Susanne R. Day’s Toilers—Her Lost Play—as Reconstructed by Painted Bird
6pm (15 – 18 June)
7pm (23 – 25 June)
Matinee 2.30pm (25 June)
Stack Theatre, CIT School of Music
Regular Price €16
Three young women determine to remake the world along more gender equal lines. They start by reconstructing a lost play.
In 1914, Susanne R. Day stages a “little propaganda play” in a fundraiser for women fighting for the vote. She has been fearless before, in her arguments, her commitments and her politics. She believes women should participate in all political decisions and means to prove it with her life. More than one hundred years later, three young women discover the stakes are just as high for them.
“…The chief attraction of the day was the series of most successful concerts arranged by Miss Mitchelmore, which included, in addition to musical items, the one-act play, “Toilers,” by Susanne R. Day, presented at the conclusion of each concert by Misses Egan, Barry, and Stack…”Irish Citizen, 2nd April 1914
Creative and Production Team
Naomi Faughnan—Costume Design
Rob Moloney—Sound Design
Eoin Winning—Set and Lighting Design
Sarah Foley, Assistant Set Design
Sinead Heavin—Stage Management/Production
Neil O’Driscoll—Print Design
John Allen—Photography and Video
Frank Prendergast—Web design/Marketing
Dr. Sandra McAvoy—Research Consultant
Sinéad Sexton—Research Assistant/Voice Recording
Songs: “The Skin Shed” and “Bridget Sheehan” are composed by Tom Lane. “Women Possess the Genius for Organisation,” and “Five Long Years” are composed by Rob Moloney and the cast.
This production has been developed in successive workshops in June 2015, December 2015 and November 2016, with collaborators Sarah Jane Shiels (Set and Lighting Design), Aoife Duffin (Performance), Raymond Scannell (Performance), Eoin Carrick (Co-Direction), Paige Vehlewald (Research) and, in her capacity as performer, Sinéad Sexton. These theatre artists have contributed perspectives on the concept and individual aspects of the production, which Painted Bird acknowledges with gratitude.
About The Production
Susanne R. Day came to our attention in late 2014 when Dr.Sandra McAvoy shared some Day documents with us. Some time later, we found a copy of Day’s The Amazing Philanthropists—a lightly fictionalized account of her time as a poor law guardian. It gave us rare insights into slum conditions in early 20th century Cork. It threw light on the challenges Day faced as one of the first women elected onto an all-male board. Most importantly, we understood that writing this book was a work of activism.
And so began the digging for materials: speeches, newspaper articles, essays, short stories, memoirs, plays and much more. On finding two articles about a suffrage fundraiser held in An Dún Theatre, Queen St., Cork, in 1914—where her self-penned ‘little propaganda play’, Toilers, was performed—but being unable to find the play itself, we saw the opportunity it gave us. Rather than serve the materials, we were free to play around with them. We would chart a route through the materials to the point where we left them behind.
We hit on a structure that can best be described as a boomerang, moving, as it does, outwards in time then curving backwards. We find Day in the midst of the suffrage debate to begin with, the sources mostly newspaper accounts and letters. We follow her as far as France during the war, relying on her memoir, Round about Bar-le-Duc. We switch back to listen in on board meetings, as detailed in The Amazing Philanthropists, and to tune in to her first play with Geraldine Cummins, Fidelity. We then give the stage over to the actors to reconstruct her earlier, lost play, Toilers.
Tickets are available from the Cork Midsummer Festival Website
This is Julie’s debut with Painted Bird.
Other theatre: Anna Karenina (Abbey Theatre), Glowworm (Umbrella Theatre Project, Tiger Dublin Fringe 2016). Julie is a graduate of The Lir, National Academy of Dramatic Art, where she appeared in Love and Information, Spring Awakening, The Provoked Wife, The Cradle Will Rock, Buddleia and Once in a Blood Moon.
This is Leah’s debut production with Painted Bird.
Other theatre: Wasting Paper, Removed (Squad); Neither Male Nor Mad (Liberty Hall); Canterbury Tales, Midsummers Night’s Dream, Museum (DIT); The Party (Tiger Dublin Fringe); Annie (National Concert Hall); Aladin (The Helix); Turandot (Gaitey Theatre).
Screen: No Surrender (Consant Motion Pictures), Battle (Cardel Entertainment, Winner of Best Picture at Portland International Film Festival), Whole in the Head (YIFM, IFB) and End Of The Reel (Blinder Films).
Leah is the Artistic Director of SQUAD Theatre Company and has directed shows in theatres such as Smock Alley, The Lyric and The Mac, Belfast. Leah recently won the Oscar Wilde Award for New Writing for her play, Wasting Paper.
This is Seána’s debut with Painted Bird.
Other theatre and screen: Helen and I (Druid), Cora, Leah and I (Bridgetalk), Broken Strings (co-written and performed with BRAVE). She also played the role of Michelle in Peel (Subotica films). She recently graduated from the Lir, National Academy of Dramatic Art, where she appeared in Spring Awakening, The Cradle Will Rock, The Vibrator Play and Love and Information.
Painted Bird: Between Trees and Water, direction and construction (with Thomas Conway, Fishamble Best New Writing Award at Tiger Dublin Fringe 2014).
Other theatre: As an actor, Fiona has appeared with Blue Raincoat Theatre Company on many occasions, including At Swim Two Birds, The Third Policeman, Rhinoceros, Alice in Wonderland and The Strange Voyage of Donald Crowhurst. At the Abbey Theatre she has appeared in Translations.
Fiona is Artistic Director of Painted Bird.
Painted Bird: Between Trees and Water (with Fiona McGeown, Fishamble Best New Writing Award, Tiger Dublin Fringe 2014)
Other theatre and dance: Druid, Dick Walsh, Una McKevitt, Moonfish, Pan Pan, Michael Keegan Dolan, Idle Motion. He is the editor of The Oberon Anthology of Contemporary Irish Theatre. He teaches contemporary theatre at The Lir, National Academy of Dramatic Art and is Druid Director-in-Residence at NUI Galway.
Painted Bird: Between Trees and Water (with Tom Lane, nominated for best sound design, Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards 2015).
Other theatre and dance: The Ireland Trilogy, It’s Not Over, The Game (THEATREclub); Giselle, Coppélia, The Nutcracker (Ballet Ireland); What Good is Looking Well When You’re Rotten on the Inside (Emma O’Grady); Traitor (That Lot); Under Milk Wood, The Lonesome West (Blood In The Alley Productions); Rarity, Hushed (Tonnta Music); Violet Gibson: The Woman Who Shot Mussolini (Noggin Theatre); Remember to Breathe (Figure 8: Edinburgh Fringe); Made In China (New Directors Festival, Cork); Desolate Heaven (Granary Productions & The Everyman Theatre).
Co-Set and Lighting Design
This is Eoin’s debut with Painted Bird
Other theatre: THEATREclub, Everyman Theatre, Graffiti, Dublin Fringe Festival, Nic Greene, The Lir Academy, Dublin Youth Theatre, Gonzo, Broken Crow, Conflicted and Equinox amongst others. Eoin is a member of THEATREclub.
This is Naomi’s debut with Painted Bird.
Naomi is a multi-disciplinary designer, maker and stylist working in Theatre, Film, TV and Fashion. She has an MFA in Stage Design from The Lir: National Academy of Dramatic Art, and a Degree in Fashion Design from BIFE.
Other theatre: Hero, The Bells of… , Murder of Crows, A Lesson in When to Quit, Panned (Theatre Upstairs); BREAKS (Bez Kinte); Daughters of the Revolution (Harbour Playhouse); Trifles (Granary Theatre); East of Berlin (Project Arts Centre); Pornography, Electra, Midsummer (The Lir).
Design Assistant: The Walworth Farce (Olympia Theatre), The Invader (Theatre Royal).
Screen: Lift and Soulsmith (both of which premiered at Cork Film Festival).
Sinéad is making her debut with Painted Bird.
Others: Still I Rise, The Women Is Present (Smashing Times); Bond Girls (Robert Emmet Community Development Project); Pacemaker and Triangles ( Ciara Symth); This Beach, (Romanian Tour, Broken Talkers); Nightmare Plants (Bram Stoker Festival); Override and Taboo (White Lable); Coast (Red Bear Theatre); Hellfire Squad, (Devious Theatre); Inhabitance (Glass Doll Productions); Sleep No More (Punchdrunk NYC); Ten Ways on a Gun (Squeaky Bicycle Theatre NYC).
Composition of the songs, “The Skin Shed” and “Bridget Sheehan”
Painted Bird: Between Trees and Water (with Rob Moloney, nominated best sound design, Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards 2015).
Other theatre and dance: Shakespeare’s Globe, Irish Modern Dance Theatre, Corn Exchange, Collapsing Horse, Abbey Theatre, Gate Theatre, Ulysses Opera Theatre, HotForTheatre, Emma Martin Dance, Junk Ensemble, Liv O’Donoghue, Aoife McAtamney.
Tom studied composition at Balliol College Oxford, London Royal Academy of Music, and Berlin University of Arts.
The most notable fact our culture prints on women is the sense of our limits. The most important thing one woman can do for another is to illuminate and expand her sense of actual possibilities.Adrienne Rich
Tickets are available from the Cork Midsummer Festival Website
Susanne R. Day
Image above: Susanne (back row, 6th from the left) as part of “A Conference Group”, Suffrage Week, Dublin 1913. Courtesy of the National Library of Ireland.
Between the years 1910 and 1917, Susanne R. Day worked as a dedicated suffragist, advocating for women not alone to have the vote, but also to lead and influence public opinion at every level. She was a tireless activist, organizing meetings and making the case for the vote for women in communities throughout Munster.
She gained a reputation for public speaking and was invited to speak at some of the most prestigious national platforms for women’s suffrage in Ireland. She argued strongly and unwaveringly for constitutional methods. She wrote extensively on social reform, taking up, in particular, arguments on behalf of women and children from impoverished backgrounds. She engaged directly in Cork politics, being elected as a poor-law guardian—where she shared governance of the Workhouse and successfully campaigned to extend its children’s hospital.
She worked as a volunteer on behalf of war refugees in France. She co-wrote (with Geraldine Cummins) several plays, at least one of which was a critical and popular success—and so she became among the few women playwrights that the Abbey produced in its early years.
She published fiction and autobiography, drawing on her diverse experiences and her travels collecting folklore in rural Ireland. In her life and her writing she fought in visionary and far-reaching ways for a place for women at the table of collective, political decision-making. Among the many tributes she received, the following from the Cork United Trade and Labour Council we can imagine was especially gratifying: “This [success with the children’s hospital] is another instance of the absolute necessity of having lady representatives on our Public Boards.”
A Chronology, 1910-1917
Emmeline Pankhurst addresses a suffrage meeting in Cork City Hall hosted by the Irish Women’s Franchise League. Soon afterwards, a Cork Branch is formed with Day as Honorary Secretary.
Police use physical force on members of the Women’s Social and Political Union protesting at Westminster
All members of the Cork branch of the Irish Women’s Franchise League resign and reform immediately as the Munster Women’s Franchise League, with Edith Somerville (The Irish R.M.—co-authored with Violet Martin) as President and Day as Honorary Secretary.
Day is elected, along with three women candidates, as a poor-law guardian in the Cork Union.
The Third Home-Rule Bill is introduced to parliament by Prime Minister Asquith.
A mass meeting of Irish suffragists, at which Day speaks, is held at the Antient Concert Rooms, Dublin. It demands that ‘The Home Rule Bill’ be amended to include women voters.
Prime Minister Asquith visits Dublin and contends with a protest from Pankhurst’s Women’s Social and Political Union, wherein a hatchet is thrown at him and a fire is lit in the Theatre Royal at the end of a performance he attends.
Marjorie Hasler dies, her health broken by police violence and ill-treatment from British and Irish prison authorities.
Cummins and Day’s Broken Faith premières at the Abbey Theatre.
‘Suffrage Week’—at which Day speaks of the ‘social revolution’ to follow women achieving the vote—is held at the Rotunda Concert Rooms and the Mansion House, Dublin.
Day succeeds in carrying a resolution for the extension of the children’s hospital at the Cork Union.
Day, the first woman to stand in municipal elections in Cork, fails to get elected by 6 votes.
Toilers performs at An Dún, Queen St. (present-day Fr. Matthew St.), Cork.
Day’s father, Robert, dies.
Day’s brother, Edward, and two nephews enlist on the day war is declared.
Day’s mother, Rebecca, dies.
Day resigns (temporarily) from the Munster Women’s Franchise League
Mary MacSwiney resigns from the Munster Women’s Franchise League, protesting against its ‘war propaganda’.
Day seeks to resign from Board of Guardians, having ‘volunteered to go to France to work for the ruined peoples in the villages laid bare and waste by the cruel German invasion.’ Day’s volunteer work begins in June and concludes in January 1917.
Day speaks on ‘Relief Work in France’ (illustrated by lantern slides) at Clarence Hall, Imperial Hotel, Cork, during a visit home.
The Amazing Philanthropists: being extracts from the letters of Lester Martin PLG is published in London, a lightly fictionalized account of Day’s term as a poor-law guardian in Cork.
Cummins and Day’s Fox and Geese premières at the Abbey Theatre. Day soon afterwards settles in Kensington, London, and finds work as acting editor of a suffragist journal, The Englishwoman.
Round About Bar-le-Duc, a memoir detailing her experiences in France is published in London.
Susanne R. Day in The Mikado, as performed by the Amateur Opera Company, in the Cork Opera House, 1901. Courtesy of Chris Ramsden.
“Women in the New Ireland” by Suzanne R. Day, P. L. G.
Many signs point to the fact that great changes are pending in Ireland and the questions arising in the minds of countless Irishwomen today are these: How will these changes affect us? What part are we to play in them? In the New Nation that will arise in Ireland, what role will be allotted to her women? …
To refuse women the Parliamentary Vote is now as illogical as it is unjust, for women day by day are proving themselves capable of sound political thought. She may organise, subscribe, work and canvass in the interests of politicians, she may join organisations whose purpose is solely and admittedly political, she may be called on to influence voters to vote in a certain direction, only she may not vote herself! She may use every art of feminine grace or wit to coax or cajole men to forego their own opinion and adopt hers, but she may not vote herself! …
Women are entering more and more into public life. The wonderful impetus given during the last fifty years to their education has fitted them to hold some of the highest posts in the land. In profession after profession they have proved their merit. …
In Ireland our young women are thronging into the Universities and acquitting themselves with distinction and credit. Women have demonstrated that they too have national aspirations, national hopes, thoughts, and affections. …
Is the New Ireland to be an Ireland in which only men count?
As one of those who look forward to the dawn of a new era in Ireland, when many of “the problems that perplex us” shall have vanished away, I appeal to my fellow countrymen to join with women in politics as they have joined hands with them in practically every other social, industrial, religious or reformatory enterprise, so that in the “Comradeship of National Effort” men and women may work together for the good of the people, and for the betterment of our social conditions and of the State.