As I read Chapter 7 of Kilfeather’s Dublin: A Cultural History, I was struck by how deeply the arts are embedded into the culture of Dublin. From the Municipal Gallery of Modern Art to the Dublin Writer’s Museum, the city proves the respect with which it holds art. As an ancient city now urbanized, modernism is juxtaposed with history throughout Dublin. I was most fascinated, however, with the arguably most beloved hall of the arts: the Abbey Theatre. The Abbey Theatre, founded in 1904 by W.B. Yeats and Lady Gregory, gives testament to how a historical monument can survive among constant modernization.
When the Abbey Theatre was first erected, the stage was surrounded by an elegant archway, the balconies were lined with skillful crowning, and the banisters were made of beautifully carved wood. Today, the theatre takes a more modern approach. The walls are covered with wood, and the seats are adorned with a bright red velvet. While refurbishing the theatre with a look which will attract the modern consumer, Abbey Theatre pays homage to its history through simplicity. The bare walls and modest seating allows viewers to focus their awe toward the stage, honoring the reason the theatre was originally established– the arts. While providing modern luxuries that consumers are accustomed to, such as air conditioning and a bar in the lobby, the Abbey Theatre refuses to adorn itself with fantastical decorations and cushy, intricate seating.
As a theatre built by playwrights, it remains loyal to the art it is presenting, rather than becoming the art itself. Showboating would diminish the dignity of the incredible plays housed in the theatre. The international respect with which the theatre is regarded is evidence of more than the playhouse’s reverence for history; it demonstrates the city’s pride in its past. Dublin is a powerful figure of the endurance of a people, and the Abbey Theatre’s fortitude is a perfect example of the strength that comes with antiquity. It is simple in its appearance, yet incredible in its art.