Drama Groups in Charlestown - 1958 Amateur Drama Season

The Charlestown Dramatic Society will always be remembered as the success story of the 1958 Amateur Drama season, a story that started with Thomas MacAnna in Athlone and ended on the same Athlone stage with the teamwork of the cast of 'Gaslight'. Olive Gallagher, Francie Walsh, Bridgie Duffy, Paddy Henry, P.J. Brennan, the Producer Rev Thomas Vesey, can tell the story.

They listened to MacAnna as he took them through the lines of 'Maurice Hart', explained the mistakes, praised the acting and made suggestions. When word got out that the society was to perform the Patrick Hamilton play 'Gaslight', there were a few gloomy predictions, that this work, required as it did, a near professional cast and the last word in pace and production, would not give them a chance.

What happened? They won the Cup in Tubbercurry and Paddy Henry, in the role of Manningham, took the Gold medal as the best actor of the festival. They went to the Mayo Drama festival, won the Cup and Paddy Henry again took the Gold medal.

The Society set a proud record in 1966 with their production of 'That Family Feeling' by Local Author Fr. Joseph Cassidy, later on Bishop Cassidy. The dramatic success story began when the group won the Rural Cup at the New Inn Festival. Individual awards were won by Colum Walsh for Best Actor and Olive Regan 'Gallagher' for the runner up award for best actress. The third Rural Cup was won at Ballyshannon Festival and again Joseph Walsh taking the award for Best actor.

Next came Tubbercurry Festival and here the group won another Cup and Joseph Walsh Won yet another medal for best actor. That same week the group was pipped for first place at Ballinrobe Festival, but medals were won by Olive Regan and Joseph Walsh. On top of this Paddy Henry won the producer's medal.

In the All Ireland Rural Drama Festival at Loughrea, they captured three Cups, the Seamus O'Kelly Cup for best three act comedy, best artistic setting and Paddy Henry won the Cup for Best character actor.

The full cast of 'That Family Feeling' was: James O'Donoghue, Des Peyton, Patricia Maguire, Joseph Walsh, Thomas Brennan, Colum Walsh, Olive Regan, Rita Rooney, and Evelyn O'Hara.

All of the above players left a wonderful legacy in Charlestown, that will be very hard to follow in years to come. Some have gone to that great Theatre in the Sky, and I presume will be carrying on that great tradition for eternity.

Cathal Henry 2014

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