New Chapter of Irish Theatre History Begins With Opening of The Lir, National Academy of Dramatic Art at Trinity College Dublin

Posted on: 24 October 2011

A much cherished ambition to provide excellent training in drama for Ireland’s aspiring young actors and theatre makers was realised on  October 21st  last, with the opening of The Lir, National Academy of Dramatic Art at Trinity College Dublin.  This landmark Academy, which signals a flourishing future for theatre in Ireland, was conceived by Danielle Ryan of the Cathal Ryan Trust and developed in collaboration with Trinity College Dublin, with support from the Higher Education Authority, and expertise from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London.  The Lir will train young actors, designers, directors, playwrights, stage managers and theatre technicians to the highest international standards. 

Commenting on the significance of The Lir at its opening, Dr Patrick Prendergast, Provost of TCD said: “This is a seminal moment in the history of Trinity College, the history of Dublin, and indeed the history of Ireland. The Lir has real potential to be world-class – a renowned centre of excellence which will perform for Ireland on the world stage. I think of Trinity’s glittering names in drama such as William Congreve, Oliver Goldsmith, Oscar Wilde, J.M. Synge, Samuel Beckett, Sebastian Barry, Michael Bogdanov, Michael Colgan, Selina Cartmell, Lynne Parker and Dominic West. Then I look at our new students, these lucky fledglings of the Lir’s first courses, and I wonder, what new names will join the pantheon?”

In his speech, inaugural Director of The Lir, Loughlin Deegan, said: “I feel privileged and excited at the challenge of developing The Lir into a world renowned centre of excellence that can contribute to Ireland’s cultural prosperity.  I thank the Board for entrusting me with this important position as Director and I hope I can help realise the vision of The Lir during my tenure here.”

At the event, the first intake of 23 students, who started their courses on 19th September, were joined on stage by Danielle Ryan. Introducing the 15 Bachelor in Acting and 8 Masters in Fine Art, Scriptwriting students, Danielle said:  “These young people will be our cultural ambassadors of the future.  I hope that during their time at The Lir we can assist them to explore and maximise their creative talents.”  She also commended the dedication of the people involved in making the vision a reality:  “After just two years of planning and development, it is a great honour to be here in this amazing, purpose-built Academy.  My wish is that Ireland’s strong literary and dramatic history will be shaped by the world-class teaching on offer to students at The Lir.”

Celebrating the opening were guests from across the worlds of theatre, TV, film, and radio, including Saoirse Ronan, Sebastian Barry, Alan Stanford, Conor McPherson, John Carney, Lance Daly, Kirsten Sheridan, Moya Doherty, Nick Dunning, Garry Hynes, Rosaleen Linehan, Charlene McKenna, Lynne Parker, David Pearse, Pat Shortt and Joe Duffy.

The early days of The Lir fulfilled its promise as a lively hub of creativity, opening its doors to the public for shows at the Absolut Fringe and the Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival, as well as offering visitors a tour as part of Open House. The academy will continue to welcome visitors, with a café space designed to become a creative hub, as well as hosting theatre shows, and short courses open to the public over the summer.

The building and development of The Lir was funded by the Cathal Ryan Trust, a memorial fund to the late Cathal Ryan (one of the original co-founders of Ryanair) who bequeathed a sizable amount of money to the arts in Ireland, and to children’s charities abroad.

The new Academy was built specifically for purpose by Smith and Kennedy Architects, to the highest technical specifications, and comprises teaching, performance, studio and workshop spaces.  The Lir is located at the junction of Pearse Street and Grand Canal Quay beside Trinity’s Enterprise Campus – extending a creative corridor the length of Pearse Street to Trinity’s Science Gallery. For the exterior of The Lir, the Cathal Ryan Trust commissioned a public art installation to exemplify the philosophy of the Academy. The winning work, a sculpture by young Dublin based artist Alice Rekab called ‘Units of Potential’, will serve as an added attraction to the streetscape, reflecting the creativity being nurtured within the building.

The Academy is already receiving applications for courses in 2012, and are delighted to announce a 2 year Professional Diploma in Stage Management & Technical Theatre, with further MFA specialisms in Directing, Lighting Design and Stage Design to commence in 2013, as well as short courses starting in 2012. All courses taught by The Lir lead to degrees and diplomas awarded by Trinity College Dublin.

Prof Brian Singleton, Samuel Beckett Chair of Drama & Theatre at TCD and Academic Director of The Lir, said: “Ireland has a wonderful reputation for producing some of the most exciting playwrights in the world. We hope that our new, totally practical MFA in Playwriting will make a contribution to ensuring that reputation continues.”