June 07, 2023

Emer O'Toole, Assistant Professor of Irish Performance Studies, Concordia University



"Waking the Feminists:
2016’s Irish Theatre Revolution"

December 1, 2016,  7:30 - 10:00 pm

Simon Fraser University
Vancouver Campus, Harbour Centre
515 W Hastings Street, Vancouver
Fletcher Challenge Canada Theatre


In October 2015, Ireland’s national theatre, The Abbey, announced its 2016 centenary programme, entitled Waking the Nation. 2016 is the year that commemorates the centenary of the Easter Rising and the proclamation of the Irish Republic, and this year in Ireland has been characterized by reflections on the history and current state of the Republic. Announcing The Abbey’s Waking the Nation programme, the artistic director of The Abbey, Fiach McConghaill, promised to “interrogate rather than celebrate the past” and encouraged us, “in a year of national introspection”, to “ask urgent questions about the safely guarded narrative of our nation.” 90% of plays programmed were by men. This fact provided Irish feminists, in our moment of national introspection, a number of urgent questions to interrogate: How did we get to a point where almost exclusively male voices tell the story of Ireland? And how can we work towards a politic in which women’s art, women’s stories, women’s voices are considered to be of national importance too? This lecture will explore the role of theatre in Ireland's revolutionary history, telling the story of a powerful feminist and socialist movement muted by nationalism, and drawing lessons for 2016's newly energised agents of change.    

Co-sponsored by

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC)
Centre for Imaginative Ethnography
Department of Sociology and Anthropology, SFU
Institute for Performance Studies, SFU
Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, SFU
Theatre Performance Area, School for Contemporary Arts, SFU
Café Minerva

Register for the event here  

"Waking the Feminists:
Same Shit; Different Century"

December 2, 2016    2:30 - 4:30 pm
Public Seminar

Simon Fraser University
Burnaby Campus
Halpern Centre, Room 114
8888 University Drive
Burnaby, BC

Abstract: In 2016, to commemorate the centenary of the declaration of the Irish Republic, The Abbey Theatre announced a programme comprised of 90% male playwrights. The scale of the feminist reaction to this event is, in part, due the history of the theatre and how it intertwines with the history of the Irish nation. While Waking the Feminists is about the position of women in the Irish arts, it also serves, symbolically, as reflection on woman and nation in a wider sense. Waking the Feminists happened at the same time as the implementation of a new political quota system. It happened at a time when the campaign to repeal the 8th amendment, Ireland’s constitutional ban on abortion, was in full swing. Waking the Feminists came, in short, at a time when Irish women are demanding greater rights and representation on social and political stages. And, as any of us involved in feminist movement can attest, those moments create a backlash, from both left and right of the political sphere. Conservative factions obviously react negatively to gender quotas, abortion rights and lady playwrights, but critique from the left can be more insidious, positioning gender equality as a consideration secondary to the bigger picture of, for example, anti-austerity politics. By similar logic, the ideal of artistic merit must be safeguarded above and beyond any “politically correct” agenda of female inclusion. For this seminar we’ll read texts from the feminist writers of 1916 that illustrate the longevity of such debates. With an activist eye, we’ll attempt to name some strategies and lines of argumentation required by Ireland’s Waking the Feminist movement, and by feminist movements more broadly, as we work towards equality in the arts and in society.

Register for this event here

Both Public Lecture and Seminar free and open to the public