My favourite days are the days where I can honour female cultural heroes.
Today marks the death of dramatist and long time theatre developer Lady Gregory Augusta (1852-1932). Since her plays are no longer in circulation, I can't much revere her for being an iconic writer but I feel I must expose the impact she's had on the national theatre scene in Ireland and therefore the global theatre scene at large.
Lady Gregory began her career as a writer of folklore and essays. For her love of literature, she soon founded, along with William Butler Yeats and Edward Martin, The Irish Literary Theatre. The theatre held the mission to produce Irish plays by Irish playwrights in Dublin. It opened its doors in 1899 and closed in 1901 due to lack of funding.
However, Lady Gregory was not to be deterred from her personal mission. The early 20th century saw the fall of many cultural institutions in Ireland but in 1904, artists began strengthening their comeback and Lady Gregory was at the forefront of the battle. Firstly, in 1904, she along with Yeats and Martin opened The Abbey Theatre, which is still operating as Ireland's national theatre, a major tourist attraction. Moreover, her comedy Spreading the News debuted in the same year, a year when many artists were debuting iconic works (i.e. James Joyce's Ulysses, J.M. Synge's Riders to the Sea) and Lady Gregory stepped into to capitalize on the rising cultural temperature. Not only did she produce her own full-length play but she wrote them as historical comedies, a genre which many fail to conquer and most barely desire to approach. Her work was therefore timely and empathetic, two qualities writers chase with every piece. She worked to reflect the spreading national resurgency as well as the growing importance of national female roles.
Lady Gregory was born into an elevated class and, upon marrying a knight, used her fortunes and privileges to support cultural nationalism. As a self-producing, script-developing, company-owning woman, I step proudly in the footsteps of Lady Gregory. May we see many more women rise to the occasion and lead national culturalism to new places.
We give a big Newborn shout-out to friends whose companies have also been founded by women: That's What She Said (Toronto), Steady State Theatre (Toronto), Nightwood Theatre (Toronto),