field by John B Keane directed by Ben Barnes.

1988 Premiere of Carthaginians by Frank McGuinness. Revival of Big Maggie by John B Keane directed by Ben Barnes. Tour to Russia with The Field by John B.
Keane and The Great Hunger by Tom Mac Intyre.

1989 The Inaugural Yeats Festival (Festival ran from 1989 to 1993). Premiere of Too
Late For Logic by Tom Murphy. Noel Pearson appointed as Artistic Director.
1990 Premiere of Dancing at Lughnasa by Brian Friel. Opening of the Abbey portico.

1991 Garry Hynes appointed as Artistic Director. Dancing at Lughnasa tours to New
York winning three Tony awards.

1992 Revival of The Iceman Cometh by Eugene O’Neill (Brian Dennehy).

1993 Irish Premiere of Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me by Frank McGuinness and
Wonderful Tennessee by Brian Friel.

1994 Patrick Mason appointed Artistic Director.
Premiere of The Mai by Marina Carr.

1995 Irish Premiere of Angels in America: Millenium Approaches Part I by Tony

1996 Premiere of Portia Coughlan by Marina Carr.

1997 Premiere of Tarry Flynn by Patrick Kavanagh adapted for stage by Conall
Morrison and The Secret Fall of Constance Wilde by Thomas Kilroy.

1998 Premiere of The Wake by Tom Murphy and By The Bog of Cats by Marina Carr.

1999 Friel Festival as part of the general celebrations for Brian Friel’s 70th birthday. Premiere of Love in The Title by Hugh Leonard.

2000 Ben Barnes appointed as Artistic Director. Medea translated by Kenneth Mc Leish and Frederick Raphael after Euripides.
Barbaric Comedies by Frank McGuinness after Ramón Maria del Valle-Inclan.

2001 Premiere of Eden by Eugene O’Brien. The Murphy Season: six plays in
performance celebrating the contribution of Tom Murphy to Irish Drama.

2002 Irish Premiere of Hinterland by Sebastian Barry and The Drawer Boy by Michael
Healey. Premiere of Lovers at Versailles by Bernard Farrell, Communion by
Aidan Matthews and Henry IV Part I edited by Mark’O Rowe after William

2003 Premieres of The Shape of Metal by Thomas Kilroy, The House of Bernarda Alba
by Sebastian Barry after Federico Garcia Lorca, Doldrum Bay by Hilary Fannin
and The Wild Duck by Frank McGuinness after Henrik Ibsen.

2004 The Abbey’s centenary celebrations.

2005 Fiach MacConghail appointed as Director

2006 The National Theatre Society Limited transfers it assets to a new company Abbey
Theatre Amharclann na Mainistreach