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How Cathleen Became Mrs Monihan: Sara Allgood's ‘Grave Acting’ and Irish Female Performance

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 October 2016


Sara Allgood was an integral member of the Abbey Theatre from its opening in December 1904, yet her presence in its histories or in the growing national theatre movement of the time tends to be rather peripheral. Drawing on archival research in the Berg Collection and the Abbey Theatre Archives, Elizabeth Brewer Redwine argues here for the centrality of Allgood in the experiments of William Butler Yeats and Lady Gregory, and reveals the complicated class and religious fissures that surrounded the performance of Irish female identity in which Allgood was embroiled. By tracing her own trajectory, Redwine also challenges the dominant narratives of the Abbey Theatre that present it as distinct from earlier nationalist theatre movements, exploring the impact of the tableaux of the all-female street theatre group on the images of women presented on the Abbey stage. Further, she draws important connections between Allgood's work on the stage and her later work in Hollywood film, showing how she challenged stereotypes consistently to present a new kind of Irish female performance. Elizabeth Brewer Redwine lectures in the English Department at Seton Hall University, New Jersey, and is the co-editor with Amrita Ghosh of the forthcoming Tagore and Yeats: a Postcolonial Re-Envisioning. Her current research project, titled Written for Her to Act: Female Performance and Collaboration, examines Yeats's and Synge's collaborations with actresses at the Abbey Theatre.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2016 

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