Three Plays of Irish Origins to Consider for Classroom Work

Brittany Strelluf

OnStage St. Louis Columnist

Ireland’s performing arts are glittering emeralds in the treasure of Western theatre. The music, dance, language and theatre are incredibly entertaining and unique to Ireland.   Starting in Dublin at the start of the 17th century and stretching throughout the last 400 years, the Emerald Isle has left its contribution to world drama.

One resource that is extremely helpful for learning about Irish Theatre is PLAYOGRAPHYIreland. PLAYOGRAPHYIreland hosts two searchable and comprehensive databases of new Irish playwriting. It has information on all plays written in English since 1904. PLAYOGRAPHYIreland is online and free to use. 

It can be a fun and exciting exercise to experience culture through theatre, so here are three scripts to consider for use in the classroom.

Dancing at Lughnasa by Brian Friel

This popular piece has been included in a previous list on OnStage and it shall be included in this one as well. Dancing at Lughnasa is set in 1936 Ireland in the fictional town of Ballybeg. It is a memory play told from the point of view of narrator Michael Evans.  This script is a great piece to use as a lab show, and has elements that make it a great study for both acting and technical students. This show is a full length drama for 3 men and 5 women. It is available through Samuel French and Dramatist Plays Services, Inc.

By The Bog of Cats by Marina Carr

This piece is a retelling of the Medea Greek tragedy by Euripides set in contemporary Ireland.  This piece was a huge hit on the West End London stage. The script has some excellent passages for dialect work. It would be a very interesting activity to compare to the original Medea, and then maybe have students work on their own an interpretation of the piece.  The script calls for 13 players of 6 men 5 women and a girl. It is available from Dramatists Play Services, Inc.

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

Although Oscar Wilde made his career in England, he was Irish. This script is too good not to mention. It was first performed on 14 February 1895 at the St James's Theatre in London, but it still greatly appeals to modern audiences. This play is a classic for so many reasons. It is funny, quick-witted, and has relatable themes. This script has scenes that are fun for students and many discussion and essay questions about honesty and deception can be pulled from it. The Importance of Being Earnest is a full length comedy for 5 men and 4 women. Teachers will find that is readily available and scripts can be purchased through Samuel French.