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The Evolution of Irish Folk Theatre

​This ongoing project focuses on the emergence and development of folk theatre in Ireland with particular reference to Siamsa Tíre, The National Folk Theatre of Ireland. As well as engaging with the material presented on stage, the project considers the impact of tourism on Irish culture and cultural production, changing concepts of folk culture in an increasingly urbanized state and the potential of folk theatre to create as well as reflect a community and society. Papers draw selectively on the repertoire of performances devised by Siamsa Tíre over the past half century, highlighting themes and developments that inform an understanding of the art form and changes in Irish society more generally.

To date, publications include:

  • Kearney, D. and Commins, A. 2023. Much More Than ‘Danny Boy’: Bringing Irish Traditional Music to the USA. Ethnomusicology Forum.

  • Kearney, D. 2022. ‘Tourism, Touring and Staged Folklore’ in Staged Folklore, The National Folk Theatre of Ireland 1968-1998. Editors: Susan Motherway and John O’Connell. Cork: Cork University Press, pp. 27-45.

  • Kearney, D. 2022. Music in Ireland as Religious and Social Practice: The Experience of Pat Ahern. Musicultures 49, 187-212.

  • Kearney, D. 2022. ‘“They must know me”: Embodied Intertextuality and the Reworking of Local Irish Dance Traditions by Siamsa Tíre’. International Journal for Traditional Arts 3, 1-20.

  • Kearney, D. 2021. Port na bPucaí: Representations of solitude, isolation and otherworldly encounters in Irish poetry and folk theatre. Confluente, 89-105.

  • Kearney, D. 2021. ‘Forging The Dance: The Expression of Regionality in Irish Folk Theatre’, Timbres of Identity: Ethnomusicological Approaches to Music-Dance and Identity. Turkey: Association of Ethnomusicology, pp. 39-57.

  • Kearney, D. 'From Tralee to Times Square: Siamsa Tíre on Broadway', How Popular Culture Travels: Cultural Exchanges between Ireland and the United States. Eds. Sylvie Mikowski and Yann Philippe. Reims: EPURE 2019.

  • Kearney, D. ‘Reliving Island Life: Staging Stories of the Blasket Islands’ Estudios Irlandeses 2017, 12(2), pp.73-90. 

  • Kearney, D.  ‘Revisiting Samhain: Two Directions on a Theme’ in New Crops, Old Fields: (Re)imagining Irish Folklore ed. Conor Caldwell and Eamon Byers (Peter Lang, 2016).

  • Kearney, D.   ‘Pioneer of Folk Theatre, Pat Ahern of North Kerry’ in Irish Music Magazine No. 237, March 2015, p. 41.

  • Kearney, D. ‘The evolution of Irish folk theatre’ In: R. Amoêda, S. Lira and C. Pinheiro (Eds) Sharing Cultures 2013: Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Intangible Heritage (Lisbon: Greenlines Institute, 2013).

Conference Presentations and Guest Lectures include:

  • Kearney, D. 2023. Balancing Time: Seeing the past, present, future and other time in the productions of Siamsa Tíre, the National Folk Theatre of Ireland, Irish Society for Theatre Research, University of Galway, 5-6 May.

  • Kearney, D. 2023. Idir Eatarthu, Idir Dhá Linn: Understanding time in the productions of Siamsa Tíre, the National Folk Theatre of Ireland, ICTM Ireland Annual Conference, University of Galway, 24 February.

  • Kearney, D. and Motherway, S. 2022. Encountering Irish Folklore Backstage: Siamsa Tíre and the Dance Traditions of Kerry. ATLAS, MTU Cork, 6-9 September.

  • Motherway, S. and Kearney, D. 2022. Drawing from the Well: A Review of Siamsa Tíre’s Strategy for Sustaining a Living Traditional Arts Community in Rural Ireland’, 46th ICTM World Conference, Lisbon, Portugal, 26 July.

  • Kearney, D. 2022. “Idir Eatarthu: Encountering the Otherworld in Productions by the National Folk Theatre of Ireland”, 8th Biannual Conference of the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism (ESSWE), University College Cork, 6 July.

  • Kearney, D. 2022. Virtual bothántaíocht: Siamsa Tíre’s ‘Sounds Like Folk’ Podcast Series. ICTM Ireland Annual Conference, DkIT, 26 February.

  • Motherway, Susan and Kearney, Daithí. 2022. Drawing from the Well: A Review of Siamsa Tíre’s Strategy for Sustaining a Living Arts Community in Rural Ireland. Arts, Enterprise and Place in the Rural Creative Economy, Newcastle University, 12-13 January.

  • Kearney, D. 2021. A Blackbird in Seville: Reworking Steps from the North Kerry Tradition. SMI and ICTM Ireland Joint Annual Conference. Trinity College Dublin, 30 May.

  • Kearney, D. 2020. Representing Endings: The raison d'etre of folk theatre? Annual Conference Anthropological Association of Ireland, Dublin City University, 27 November.

  • Kearney, D. 2020. Forging the Dance: The Expression of Regionality in Irish Folk Theatre’ Symposium: Music/Dance and Identity: Timbres of the Danube, Association of Ethnomusicology Turkey, Bursa, Turkey, 4 October.

  • Kearney, D. 2020. ‘They must know me’: Reflecting on Siamsa Tíre’s representation of Irish culture for international audiences, ICTM Ireland Annual Conference, UCC, 21 February.

  • Kearney, D.  2018. ‘Folklore on Stage: Fifty Years of Summer Productions by Siamsa Tíre’, Béaloideas Na hÉireann / Irish Folklore Seimineáir Iarchéime / Graduate Seminars 2018-2019, University College Dublin, 20 November. 

  • Kearney, D. 2018. ‘Entertainment of the Land: Community and Regionality in Irish Folk Theatre’. ISTR Annual Conference: Regions, Ruins and Regeneration, University of Lincoln, 5 June.

  • Kearney, D. 2018. ‘Tourism, Touring and Staged Folklore: Constructing an Identity for Consumers’ Staged Folklore - The National Folk Theatre of Ireland 1968 - 1998. Siamsa Tíre / Institute of Technology Tralee, 11 May.

  • Kearney, D.  2017. ‘A quest for meaning in Irish folk traditions: the legacy of Fr Pat Ahern’ 44th ICTM World Conference, Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, University of Limerick, 13-19 

  • Kearney, D. 2017. ‘Beyond Traditional: Engaging with the Diversity of Music in the Work of Pat Ahern’ Society for Musicology in Ireland Annual Plenary, Queens University, Belfast, 17 June. 

  • Kearney, D.  2016. ‘From Tralee to Times Square: Irish Folk Theatre on Broadway’ CIRLEP, University of Reims Champagne Ardenne, 17 June. 

  • Kearney, D.  2016. ‘From Ballymac to Broadway: Irish Folk Theatre on the American Stage’ Society for Musicology in Ireland Annual Plenary, Dublin City University, 12 June. 

  • Kearney, D. 2016. ‘What about Danny Boy?: The challenging of American perceptions of Irishness by Siamsa Tíre in 1976’ 22nd Music Research Colloquium, Dundalk Institute of Technology, 19 May. 

  • Kearney, D. 2016. 'Ní bheidh a leithéid arís ann': Music and Commemoration in Irish Folk Theatre’ ICTM Ireland Annual Conference ‘Music and Commemoration’, St Patrick’s College, DCU, 27 February to 28 February. 

  • Kearney, D. 2015. ‘Seeking Inspiration, Reliving Lives: The Role of Archives in Irish Folk Theatre’ Performing the Archive, International Conference NUI Galway, 22-24 July.

  • Kearney, D. 2014. 'Staging Place: Encountering North Kerry through Irish traditional music, song, dance and mime' Music, Place and Community - ICTM Ireland Annual Conference, NUI Galway, 22 February.

  • Kearney, D. 2013. 'Revisiting Samhain: Two Directions on a Theme' New Crops, Old Fields – (Re)Imagining Irish Folklore Old McMordie Hall, School of Music, Queen's University Belfast 6 September. 

  • Kearney, D. 2013. ‘Stepping into the Otherworld: Representations of Irish folk culture’, 17th Music Research Colloquium, Dundalk Institute of Technology. 16 December.

  • Kearney, D. 2013. 'The Evolution of Irish Folk Theatre' Sharing Cultures 3rd International Conference on Intangible Heritage Greenlines Institute, Aveiro, Portugal, July.

  • Kearney, D.  2013. 'Cultural trustees and the inheritance of tradition: Presenting the music, song and dance of Kerry and Cork' Clonakilty Dúchas Heritage Public Lecture, Clonakilty, Co Cork 12 June.

  • Kearney, D. 2103. 'Seeing Frankenstein in the west of Ireland: Presenting Irish culture to tourist audiences' Society for Musicology in Ireland Annual Conference NUI Maynooth 23 June.

  • Kearney, D.  2010. ‘From the altar to the stage: the role of Fr Pat Ahern in the representation of Irish music, song, dance and story on the Irish stage’ at The First International Conference on Irish Music and Musicians, University of Durham, 14 July. 

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