The Abbey Theatre was founded in 1904 by W. B. Yeats and Lady Augusta Gregory. Its precursors were the Irish Literary Theatre and Frank and Willie Fay’s National Dramatic Society. With patronage from Miss Annie Horniman, premises were purchased on Old Abbey Street and on December 27th 1904, the Abbey Theatre opened its doors for the first time.
The company originally traded as the National Theatre Society Limited. On 31 January 2006 this company was dissolved and all assets and liabilities were transferred to a newly established company, Abbey Theatre Amharclann Na Mainistreach, which now runs the theatre. The artistic policy of the theatre remains unchanged and incorporates the following ambitions:
- To invest in and promote new Irish writers and artists – To produce an annual programme of diverse, engaging, innovative Irish and international theatre – To attract and engage a broad range of customers and provide compelling experiences that inspire them to return – To create a dynamic working environment which delivers world best practice across our business
In 1925, the Abbey Theatre was given an annual subsidy by the new Free State, and the Abbey became the first ever state-subsidised theatre in the English speaking world. The State continues to support the Abbey Theatre in the form of an annual grant from the Arts Council of Ireland/An Chomhairle Ealaion.
Tragically in 1951, the original buildings of the Abbey Theatre were damaged by fire. The Abbey re-located to the Queen’s Theatre. Fifteen years to the day later, on 18 July 1966, the Abbey moved back to its current home, designed by Michael Scott, on the same site.