Issue 8, Beltane 2019

Irish Arts Week in Minnesota: Unearthing Hidden Irish Gems · The Memoirs of an Abbey Actor

Welcome to the Beltane 2019 edition of the Celtic Junction Arts Review

With two new writers contributing to this edition, our focus is on commemorating and celebrating memories and artistic work in both St. Paul, Minnesota, and Dublin, Ireland, as we continue to link our burgeoning local artistic community to the global story of Ireland’s cultural energy.

Ashley Gaughan, a St. Paul-based freelance writer, casts new eyes over the Irish Arts Week and its theme of “making it new” this year through highlighting new work in our Twin Cities cultural community. The ten-day Arts Week offered 24 different events in multiple locations and venues and, according to Erin Cooper, the Irish Fair’s Executive Director – who kept a careful tally – was visited by over 1200 attendees. Interwoven with the “new work” theme were celebrations of multiple anniversaries: primarily the tenth anniversary of the Celtic Junction Arts Center, but also the 40 th anniversary year of the Irish Fair of Minnesota, and the 4 th year of the Arts Week.

Dubliner Clive Geraghty, a stalwart over four decades of Ireland’s world-famous Abbey Theatre, sends us a world exclusive: excerpts both poignant and pointed from his soon-to-be published memoirs. Clive was flown in by the Irish Fair of Minnesota to speak in 2014. When interviewed by a local morning television crew on Harriet Island, Clive, a wit and raconteur, was asked: “Do they wear kilts in Ireland?” He offered the following gravelly retort: “Only the bravest.”

As the Celtic Junction Arts Center marked its 10 th anniversary on May 4 th , 2019, as part of the Irish Arts Week, our team of writers and artists at the Celtic Junction Arts Review continue to record the bristling energy and artistic vision animating the Irish story both here and abroad.

Dr. Patrick O’Donnell, editor/contributing writer, is a full-time English faculty member at Normandale Community College. The founder/director of the Saint Paul Irish Arts Week (since 2016), a comprehensive ten-day program in April/May funded by the Irish Fair of Minnesota, he is primarily Director of Education at Celtic Junction Arts Center where he coordinates classes and also teaches Irish literature, literary history, and mythology.

Irish Arts Week in Minnesota: Unearthing Hidden Irish Gems

By Ashley Gaughan 

The Founding of CJAC

Natalie Nugent O’Shea celebrating 10 years since the opening of the Celtic Junction Arts Center.

When Natalie and Cormac O’Shea began an Irish dance school in 2005 they had no idea what would flourish, years later, from those seeds. Today, the dance school has become the Celtic Junction Arts Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, a hub for concerts, dance recitals, performances, Irish language studies, an Irish reference library, and a non-profit outreach. The arts center also maintains a partnership with the Irish Fair of Minnesota and the Irish Arts Week held each spring. 

Both Cormac and Natalie had been Riverdance members and their travels had taken them all over the world. Being musically and artistically gifted, the husband-and-wife duo naturally wanted to bring an appreciation for Irish dance, music, and culture to the Twin Cities which they had made their home after a sojourn in Dublin. 

From its inception, Natalie O’Shea will tell you the universe conspired to bring many people together to form what is now the Celtic Junction Arts Center. “Within the very first year we began the dance school, we started connecting with the rest of the community,” Natalie says. For instance, Kate Dowling, involved with the St. Paul Conservatory of Music in downtown St. Paul and founder of the Center for Irish Music, approached Natalie to help the music school become a non-profit organization. Natalie quickly jumped in to help along with Maeve O’Mara and close friend Suzanna Gibbons and, in 2006, “the four of us were CIM’s founding board members,” Natalie says. 

Cormac teaching in downtown Minneapolis before CJ was founded.

From there, the pieces fell into place and families started attending the dance and music schools in both downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul. Though enthusiasm for dance classes was great, the O’Sheas discovered the location was less than ideal with families having to navigate downtown areas after school and work. At a certain point, Natalie turned to her husband Cormac and said, “Alright enough, if we are going to keep this going, we need to buy a studio. And that’s what started it all,” Natalie says. “We needed a place to hold classes, events, dances, and concerts.” 

However, the year was 2008, which meant an economic recession loomed in front of them. When Natalie and Cormac brought their idea for an arts school to their friends, they were advised against starting it. “You don’t start an arts organization, privately run no less,” Natalie emphasizes, “in an economic recession. But,” she says with a gleam in her eye, “We didn’t listen to anybody and we did it anyway.” Forging ahead, the O’Sheas mapped a central location for their students and found the current location on Prior Avenue in St. Paul where the Celtic Junction Arts Center calls home. 

Beginning the arts center was only half the battle. “We had some really hard years,” Natalie recalls. “Underground pipes collapsed. We had to dig down 16 feet and redo them, and that was rough. We had a concert where we had stuff bubbling up out of the lower bathroom. Frankie Gavin was the concert that night and he laughed and he said, ‘This doesn’t bother me, my parents ran a hotel and I’ve seen a lot worse.’ He wished us good luck and he’s been back since,” Natalie laughs. But as soon as they overcame one obstacle, they faced another. Only twelve months later, the building suffered damage from a neighborhood fire. “We nearly lost everything,” Natalie says. 

Burned south wall. This wall was replaced during a remodel and now features the CJAC mural.

In the midst of rebuilding the center, “I taught classes in the same room as my husband,” Natalie says. “If you can live through that, you can live through anything,” she laughs. “It was hard going, but we had really great people that stuck with us and with a lot of support we were able to rebuild.” With tenacity, the couple pressed on, the fire actually allowing the O’Sheas to create a more tailored space for students and the amenities needed for the Celtic Junction to grow as an arts center. 

An OID pre-school class at CJ in a studio that was removed during the after-fire remodel.

As the Celtic Junction started expanding, the O’Sheas and friends opened it up to those who wanted to be a part of it. “What’s happened,” Natalie says, “and very organically too, is if people want to do an event within the Irish Community, it’s often held here.” They’re thrilled by the community response and their eagerness to be involved and be a part of the collaboration and energy. “It’s been an incredible blessing,” Natalie says.  TOP

Irish Arts Week

"Easter Rising 1916" Image with text in a poster for Irish Arts Week 2016.

It wasn’t long until the universe brought further ties to the center by drawing Patrick O’Donnell into the family fold. The Irish native and local college professor of literature appeared with an idea to further expand and celebrate Irish heritage in the Twin Cities. Thus, Irish Arts Week was started in 2016 and has been headed up by Patrick ever since with enthusiastic response from the community.

Irish Arts Week, now in its fourth year, highlights appreciation for Irish culture in a variety of ways. Whether through song, dance, lecture, theater, or art, it showcases the talents and interests of community members as well as national and international guests. “The arts open up levels in our human experience,” Patrick says. “The Irish story with its passion and imagination is one of the world’s great cultural stories. Our role in the Irish Arts Week is to hear the next chapters in that story inflected through the Twin Cities.”

Predominantly hosted at the Celtic Junction, the theme of this year’s Arts Week was “Make it New,” inciting original ways to introduce the love and lore of Irish culture and deliver it to the public. Irish Arts Week in St. Paul draws upon the many talents, skills, and knowledge of individuals in the Twin Cities to make it an educational and interactive experience with members of the community. Many events were held at the Celtic Junction Arts Center, but an enjoyable aspect of the Arts Week, which ran a total of ten days from May 3rd-12th were the variety of other participating locations around St. Paul and Minneapolis.

The festivities launched with a “SuperCELT” rave blending Celtic music with punk beats by band Langer’s Ball and D.J. Drew Miller. The McKiernan Library hosted story time with bone-chilling, “Murder Ballads” from Ireland shared by Courtney Buck. Aspiring artists learned beautiful Celtic drawing techniques of Celtic gods, goddesses, warriors and fascinating creatures by artist Carrie Finnigan. Ethna McKiernan spoke on her latest work Swimming with Shadows at her poetry book launch. Saturday, May 4th was a day dedicated to celebrating: it was the Celtic Junction’s 10th Anniversary, the 4th Irish Arts Week, and the Irish Fair of Minnesota’s 40th year. For art lovers, gallery space was dedicated to Chicago-based artist Margaret Mulligan’s exhibit The Ireland I Love on her pastoral Irish paintings. Finally, the concert space at Celtic Junction held a performance by world-renowned tenor, Paul Byrom.

But Arts Week also wove in additional events all over the city. Attendees visited Finnegan’s Brewery for local musician Danny Schwarze’s Celtic album release. Adventurous folks hopped on a bus to tour St. Paul’s historic Connemara Patch and enjoyed a walking tour with guide Teresa McCormick. Irish family-owned pub Joe and Stan’s hosted artist Tom Dunn who spoke about his photo exhibition about the Irish community in Minnesota. A stop by Emmett’s Public House on Grand Avenue in St. Paul enlightened visitors to Connemara-raised artist Clare Pelzer and her art work. Sonoglyph Collective, a literary and musical group, performed a beautiful mix of music, poetry, and the spoken word at East-side Freedom Library. Irish Arts Week closed with a community bonfire at St. Paul’s Newell Park and a 30-foot “Creativity Labyrinth,” designed by artist Marilyn Larson. 

Bonfire at Newell Park 2019

Consul General Brian O’Brien speaking about Brexit and the Global Ireland 2025 initiative.

In its 4th year, the Arts Week is growing and evolving a larger appreciation for Irish culture, similarly hoping to have as much of a following as the Swedish or Germanic cultures that the Twin Cities already foster. The Celtic Junction is doing a fantastic job to preserve and promote Irish culture in the Twin Cities, but the vision is also global, hence Consul General Brian O’Brien’s presence at this year’s event. O’Brien delivered a talk on Brexit and the Global Ireland 2025 initiative: the Irish government’s goal to partner with Irish communities worldwide and expand the country’s impact both culturally and economically. 

CJAC school outreach event 2019

Besides the annual Irish Arts Week, The Celtic Junction Arts Center also focuses on outreach. They proudly take Irish dance, music, language, and history, and “bring it out everywhere we can,” Natalie says. At anything from metro-area festivals to formal school programs, the educators love to introduce Irish culture even at the youngest age. For example, Natalie recounts a time she visited an elementary-aged classroom. “We’ll gather the children and ask, ‘Did you know there was an Irish language?’ and the students will breathe, ‘no!’ So we say ‘Try saying this,’ and give them an example of the Irish language. And we’ll ask, ‘Does that sound different?’ And they say, ‘Yeah!’ So we say, ok you try it now, and we’ll show them a little dance, show them a little music, show them a little story. With the outreach programs, we go as far and as wide as we can,” Natalie states. 

O’Shea Irish Dancers at the Faribault County Fair, 2010

“We started our dance school in 2005, without any plan to do anything much larger,” Natalie says. “We were just young parents at the time with two young children and another on the way. So reflecting on what the Celtic Junction has become since then is wonderfully rewarding.” She reveals the arts center recently compiled an email of all the musicians who have played at the venue over the last 10 years. “It was really exciting to put that together. You look back and think ‘Oh my!’ look at what we’ve all done, look at this venue. And the only way something like that happens is through time and investment.”  TOP

Next Steps

“So what’s our next step?” Natalie says after reflecting over the past decade. “To ask, what is the vision for the community? Our goal is to make sure that this can be here for another ten years.” As she steps into her office at the Celtic Junction, she grabs a handful of colorfully printed flyers to distribute for upcoming events. “We’re fueled by an evolving community for the arts,” she says. “And maybe that’s not the right way to put it, but that’s the quintessential part of it, and so we’ll see what it becomes.” The annual Irish Arts Week which Patrick freely admits couldn’t exist without the support of the Celtic Junction Arts Center is one of the milestones on their creative journey.

Ashley Gaughan is a St. Paul writer who loves exploring the rich culture of the Twin Cities. She enjoys writing about many topics, but she especially loves writing about the many fascinating people she encounters in her work and putting their stories into words.


The Memoirs of an Abbey Actor 

By  Clive Geraghty (Three excerpts exclusively shared with the Celtic Junction Arts Review.)

I did some good work in 1965/66, and of course the excitement in the Abbey was huge as we were due to move into the new Abbey Theatre, back in its original site in Marlborough St., later on in the summer. Walter Macken, a distinguished actor, playwright and novelist, was appointed Artistic Advisor to help run the Abbey in 1965, while Ernest Blythe was to continue as Chairman of the Board. One of the first things Wally did was to call a meeting of the Players, at which he outlined his intentions and hopes for the future. He finished by telling us that our jobs were secure, that there would be no changes to the structure of the company.

As was our wont Donal McCann and I met at lunchtime one Friday in late May or early June, to collect our pay. This particular Friday was the last payday before the holidays, so we had five weeks pay coming to us. We collected our envelopes, and then headed to O’Neill’s for a pint and a sandwich. My envelope seemed to be fatter than Donal’s; I opened it and took out some papers, along with my money. I looked at the forms and wondered what they were. “They’re your cards” said Donal. Getting your insurance cards was like getting your P45 nowadays. That was how I found out that my one year contract was not being renewed. Gutted doesn’t start to describe my feelings. I went in to work that night with a heavy heart, and a heavier one for the last performance in the Queen’s theatre on the Saturday.

I knew nobody in the theatre world outside of the Abbey; it was my whole world at that stage. Fortunately some time beforehand Vincent Dowling had arranged for me to meet one of the only two agents in town in those days, Tommy O’Connor, and Tommy had agreed to take me on. Una was as upset as I was and my father was sure that I had dirtied my bib somehow in the Abbey. Maybe I had. Sometime earlier I was playing a non-speaking role in ‘The Singer’ by P.H.Pearse, Vincent Dowling was playing the lead, and one night he called me aside after the show and tore strips off me. He said that I had been drinking and he was right, I had. He told me that if he ever suspected that I had drink taken at work again he would report me to the management, he really let rip, and his advice was well taken. When he heard that I had been let go he came to me on my last night in the theatre and told me that it had nothing to do with the incident during The Singer; and I believed him. But many years later someone who was close to the action told me that Vincent had been advising Wally Macken on who should go and who should stay, as Wally was unfamiliar with the set-up, and that he had been responsible for my leaving. If it is true then he did me an enormous favour. Sometime later someone said that the decision was taken because at the time there were too many young men in the company, Vincent was still playing juveniles, we had Donal, Des Cave, Stephen Rae, Pat Laffan, there just wasn’t enough work for all of us. If someone from management had said that to me it would have taken some of the hurt out of the peremptory dismissal, I was in a state of shock, I didn’t know where to turn or what to do next. TOP

 Another Change of Course

Then a woman entered my life who was to have a big influence on me several times in the next few years, Lelia Doolan. Tommy O’Connor rang me about two weeks after my sacking to say that Lelia wanted to see me out in RTE. I went along to our meeting, I think the Head of Drama Chloe Gibson was also there; Lelia told me that she was directing ‘The Plough and the Stars’ for television, and asked if I would be interested in playing Jack. Luckily I had played it a short time before and so was able to speak fairly knowledgeably about Jack and his relationship to the play in general and Nora in particular. I had never done anything like this before, meeting and convincing important people that I had the ability to play a part, and to do it better than anyone else, but obviously I was a quick learner because a few days later Tommy rang to say that I had got the part. I was on top of the world, a whole new aspect of my life was opening up; but still I would have loved to have been part of the move to the new Abbey, and not being there still rankled.

I started rehearsing during the summer. Kate Binchy, Pat Laffan’s sister-in-law, was playing Nora, a wonderful actress and great fun to be with. Ronnie Walsh was Fluther, Eoin Ó Suilleabháin was Captain Brennan and Michael Campion played Langan. We had fun working on it, but it was tricky. RTE was using a combination of film and VTR, and studio and outside broadcast recording would also be involved. But I knew the play backwards by this stage so I had no worries about keeping my end up. Of course I knew nothing about acting for the camera, but I picked up on it pretty quickly. We filmed the exteriors in a tenement in Henrietta St.; that was an interesting insight into a part of Dublin life that was still all too common in 1966. Marie Kean was a very strong Bessie Burgess.

Marie and I had worked together on ‘The Kennedys of Castlerosse’, the long running soap on Radio Éireann, and many years later she played Mrs.Grigson in a production of Shadow of a Gunman; I was playing Dolphie, her husband.

While I think of it, there was something surreal about listening to myself on the ‘Kennedys of Castlerosse’ on the radio in the billet in Baldonnel, while the others around me had no clue that it was Airman Geraghty. C who was playing Brian Kennedy.

But to get back to RTE and the Plough, one day during a coffee break while we were recording in the studios in Montrose, the floor manager, Kieran McCaffrey, came to me and told me to hang back when lunch was called. This I did; he then told me to go to wardrobe; I did, and was handed a costume and asked to put it on, and then to go to the make-up department. I did as I was asked; they stuck a moustache on me and told me to go back to the studio. One cameraman was still on duty, Kieran told me to walk up and down, to do a few other small things, then told me to get changed again and go to lunch. When the day’s work was over I met Lelia and asked her what was going on with the moustache and all. She apologised, said sorry, that she should have told me earlier. RTE was about to televise ‘The Real Charlotte’ by Somerville and Rosse, and that had been my screen test for Chloe Gibson and Michael Garvey for the part of Roddy Lambert, a leading part. Not only had I tested for the part, I had got it. Six one-hour episodes, to start shooting in a couple of months. All this less than two months since the devastating discovery of my cards in my pay envelope in O’Neill’s.

I had the most wonderful time working on Charlotte; I met two brilliant actresses Peg Monahan, who played my wife, and Sheila Cullen who played Francie. I think we spent nearly four months shooting it; I rode horses, wore expensive clothes and altogether loved every minute. The only fly in the ointment was my working class background, a Dublin accent would have been incongruous in the milieu of the Anglo-Irish upper middle-class we were portraying, but I think I managed it okay. Occasionally someone would give me the proper English pronunciation of say ‘moustache’ or how they would say ‘father’. When Irish people are trying to be posh they say ‘fawther’, but this is not the preferred pronunciation in the upper crust. I took on board all the advice I could get, if I was sure that the source knew what they were talking about.

Photo courtesy of Abbey Theatre. Fedelma Cullen and Clive Geraghty as Oberon in A Midsummer’s Nights Dream.

That summer was the start of a fabulous five years of freelancing. I was even invited back to the Abbey to play in the Irish language pantomime that year, and afterwards was a regular guest on the stage of the new Abbey. A new manager had been installed, Phil O’Kelly, and on my first chat with him about pay, I mentioned that £18 a week was not very generous. So Phil offered to do away with the rehearsal pay of £5 a week, and to put me on the £18 for the length of the contract. I found this acceptable. The pay that actors got for rehearsal weeks in those days, £5, was ridiculous, because after all rehearsing incurred more expenses than playing, and if you had three weeks rehearsal at a fiver and three weeks playing on £20 your average earnings for the run worked out at £12-10-00 per week.

Young Fay Compton, September 1894 –December 1978

I did a serious amount of television work, at home and abroad. In 1967 RTE sold the Plough to the BBC. A few weeks later Tommy O’Connor got a call for me to go to London to do an episode of a drama series called Sanctuary. Jackie McGowran was in this episode, and Des Perry, and the lead was played by a beautiful English rose called Joanna Dunham. It was my first time to work abroad as an actor, and I had only a limited amount of experience of working on T.V., but the others were great. Most actors will keep an eye on the younger ones, drop helpful hints where needed, and I needed a lot of hints. On the first day’s rehearsal I finished before the others, and this old lady who was also finished asked me if I would like to go for a cup of tea. Now, the pub was more my line, but she was so quaint and friendly that I went along to her favourite coffee shop with her, and we had afternoon tea, dainty sandwiches and buns, with cream and jam. She talked away to beat the band, and she was entertaining and interesting.

An odd couple we made, this Grand Dame of British theatre, and the very unpolished young actor from Dublin, having tea and scones in a posh tearoom in Oxford St.

So for the rest of the two weeks, whenever she asked me, we went for a cup of tea. But due to my lack of knowledge of the history of theatre I didn’t realize what a fund of information I had at my disposal, and so didn’t fully appreciate my companion. She was Fay Compton, who had been a big star of the English stage many years before, she played with Gielgud in his heyday, and was Ophelia to John Barrymore’s Hamlet. TOP

JULY 1994

I left the stage at the end of act one, drenched in sweat and furious. I went to my makeshift quick change room in the wings, took off my soaked shirt, and changed for act two. With the applause tapering off, I went to the stage director, Finola, who was also my wife, and launched into a vitriolic diatribe about the conditions in which I was playing act one, in particular the offstage coughing of the actress playing the maid. “Hack, hack, qaarqk,kraaq, all through the bloody act. Jesus Christ it’s like playing in a shagging chest hospital, I can’t hear myself think out there, all I can hear is that flaming cough, krark krark, totally feckin’ distracted”.

I paused for breath, and didn’t notice that my wife was taking a dim view of my offstage performance. I was complaining to her as my wife, for a sympathetic ear to listen to me; she thought I was giving out to her as the stage director for the noise in the wings, and that I was giving her a bollicking in front of her staff. Me and my big mouth. But the coughing really was the pits. And when the maid would have cleared her tubes, Sir Ralph Bloomfield Bonnington would then go to work to get the congestion from his lungs, giving a good impersonation of a machine gun test firing in the wings. He, out of consideration for the actors on stage, went into the scene dock to do his coughing, not realising that it acted as an echo chamber which increased his volume significantly. When he would pause for breath, the maid would re-launch her attack on her phlegm. If she had anything more than a one minute break between entrances, she’d hie her hence to the Green Room for another cigarette, which would bring on another throat clearing session in the wings, which would start Sir Ralph off again. And the audience never needs any encouragement to give their pipes a clean-out, so they would join in the bronchial benediction. There’s no business like show……

I was playing Sir Colenso Ridgeon in The Doctor’s Dilemma, in the Abbey theatre. It was Saturday night, we had a goodish house, probably a bit over half full, and we had had a fairly good house for the matinee that afternoon. But the weather was very humid, and apart from being tired from doing the two shows, my underwear was stuck to me, and I still had another ninety minutes to go, but fortunately for me, the coughing maid had long since left the theatre, as she was only involved in the first act, so the rest of the play would be smooth enough.

The matinees were a recent innovation at the Abbey, the management’s latest ploy to get us out of the most recent economic disaster. The means by which matinees were introduced still rankled with me, the negotiations consisted of the Chairman of the Board telling the assembled workforce of the theatre to accept the matinees, to accept redundancies and changes in work practices, or the theatre would close. And we did accept them. And still we got protective notice. And we still might close later on in the year. But to hell with it, it would not be the end of the world if we did close; it might be a way of getting rid of some of the dead wood and bad practices in the place.

Anyway, I went to the Green Room for my coffee, and cooled down, in the company of my friends and colleagues. Recent changes in the Abbey meant that the Green Room was now the Yellow Room; that the old comfortable armchairs had been discarded in favour of fast food furniture, and Plays and Players had been replaced by Hello magazine. Like a doctor’s waiting room in a not too affluent practice; very appropriate, for this play at least.

The rest of the evening went quite well. We were playing Shaw’s acts one and two as the first half of our show, and three, four and five as the second half. Some of the second half played slowly; the death of the artist seemed to take forever, probably because I had very little to do in that act, except to stand and listen, and throw in an occasional line. Our director, Lynne Parker, had allowed all the other Doctors to sit in that act, lucky them, while I was standing around like a hoor at a hockey match.

We had a bad moment earlier in the run, after the first preview I think. It was noticed by the powers that be that the play was very long, and that the final curtain might not fall until about 11:15pm. Now, once it goes past 10:45pm or so the audience starts getting restless. Two things account for this: one, their bums are sore from sitting so long, and two, they want to get to the bar and have a drink before heading home. The only solution for a too long play is to cut it, but the Shaw estate has an embargo on cuts, or so we were told. At a rehearsal the next morning the director told us that we had to speak faster. Now, when you have spent four weeks speaking the lines at a certain pace it is not easy to play them faster. Shaw’s plays are long, the speeches are long; they are plays of ideas, not action, and as John Osborne put it “Shaw writes like a Pakistani who has learned English as a twelve year old in order to become an accountant”, so the tempo really sets itself in rehearsal. I was happy enough with my own pace of delivery, I wasn’t milking it, I was quite snappy in my speech, so I decided not to change anything at this late stage. But one of the senior actors, who was playing Sir Ralph Bloomfield Bonington, took the director at her word, and startled me at the next performance by starting our first scene early on in Act 1 at a rate of knots. I knew that the pace was unsustainable, and some minutes into the scene, in the middle of a long speech he dried. He was sitting on a settee, I was standing behind him. I knew his next line so I gave him a prompt; he took it and went on. But a few lines later he went again. The stage director gave him a prompt, but such was his panic at this stage that he couldn’t take the prompt. She gave it louder, he didn’t pick it up. Then he stood up and said “Sorry, I can’t go on, I have to get the book”.

He left the stage, went to wherever he had left his script and came back on with it. We picked up where we had stopped, and played out the rest of the act. He went to his dressing room at the interval and said that it was over, that he couldn’t go on. Finola went to his dressing room, got him a cup of tea, and spent the interval talking him down from the nervous high he was on. She persuaded him to go on, with the book in hand and finish out the show, which he did. When the curtain finally came down, he was quite adamant that he could not do the play anymore. The Director was there, the Artistic Director, the Stage Director, an impasse was reached. Then, as sometimes happens, an actor came up with an idea that helped solve the problem.

In the Abbey there was no dedicated prompter, the Stage Director kept an eye on the script while calling the show, cueing lights, sound, stage staff etc. and the A.S.M. was usually busy preparing things for the next act. Derek Chapman was playing a sizable part in the play, Dr.Schutzmacher, but he was never on the stage at the same time as the actor with the problem, so Derek, in a remarkable act of generosity volunteered to sit in the prompt corner with the text, ready at a moment’s notice to deliver a cue if and when it was needed, if this was acceptable to Sir Ralph. It was. This meant that Derek was going to have a hard five or six weeks, playing his own part and then getting into the isolated corner downstage to look after a fellow actor in trouble, for hours every night.

This solution was conveyed to management and was agreed to. So Derek spent this long, wordy play, following the script night in night out, when he could have spent the hours when he was not on drinking coffee, or reading a book, or relaxing. When the run was over the senior player gave him a bottle of whiskey in thanks; management, if memory serves me well, did nothing to recognise the sacrifice until after many heavy hints from Finola they thanked him appropriately. The show did poor business and got poor notices. C’est la vie.

Clive has been an actor for many years. He was a student in the Abbey Theatre School of Acting in the 1960’s, and then in more than forty years in the Abbey Theatre Company he played in over two hundred plays, in parts big and small. 

He has made many appearances on TV, and recently appeared in Corp agus Anam 2, the Irish language drama series, and in Klondyke. More recently he filmed Eipic, which was transmitted on TG4 in 2016.

 Clive has written plays for radio, was a scriptwriter on the TV show Fair City, and wrote many pieces for Sunday Miscellany and The Living Word on radio. Some of his writings can be read at 

In 2007 Clive took a break from his acting career to go to university. He took a Diploma in Irish, then in 2011 was awarded a first class honours degree in Modern Irish and Medieval Irish in Maynooth University. He is currently working on a post-grad thesis. His book ‘Diary of an Abbey Theatre Tour’ is now on sale, and his memoir ‘Under the Radar’ is due out soon.