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Arts Theatre

Arts Theatre

The Belfast Civic Arts Theatre first opened as The Mask Theatre in Linenhall Street 1944. It relocated several times, before finally settling in Botanic Avenue, where it opened with a performance of Tennessee Williams’ Orpheus Descending on 17th April 1961. The Arts Theatre was home to the Ulster Actors’ Company Ltd., who produced and performed a variety of popular shows under the direction of Roy Heayberd, including the Old Tyme Variety shows, which featured 'The Variety Girls' Maureen Thornton, Shireen Shah, Kate McClay, Maureen Aherne and Mary Jackson, and other performances by Candy Devine, and Leila Webster.

The Arts Theatre collection at the Linen Hall Library contains letters, administrative documents, programmes, flyers, reports, handwritten production notes, grant applications, photographs, and press reviews. Some highlights of the collection include ephemera relating to the Ulster Actors’ Company; costume designers Elish and Peggy McDonnell; Ruby Murray; Candy Devine, including ephemera about her role as the first woman to play the High Priest Ciaphus in Jesus Christ Superstar; Carol Scanlan Moore's first professional appearance on stage, when she played the part of Sleeping Beauty; Leila Webster; The Variety Girls; Charabanc productions Lay Up Your Ends, The Hamster Wheel, and their Big Bash anniversary celebration, including a handwritten letter of congratulations from Brian Friel. The collection also contains many programmes and flyers for productions, including The Patricia Mulholland Irish Ballet; Talent written by Victoria Wood; Pistol Packin' Mama; My Fair Lady; Widow’s Paradise; St Agnes Choral Society; Red-Hot Lovers and The Queen’s O’Neill

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I Was There: Working-Class Women in Community Drama

The extraORDINARYwomen project at the Linen Hall Library has one fundamental goal: to celebrate the significance of ordinary women’s lives in Northern Ireland. As part of Ciara McAllister's PhD research, Ciara explored the Theatre and Performing Arts collections in the Linen Hall Library, looking specifically at materials relating to community arts.

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Anna Lo: an election journey

Anna Lo discusses her election journey, making change for a better future and her debut in politics. A tough campaigning journey proved to be fruitful as she made history by becoming ‘the first non-white elected politician in Northern Ireland and more astonishingly, the first China-born parliamentarian in Europe.’

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Charabanc: A Cultural Exchange in Russia

Carol Moore, a co-founder of Charabanc Theatre Company, talks about the exciting first years of the company, and what she describes as ‘a journey of female empowerment’.

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