What is the Mountmellick Drama Festival?

11 October, 2021

Mountmellick Drama Group started life as Mountmellick Pioneers way back in 1979. Founded on the instigation of the then spiritual director of the P.T.A.A. Fr Flemming, it was even then unique in that it was formed to bring drama enthusiasts both from within the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association into collaboration with non-pioneers to develop and nurture socializing through the medium of amateur theatre.

It proved a hugely successful venture with the first production, The Rain at the End of the Summer, by J.B. Keane taking to the boards in the concert hall in St Mary’s College in the spring of 1980. The group presented full length plays right throughout the eighties and nineties presenting a huge variety of Irish and internationally authored productions. Our ambition knew no bounds with everything from Irish stalwarts by Friel, Leonard and Louis D’Alton, to English farce by Ayckbourn to US classics like Miller’s All My sons. The involvement with the then fledgling Laois Drama Association helped to build a solid following and a knowledgeable audience in Mountmellick for all things dramatic.

In the late eighties the group ventured out on the One Act Festival Circuit and were shocked to achieve almost instance success ending up in the All-Ireland Drama Finals in 1987 and winning many awards in the nominating festivals over the following years. The group also became leading lights in the national Pioneer Competitions, the only situation where membership of the PTAA became a requirement to “get a part”.

Having provided the manpower and the drivers for the first Three Act Circuit Festival run by Laois Drama, it was a natural progression for the group to take a shot at running the festival themselves when the Laois Association decided to take a step back.

By this time Mountmellick Drama Group had taken up residence in the old cinema, called it the Concert Hall and started the development journey that culminated in the revamped and now very modern Community Arts Centre. We have been performing there both in the main auditorium and in the Balcony Studio Theatre since 1988. So, we had a great joining of objectives, energy, facilities and opportunity. The result, a thriving Festival, a flourishing performing group and an annual programme of theatre with an audience eagerly waiting for each season.

In latter years the link between the Drama Group and the PTAA weakened, different objective and progressive development plans for both organisations meant it was time for a mutually agreed parting to allow each group flourish in it’s own pursuits. Both organisations remain hugely supportive of each other’s work with lifelong links maintained.

Over the years the Drama Group has had in excess of 150 members who have worked both on and off stage in productions and festivals. We have had productions from ten different directors and continue to provide an outlet for anyone in the community with a bent for performance or stage craft.

Our Full length repertoire down through the years is 

Year3•Act PlaysAuthor
1980Rain at the End of SummerJohn B Keane
1981Paid In his own ColnThomas King Moylan
1982Damsel from DublinThomas King Moylan
1983The Highest House on the MountainJohn B Keane
1984Lovers’ MeetingLouis D’Allon
1985Catch Me if you CanJack Weinstock & Willie Gilbert
1986All my SonsArthur Miller
1987Mick and MickHugh Leonard
1988Bedroom FarceAlan Ayckbourn
1989How the Other Half LovesAlan Ayckbourn
1990Look no HansJohn Chapman & Michael Pertwee
1991Last of the Red Hot LoversNeil Simon
1992The Communication CordBrian Friel
1993The Factory GirlsFrank McGuinness
1994Run for your WifeRay Cooney
1995The Odd CoupleNeil Simon
1996Holiday SnapMichael Pertwee & John Chapman
1997The Lament of Arthur ClearyDermot Bolger
1998The Importance of Being EarnestOscar Wilde
2000The Patrick Pearse MotelHugh Leonard
2001Foot and Mouth Disease  No Show This Year
2002Happy Birthday Dear Alice 
2003The Beauty Queen of LeenaneMa rtin McDonagh
2008Big MaggieJohn B Keane
2009The Year of the HikerJohn B Keane
2010Dancing at LughnasaBrien Friel
2011One for the roadWillie Russell
 A crucial Week in the life of a grocers 
2012assistantTom Murphy
2013Move over Mrs MarkhamJohn Chapman
2014The Factory GirlsFrank McGuinness
2015Da_Hugh Leonard
2016Plaza SuiteNell Simon
2017Chehlre CatsGall Young
2018Lovers, Winners – LoosersBrian Friel
2019Lovers at VersaillesBernard Farrell
2020The Hen Night EpiphanyJimmy Murphy