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Monday, September 26, 2011

Mayor Fitzgerald Hails the Irish National Theatre in Boston in September 1911

Mayor John "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald, addressed the audience at the Plymouth Theatre on the opening night of the Abbey Theatre's first performance in Boston on Saturday, September 23, 1911.  The theatre company was embarking on a six-month North American tour to promote the new Irish National Theatre of William B. Yeats, Lady Gregory and others. 

The Irish plays on opening night included The Shadow of the Glenn by John M. Synge, Birthright by T.C. Murray, and Hyacinth Halvey by Lady Gregory

Mayor Fitzgerald, who was the grandfather of President John F. Kennedy, said to the audience:

"Ladies and Gentlemen — Like most of you I came here tonight as a learner and would prefer to listen rather than to speak. It has been my privilege to read some of the works of the remarkable group of Irish writers who have so recently won the enchanted ear of the English-speaking world. And I know from general report the claims and distinction of their writings.

"I am honored in presenting to a Boston audience the works of Mr. Yeats, who is here with us to-night. Lady Gregory, Mr. Synge, and others hardly less gifted, who have sought to portray the spirit and features of life in that mysterious western island, and I hope that this theater will be crowded at every performance so that there may be no doubt of Boston's appreciation of what this gifted group have done to release the imprisoned poetry of the people of Ireland."

There was controversy about the theater company's inclusion of John M. Synge's play, Playboy of the Western World, which was received with hostility when it was performed in Dublin.  Although that hostility was on display in other American cities - notably New York City and Philadelphia,  where conservative Irish immigrants objected to the negative slights about the Irish character - Boston was by and large receptive to the Irish theater company.

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