The first tour to America

The Abbey Theatre first toured to America in 1911. This programme records the Abbey Theatre’s first performances in New York, their eleventh stop on a 30 venue tour. Billed as the Irish Players they performed a triple bill of plays: Birthright by T.C. Murray and The Rising of the Moon and Spreading the News both by Lady Gregory, co-founder of the Abbey Theatre.

This was Lady Gregory’s first trip to America. Her presence on the tour was required initially to rehearse Eithne Magee in the role of Pegeen Mike. Prior to their departure Máire O’Neill, the original Pegeen had left the Abbey company, thus requiring a change in cast. In her account of the tour Lady Gregory noted “The interviewers saved me the trouble of writing letters these first days. I sent papers home instead”. Throughout the tour she embraced this new public persona conducting press interviews, delivering lectures and defending the company from those opposing the production of Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World. In New York she recounts her stay at the Algonquin Hotel on Times Square, whilst at the theatre she was given a little room off stage, Maxine Elliott’s own room, where players and guests often had tea with her.

The touring American programmes differed from those produced at home at the Abbey Theatre. The American programmes were populated with numerous advertisements, on occasion obscuring the cast listings. Note the theatrical allusion for the cigarettes advertised.

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