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Gate Theatre History

Where it all started

The Gate Theatre was founded in 1928 by Hilton Edwards and Micheál MacLiammóir. During their first season, they presented seven plays, including Ibsen’s Peer Gynt, O’Neill’s The Hairy Ape and Wilde’s Salomé. Their productions were innovative and experimental and they offered
Dublin audiences an introduction to the world of European and American theatre as well as classics from the modern and Irish repertoire. It was at the Gate that Orson Welles, James Mason, Geraldine Fitzgerald and Michael Gambon began their prodigious acting careers. The company
played for two seasons at the Peacock Theatre and then on Christmas Eve 1929, in Groome’s Hotel, the lease was signed for the 18th Century Rotunda Annex – the ‘Upper Concert Hall’, the Gate’s present home, with Goethe’s Faust opening on 17th February 1930.

Lord & Lady Longford

In 1931 the newly established Gate Theatre ran into financial difficulties and Lord (Edward) and Lady(Christine) Longford provided financial support. The Longfords worked with Edwards and MacLiammóir at the Gate until 1936, then a split developed and two separate companies were formed and played at the Gate for six months each and also toured for six months until the death of Lord Longford in 1961.

During this period Edwards and MacLiammóir (Gate Theatre Productions) ran shows in Dublin’s Gaiety Theatre and toured productions to Europe, Egypt and North America.

1980’s – 2000’s

In 1983, Michael Colgan became Director of the Gate. During Dublin’s year as the European City of Culture in 1991, the Gate, in collaboration with RTÉ and Trinity College Dublin, mounted all nineteen of Samuel Beckett’s stage plays over three weeks; this Festival was later remounted in London and New York. This celebration of Beckett’s work was fitting as the Gate was the home for the Irish premiere of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot in 1956, as well as an iconic revival of the play, directed by Walter Asmus, in 1988. After the success of the 1991 Beckett Festival, the Gate then mounted six plays by the playwright Harold Pinter in 1994. During the 1990s, the Gate presented exciting new plays, including the seminal The Steward of Christendom by Sebastian Barry (1995), and Conor McPherson’s The Weir (1996). Friel’s seminal early play, Faith Healer, was revived in 2006 with Ralph Fiennes in the lead role; this production played to sold-out houses before touring to Broadway, where it was nominated for four Tony Awards (Ian McDiarmid won for Best Featured Actor).  As well as playing to audiences at home in Parnell Square, with memorable productions such as A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams, starring Lia Williams, the Gate also toured work internationally.

During this time, with the generous support of funders, the fabric of the building was restored and renovated under the guidance of Ronnie Tallon and Scott, Tallon Walker Architects. This included the provision of a new wing, which incorporates a space – The Gate Studio – to be used for rehearsals, workshops, offering practitioners an opportunity to develop and nurture creativity.

The Next Chapter

On 3rd April 2017, Selina Cartmell became Director of the Gate. Prior to her appointment as Director, she directed three award-winning productions for the Gate Catastrophe, Festen and Sweeney Todd, described in the Guardian as ‘a new dawn for the theatre’. Her inaugural season at the Gate opened on 12th July 2017 with the immersive production of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.