On 24th April 2019 and exhibition of the archive of the renowned Irish playwright Frank McGuinness was launched in UCD Special Collections.
The exhibition displays handwritten and typescript drafts of McGuinness’s most well-known and critically acclaimed plays including The Factory Girls, Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me and Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme as well drafts of other work such as poems, screenplays and novels.
Such drafts show the progression of the work in the writer’s mind and demonstrate the considerable level of craft involved in reaching a point where a play is ready for production. The exhibition includes rehearsal notebooks, copies of notes written for directors and actors which show that each play continues to evolve during each new production.
This exhibition looks at the archive through the prism of the following themes: creativity, collaboration, production, reception and legacy. In response to these themes, Frank Mc Guinness personally chose five of his poems to be exhibited on the exhibition panels.
The theme of collaboration is exemplified though various types of materials that relate to the collaborative process involved in the creation and production of McGuinness’s plays. It includes a rehearsal notebook from the play Carthaginians and a copy of a literal translation by Fionnuala Murphy of the classic Greek play Oedipus by Sophocles as well as commentary notes by McGuinness for director Patrick Mason for the Sons of Ulster. These items demonstrate the impact that this collaboration with actors and directors, as well as other writers, has had on McGuinness’s work.
A selection of programmes and posters relating to the production of McGuinness’s plays are also exhibited including various productions of Sons of Ulster and Carthaginians as well as McGuinness’s adaptations of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House and Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya. Each of the panels in this exhibition includes images from productions of McGuinness’s work, including those at the Olivier Theatre in London as well as the Abbey and Druid Theatres in Ireland.
The theme of reception is represented by newspaper reviews, critical works on McGuinness as a playwright, an Olivier award nomination and a letter of appreciation from Stephen Sondheim.
The final theme of legacy is exemplified by a range of material showing the diversity of McGuinness’s work across genre. On display are drafts of several works including his latest novel The Woodcutter and his Family, his poetry collection The Stone Jug, the screenplay of Brian Friel’s Dancing at Lughnasa and the play Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me as well as examples of his published work in various genres.
The Frank McGuinness Archive in UCD Special Collections is extensive, representing as it does the writing life of one of Ireland’s foremost literary figures; taken together with his decades of service as an educator, the archive forms a significant part of McGuinness’s legacy – not just to University College Dublin but to the cultural life of the nation and beyond.
- This post was researched and written by Evelyn Flanagan, Head of Special Collections, UCD Special Collections.