There was a ripple of protest recently in Cork when the Everyman Palace Theatre published, with Collins Press, an oral memoir celebrating the life and career of Corkman, Dan Donovan, whose life story reflects the cultural and theatre history of Cork towards the end of the twentieth century. Some people felt a theatre should be promoting new plays rather than publishing a history, but having read the book, Dan Donovan, An Everyman’s Life by Vera Ryan, Pat Talbot and Everyman Palace, should be congratulated.
Dan Donovan in 2007 received the award of Cork Person Of The Year, and he is in his 81st year. It is easy to see parallels with Waterford’s theatrical life in this book, and part of Donovan’s story could be the story of Ted O’Regan, Dennis McGrath or Larry Fanning.
Donovan was a teacher who in his other time was an actor, director, broadcaster and a major amateur figure in the story of Cork Film Festival, the Choral festival, the Everyman Theatre and the Everyman Palace, Compantas Chorcai and the legendary Southern Theatre Group.
While the story is very subjective, due to the method of presenting the book as a series of interviews conducted by Vera Ryan, it does show how from small beginnings significant achievements grow and take root.
Dermot Breen, a founder of the Cork Film Festival, came from Waterford and thee are several other Waterford references although my memory suggests that John B. Keane’s play, The Crazy Wall, was in the Theatre Royal and not the Municipal. No matter, Waterford was a significant venue on tours by Southern Theatre Group with James N. Healy.
The development of theatre from school hall venues into the old Everyman Theatre at the Fr. Matthew Hall is well covered and I have many happy memories of going to see plays there with my wife Margaret, Jim Nolan, Aine O’Brien and Clodagh Walsh.
The struggles of Southern Theatre Group could mirror the early beginnings of Red Kettle and the endless negotiations with politicians and the Arts Council to restore the Cork Opera House will ring many bells at the Theatre Royal.
In a subjective memoir like this there is sadly no mention of the Ivernia Theatre off Grand parade which was managed by Gerry barnes who now runs the Cork Opera House.
In the book there is a beautiful photo of Michael McAuliffe as Liam Scuab in Sive. McAuliffe worked for a while with Bertie Rodgers, at Waterford Dramatic Society. The book has lots of interesting facts like Michael Twomey of Cha and Miah fame running Cork Opera House for a period.
Reading the book I was saddened that, to-date, there has been no Waterford history or memoir of The Theatre Royal, Waterford Dramatic Society at Henrietta Street, The Festival Of Light Opera or John Player Tops, in book form. Perhaps the time is right for Larry Fanning, Dennis McGrath and Peter Doyle to let the chapters down into a much needed record.