The Catholic University of America

March 10, 2016

Remembering 1916: Moments in Irish History

During Easter week 100 years ago, Irish republicans mounted an armed insurrection to end British rule in Ireland and establish an independent Irish Republic while the United Kingdom was heavily engaged in World War I.

To commemorate the centennial of the Easter Rising of 1916, the Department of Drama will host staged readings of Shadow of a Gunman on Monday, March 14, and Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching to the Somme on Monday, March 21.

Shadow of a Gunman by Sean O’Casey — directed by Patrick Tuite, drama department chair — will be held at Busboys & Poets on Monroe Street in the Brookland neighborhood of northeast D.C. at 6 p.m. The play is a tragicomedy set during the Irish War of Independence in 1920 and deals with the aftermath of the rising. “It is looking back just as we are looking back,” said Tuite. 

Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching to the Somme by Frank McGuinness is directed by Matt Ripa, artistic director of Doorway Arts and administrative specialist for the drama department. The play, which will be staged at the Callan Theatre on campus at 7:30 p.m., follows a group of Irish Protestant volunteers from their joining up to their infamous deaths in France during World War I. 

“I thought it was important that we look at the how 1916 was refracted in different ways in the Irish experience,” said Gregory Baker, assistant professor of English and director of the Irish Studies program. “We wanted to illustrate the complexity of the event, not simple answers about what it means because what any large historical event means is always in progress.”

The readings will feature undergraduate and graduate students, along with CUA alumni who are professional actors in the D.C. metropolitan area. The events are open to the public with a pay-what-you-can donation.

These readings are presented in collaboration with the University’s Irish Studies program and as part of a citywide commemoration led by the Embassy of Ireland. Because 1916 is a key moment in nationalist history and the self-determination of seeking Irish independence, the embassy is hosting a nationwide centenary program. The program aims to present a view of 21st century Ireland with 1916 as a point of departure and will host political, economic, and cultural events across the United States.

“I hope [students] will learn about why this event is important to Ireland and certain preconceived notions about Irish nationality and its impact in their lives. I hope they’ll have more complex thoughts about what it means to be Irish in the 20th century,” said Baker.

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