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Villanova University Strengthens Ties to Ireland with Visit from Irish Senator and Director of Abbey Theatre Nov. 10

Fiach MacConghail

VILLANOVA, Pa. – Villanova University continues to strengthen its partnership with Ireland with a visit Nov. 10 from Fiach MacConghail, Irish Senator and Director of the Abbey Theatre, the National Theatre of Ireland. The visit is part of Villanova University and the Abbey Theatre’s growing relationship, which includes the Abbey Theatre Summer Studio, an opportunity for Villanova students to learn and work in the world-renowned theatre.

MacConghail will present a talk, “Irish Theatre Today” on Monday, Nov. 10 at 7:30 p.m., in Driscoll Hall Room 132. It is free and open to the public. During MacConghail’s tenure as director, the Abbey Theatre has become renowned for producing work that reflects the nation’s current cultural and political landscape. He will discuss some of the highlights of his tenure, which includes over 100 productions by celebrated Irish playwrights.

The lecture follows a recent visit to Ireland by Villanova President, the Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA, PhD,  along with Villanova administrators and faculty, to celebrate the goals and progress of the University’s Capital Campaign, “For the Greater Great: The Villanova Campaign to Ignite Change,” with alumni, parents and friends. While in Dublin, the group also met with the President and Prime Minister of Ireland, along with other distinguished University alumni. The meeting’s purpose was to discuss Villanova, its Irish Studies program, the University’s role in the Irish Diaspora and the University’s on-going partnership with the Abbey Theatre.

MacConghail’s visit continues Villanova’s long history of exchange with Ireland, starting with the University’s founding by Irish Augustinians in 1842. Established in 1979 and housed within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Villanova University’s Irish Studies Program is one of the oldest and largest in the U.S.  The program explores the history and culture of the Irish people from the different perspectives of literature, history, art, politics, and folklore, enabling students to understand the richness of Irish culture.  In 2000, the program established the Charles A. Heimbold, Jr. Chair of Irish Studies, one of the most prestigious Irish Studies positions in the U.S. 

The Abbey Theatre partnership with Villanova began under MacConghail’s leadership and now includes a for-credit component for undergraduates starting next summer. Students in the Summer Studio will attend lectures in the mornings with Villanova professors and will then take part in an afternoon practicum session led by Abbey Theatre practitioners, including producers, directors, actors, and writers. Students will also attend other performances at Dublin theatres and gain an overview of theatre in Ireland.

“The Abbey Theatre program is, in itself, an extension of the Irish Diaspora,” said Joseph Lennon, PhD, director, Villanova University Irish Studies Program.  “It is a way to connect Americans to Ireland that goes deeper than tourism, but rather through cultural and artistic exchange. Theatre in Ireland mirrors the nation. The Summer Studio at the Abbey Theatre is vital to showing students that theatre, as an art form, can be a vital part of a nation’s culture.”

Founded in 1904 by W.B. Yeats and Lady Gregory, the Abbey Theatre occupies an important place in the Irish psyche, both at home and abroad. Committed to creating “world-class theatre that actively engages with and reflects Irish society,” the theatre, which works to preserve the works of classical Irish playwrights as well as foster emerging talent, remains one of the most enduring institutions in literary history.

About Villanova University: Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's six colleges – the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Nursing, the College of Professional Studies and the Villanova University School of Law. As students grow intellectually, Villanova prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them.