Launch of Partnership with the Abbey Theatre

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‘We must keep young talented theatre makers in Ireland’ – Fiach MacConghail Director of the Abbey Theatre

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The Abbey Theatre, Ireland’s national theatre and the Institute of Technology, Sligo today (Thursday 3 May 2012) mark the launch of an exciting partnership to nurture the talent of young Theatre Design students in the Institute’s Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in Performing Arts.

As part of the historic initiative, an IT Sligo graduate will this summer take up the first, annual six-month Yeats Design Residency, during which they will work with world-class directors, designers and production staff on a range of productions in the Abbey and Peacock Theatre.  A series of work placement opportunities and collaboration on student projects have also been agreed.

The Yeats Design Residency bursary will be awarded to one student at the end of May. As part of their course, students were given the task of designing a set for A Midsummer Night’s Dream on the Abbey stage by Abbey Theatre Technical Director, Gavin Harding. Students were provided with a design brief, a budget and a timeline, in the same way professional designers are. At a reception today at the Abbey Theatre, students will display and present their set designs.

Fiach MacConghail, Director of the Abbey Theatre said; ‘The Abbey Theatre’s founders were committed to the importance of design in the national theatre. We are committed to ensuring the healthy future of that tradition by nurturing young theatre makers. This partnership gives young set designers an insight into the professional business of theatre. Many set designers go abroad to hone their craft. We must keep young theatre makers in Ireland by offering them support and opportunities. When I visited IT Sligo, I was struck by the sheer talent on display and the quality of the teaching which is world-class. I’m delighted to announce this partnership today’.

President of IT Sligo, Professor Terri Scott, said; ‘We are delighted to be formalising our association with the Abbey Theatre in this new venture. It’s fitting that two of WB Yeats’s greatest passions – the Abbey Theatre and Sligo – should come together in a partnership that fosters creativity. Providing career opportunities for our students is a priority for us and this partnership with our national theatre will give our undergraduates invaluable experience at the highest level’.

Frank Conway, who is a lecturer on the IT Sligo Performing Arts programme, is a former Head of Design at the Abbey Theatre and was instrumental in the development of the partnership. Speaking at the launch, he said; ‘Training in theatre design is the basis for a wide range of career opportunities in theatre and costume design, film and television production design, commercials, music videos, dance and opera. Many of these skills are currently brought in from abroad. I had to travel abroad many years ago for my own training. It’s a gift to have this course in Sligo, and now to have it so firmly associated with the Abbey Theatre.’

This partnership gives IT Sligo students the chance to gain work experience at the Abbey Theatre during their four year course. This will allow them gain insight into a working theatre, all aspects of theatre production, stage management and lighting and sound. Students will have the opportunity to attend technical and dress rehearsals, costume fittings, production meetings and attend meetings and talks with creative practitioners, directors, writers and designers. Members of the Abbey Theatre Production Department will participate in student assessments and the final year presentation process.

Speaking from London, OBE Award Winning Designer and Director of the internationally acclaimed Motley Theatre Design Course, Alison Chitty, said; ‘I am aware of the IT Sligo course in theatre design and its core philosophy of design as a way to release the play. I personally know some of the highly experienced tutors and the quality and high standards they invest in the course. I am delighted to see its development and totally endorse it, and the development of this historic relationship with Ireland’s national theatre.’

The BA (Hons) in Performing Arts at IT Sligo is the only full-time, degree programme which specialises in theatre design in Ireland. It has been running since 2006. The 2012 Graduate Exhibition of the programme will be launched in The Model in Sligo by the Abbey Theatre’s Technical Director, Gavin Harding, next Tuesday, 8th of May at 6pm.

The Abbey Theatre acknowledges the financial support of the Arts Council.


Listen to an interview on RTE Radio 1’s Morning Ireland Programme about the initiative here


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 IT Sligo student  Tanya Cash, Dundalk, Co Louth  with a model she prepared of Model of Salome.  

 President of IT Sligo Professor Terri Scott and Director of the Abbey Theatre, Fiach MacConghail pictured with one of models created Performing Arts students at IT Sligo.


IT Sligo student Aodan O’Connor, Celbridge, Co Kildare with a model he prepared of Model of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in a project with The Abbey Theatre.  
 IT Sligo student Avril Lahiffe, Drumshambo, Co Letrim with a model she prepared of Salome