Archival Photos c.1904

Filed under:Research Sources — posted by Hugh Denard on March 28, 2011 @ 4:27 pm

Here are photographs of the old Abbey Theatre, provided by the Abbey Theatre, which has kindly given permission for their reproduction here on the project website. They were most likely taken around the time of the theatre’s refurbishment and opening, in December 1904.

Vestibule of the Old Abbey Theatre c.1904

Vestibule of the Old Abbey Theatre c.1904. Reproduced courtesy of the Abbey Theatre.

This image is taken from the stairs leading to the Balcony, looking down across the Vestibule towards the street entrance (left, partially hidden by pillar) and stained glass window by Sarah Purser (right).

The next image, one of the two most important historic images we have of the old Abbey’s auditorium, is taken from the steps at the foot of the stage to the left of the auditorium.

Auditorium of the old Abbey Theatre, c.1904. Reproduced courtesy of the Abbey Theatre.

Auditorium of the old Abbey Theatre, c.1904. Reproduced courtesy of the Abbey Theatre.

To the extreme left of this image, we can see the steep stairs down into the auditorium from the Vestibule and, beside it, a door (with balustrade) which led to the ladies’ lavatory.

The Stalls are formed of rows of individual, upholstered, tip-up seats, comfortably spaced. Behind them, we can make out the top of a barrier separating the Stalls from the Pit, to the rear, which consists of long, unmarked benches. Inset into the right-hand auditorium wall is a radiator.

Directly above can be seen the doorway from which patrons entered the Balcony from the Vestibule. A little to the right, between the three-headed light fittings, can be seen the round copper mirror which now resides in the Foyer of the modern Abbey Theatre. To the right of the image in the upper level can be seen one of two doorways that provided egress from the Balcony onto Lower Abbey Street.

The Balcony railings are delicate, pierced iron swags. A tall railing separates the entrance area from the seating. On close examination, we can the seating in the Balcony is composed of continuous benches, rather than the individual seats we see in the Stalls, below. However, we can also see small white dots on the backrests of the Balcony seating, and slender metal dividers / armrests confirming that from the earliest days, the Balcony seats in the Abbey were individually numbered and physically demarcated. Additional rows of Balcony seating can be discerned towards the rear of the auditorium.

This image has been central to the digital modelling process, as it provides “authoritative” documentation for the earliest phase of the Abbey Theatre, even more so than architectural drawings which must necessarily be “interpreted” for the specific conditions encountered within the building. Later photographs of the theatre, which I will blog separately, allow us to see various alterations which were carried out over the lifetime of the theatre, such as the introduction of doors around the Vestibule stairs, and changes in the seating arrangements in the Balcony and Pit.


Day 3 of Modelling

Filed under:Visualisation — posted by Hugh Denard on March 27, 2011 @ 10:18 pm

Here’s Niall’s latest video, showing results from Day 3 of his modelling of the Old Abbey Theatre.


@work@noho

Filed under:Project — posted by Hugh Denard on March 24, 2011 @ 4:00 pm

Hugh and Niall puzzling over the layout of benches in the ‘Pit’ and details of the stairway from the Stalls to the Vestibule.

Hugh and Niall at work in Noho's offices

Hugh and Niall at work in Noho's offices

 


New discoveries at the National Library

Filed under:Research Sources — posted by Hugh Denard on March 22, 2011 @ 10:09 pm

Back in January, I blogged about my two visits to the Prints and Drawings department of the National Library of Ireland. One of the little gems that Assistant Keeper Honora Faul unearthed was a ticket envelope from the old Abbey Theatre, on the side of which was printed a seating plan of the Balcony. Just a week ago, Honora wrote to me saying that she had, by chance, happened upon a second ticket envelope showing a plan of the Stall seats and front Pit seats. Quite unprompted, Honora has had both envelopes photographed and sent to me on CDs.

The information they provide is unparalleled in any of the documentation or plans we have had till now: they provide uniquely detailed information about the precise layout of the seating in the old Abbey.

And here they are: another project publication first, courtesy of the care and imagination of extraordinary people at the National Library of Ireland.

Ticket Envelope for Balcony of Old Abbey Theatre. Reproduced Courtesy of the National Library of Ireland.

Ticket Envelope for Balcony of Old Abbey Theatre. Reproduced Courtesy of the National Library of Ireland.

Ticket Envelope for Stalls and Front of Pit, Old Abbey Theatre. Reproduced Courtesy of the National Library of Ireland.

Ticket Envelope for Stalls and Front of Pit, Old Abbey Theatre. Reproduced Courtesy of the National Library of Ireland.

These views give a sense of the envelopes as physical objects. To see what they have to show us about seating arrangements in the old Abbey Theatre, we’ll have to look at the drawings more closely.

Detail of Ticket Envelope for Balcony of Old Abbey Theatre. Reproduced Courtesy of the National Library of Ireland.

Detail of Ticket Envelope for Balcony of Old Abbey Theatre. Reproduced Courtesy of the National Library of Ireland.

In this plan, we can see that the Balcony  is accessed by a single entrance, to the right, with two exits, one at either rear corner of the auditorium.

Two full rows, of seats 1-52 and 53-106, run from right to left around the entire curve of the Balcony, while a third row, seats 107-145, starts only part of the way along the right-hand side, perhaps designed to afford additional room near the entrance. These three rows are served by a single aisle with steps at each extreme nearest the stage, and two further sets of steps that line up with the exits.

Behind the aisle, row 4, containing seats 146-160, occupies only the centre area between the exits, while Row 5, seats 161-189, in addition to seats in this area, has a further ten seats, five to either, outer side of the exits.

In each row in the Balcony, the seats are close together, confirming what photographs of the theatre show: that seating in the Balcony consisted, not of individual tip-up chairs as in the Stalls, but of long, wooden benches, divided into separate, numbered seats only by slim, curving metal divides.

Detail of Ticket Envelope for Stalls and front Pit, old Abbey Theatre. Reproduced Courtesy of the National Library of Ireland.

Detail of Ticket Envelope for Stalls and front Pit, old Abbey Theatre. Reproduced Courtesy of the National Library of Ireland.

The second envelope shows eight, numbered rows of seats in the Stalls, and a further four unnumbered rows in the Front Pit area. Dark circles in the Stalls, and scratched-in seat positions in the Front Pit, show the location of the columns that supported the Balcony. The Stall seats offer generous leg-room, unlike those in the Front Pit. Rows 1 (seats 1-18), 2 (19-37) and 3 (38-56) are truncated to the right in order to give clearance to the entrance at the front, right of the auditorium, giving them just 18 seats each. Row 4 (seats 57-76) runs nearly the full width of the auditorium, but, twice interrupted by columns, gains  just one seat. (The marks on seats 66 and 67 show the seats booked by the tickets the envelope once held.)

Row 5 (seats 77-98) and 6 (99-120) have 21 seats each, while rows 7 (121-141) and 8 (142-162), at 20 seats each, both lose a single seat to a column. Here, as in the third and fourth rows of the Front Pit, the fact that the matching columns interrupt different rows is one of the few hints the theatre-goer would have had that the plan of the auditorium was not regular, but skewed, as Scott’s plan of the site so clearly shows.

The four rows of seats in the Front Pit (seats 1-23, 24-46, 47-68 and 69-92) show the same lateral compression we observed in the Balcony; with the theatre narrowing towards the rear, the Pit rows are shorter than that of the Stalls rows, and, in addition, the third and fourth row are each interrupted once by a column shaft, but they still managed to fit in a profitable 23, 22, 21 and 23 seats.

Behind these four rows, photographs from 1951 show a further five rows of seating, corresponding with the nine steps in the Pit area that appear in Scott’s 1935 survey of the auditorium. Scott’s survey also contains the same seating totals of 162 in the Stalls and 92 in the Front Pit that we see on the envelopes. The earliest photographs of the theatre pre-date individual seating even in the front rows of the Pit: the punters in the cheap seats piled into benches without even the dignity of the metal divides to be found in the Gallery. The post-fire photographs of 1951, however, show individually upholstered, numbered seats, with reservation labels (“IN AIRITHE”), on all rows of the Pit, indicating that at some time between Scott’s survey of 1935 and the fire in 1951, the Directors had chosen to liberate the lesser mortals of the darkest Pit from ignominious anonymity.

I’ve sent these images on to Niall at NOHO so we can factor all this new information into the digital model. What a wonderful find! Honora, you are in danger of becoming the official Muse of the project!


It’s a riot…

Filed under:Project — posted by Hugh Denard on @ 6:33 pm

For the past couple of weeks, my time has increasingly been taken up with work  for the launch event and our project-related performance, S H I F T, on 15th April, as well as giving papers and presentations.

There has been a definite increase in the tempo of this side of things since TCD Provost John Hegarty threw his support behind the project, involving not only his own office, but also the Alumni Office, Web Office, the School of Drama, Film and Music, the Trinity Foundation and the Abbey Theatre itself. Tickets for the production are now available online and by phone, and invitations will shortly be sent out to Alumni.

In other news, I had a great conversation this afternoon with Colin Murphy, a freelance journalist, blogger extraordinaire, and presenter of the six-part RTE radio series “From Stage to Street” which included a treatment of the 1907 “Playboy” riots, which is also the subject of our own production, S H I F T. Colin is a great fount of knowledge and creativity, and we hope to be able to work together to create a documentary of the project, from research to performance.

Other happy news includes an article in the New York Times, today, which features the virtual Globe Theatre, in Second Life, which King’s Visualisation Lab created as part of our Theatron 3 project. The article, by Patricia Cohen, shows students in the States using our Globe as a means of exploring aspects of Shakespearean drama.  Unfortunately they got the link to Theatron wrong, but still…

Some exciting new discoveries at the National Library… to follow!


Day 2 of Modelling

Filed under:Visualisation — posted by Hugh Denard on March 2, 2011 @ 3:49 pm

Hello Everyone,

Below is the second installment of my video diary of how I am progressing with the model. Once again, please excuse my monotonous droning as I try to describe what decisions I am making, based on what sources. The next one, I promise you, will have rendered material. It is a little hard to figure out from my wireframe what is taking place.

In the next installment I will begin to group models according to historical information.

Regards,

Niall




image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace