Two Trips in Dublin
On Thursday of the first week, we were treated to a tour of the Abbey Theatre, the national theater of Ireland. Students were able to see the stage crew at work creating the set for a play that opens next week, Roddy Doyle’s comedy “Two Pints.” We were also taken backstage to see the costume, hair and makeup, and dressing rooms. Gus tried on a jacket used in productions about the Easter Rising of 1916. This was a particularly special jacket to the Abbey because the buttons are from a jacket that was actually worn during the Rising.
The students came away with a strong sense of the important role that literature, and specifically the Abbey Theatre, played in the formation of modern Ireland. And those interested in theater “geeked out,” as Erica said afterward.
After the Abbey Theatre, we held class for a few minutes in the bustling center of Dublin. Somehow Professor Glennon managed to get a picture without a dozen buses whizzing by. The group stood in front of the General Post Office, or GPO, the headquarters of the Easter Rising of 1916. This was to give students some visual reference for their reading, and to preview a site they would see the next day in the film “Michael Collins.”
Our field trip on Friday to Kilmainham Gaol also focused on the creation of modern Ireland. The prison was built by the British and opened in 1796. For over a century, the prison played an important role in the life of Dublin and Ireland. During the Famine (An Gorta Mór) of the 1845-1852, the prison held five times its capacity because so many were arrested for stealing food; many were happy to be arrested because they would get a daily meal. Because prisoners needed to earn their keep, they were put to work in the stonebreakers’ yard, where the students are standing (below). Fortunately, our guide managed to introduce some levity into the tour, along with an Irish perspective on these events.
The “modern” wing of the prison (above right), built in 1859, provided much more light, but still upheld the prison policy of “silence, separation, and supervision.” This site has been used for many films, including Michael Collins, In the Name of the Father, the original Italian Job, and an early U2 music video.
The final stop of our tour was where the leaders of the Easter Rising were executed, which gave rise to the independence movement that would secure the Irish Free State in 1922 (and eventually the Irish Republic in 1949).
That’s it for this week. Students have lots of weekend plans — a play at the Abbey Theatre for some, the Guinness Storehouse Museum for others, a trip down the coast to Bray — there’s plenty to do in Dublin.