WHEN the curtain is pulled back on opening night of the Doonbeg Drama Festival on Saturday, March 2, it will herald the start of the 52nd festival in The Long Village.
John Keane has taken over as committee chairman, succeeding John Igoe, who is one of five people involved since the maiden festival in 1961.
“The five people who have been involved since the start are Johnny Igoe, Murt McInerney, Cissy McMahon, JJ Downes and Marie Shanahan. Murt is Festival director and treasurer, Johnny has taken over the PRO’s job and Cissy McMahon is Vice President. JJ Downes and Marie Shanahan are still actively involved in the committee,” Mr Keane explained.
The new chairman has been actively involved with the committee for 20 years and remembers festivals from his childhood.
“Drama takes over here for the month of March. It’s a huge part of the parish and it has been for the last 52 years. I remember when I started going to the festival as a kid in national school and sitting up there in the front two rows in the hall, looking at the plays. That still goes on. The two front rows in the hall are still occupied by the national school kids,” he said.
Mr Keane feels that involvement in the festival is both educational and is good for people’s life skills.
“It’s such an education in its own way, particularly when you get involved on stage. You learn so much and it builds confidence in young people. People that get involved at a young age might be shy initially but they always come back and say it was definitely a confidence builder,” the committee chairman maintained.
Having access to a modern hall with excellent stage lighting has been a huge help in establishing Doonbeg as a centre of amateur dramatic excellence every March.
“We’re very lucky here in that we have a fantastic hall, a great stage and dressing rooms. Our hall capacity is roughly 300 hundred people.
“Going back to earlier years, there were nights when the hall wasn’t big enough, particularly when the local or neighbouring groups were on. Our hall has been extended and thankfully now we’re able to cater for the crowd,” Mr Keane noted.
“We have groups coming from Galway, Waterford, Cork and Tipperary. They travel around the country a fair bit and come across all different types of facilities. They would always rate Doonbeg as having very good facilities. From a stage crew point of view, you can access the stage very easily from the side and unload your set. It takes a lot of the work out of it,” he added.
Doonbeg Drama Group won’t be represented on stage during this year’s festival. However, the group will put stage two one-act plays for the Gathering Festival in Doonbeg next July.
The festival adjudicator will be Brendan Murray and the official opening will be performed by Aoibhín Garrihy of Fair City.
Ten drama groups will feature with Corofin Dramatic Society, Mullagh Entire, Amphitheatre Kilkee and Cooraclare Drama Group the local representatives. The Clare groups will performing during the closing five nights of the festival, along with Glenamaddy Players and Kilmeen Drama Group.
The opening five nights will feature performances from Brideview Drama Group with These Green Heights by Dermot Bolger, Compántas Lir with The Way You Look Tonight by Niall Williams, Camross Drama Group with The Loves of Cass Maguire by Brian Friel, Thurles Drama Group with All My Sons by Arthur Millar and Corofin Dramatic Society with Bog of Cats by Marina Carr.
Doors open at 7pm each night and the curtain will be up at 8pm. Nightly and season tickets will be available on the door for the festiva, which runs from Saturday March 2 to Monday March 11.