Updated: Apr 12, 2019
While it may not be abundantly clear on a daily basis, a town that so many call ‘home’ has been at the very epicenter of some of the most historic moments of social effervescence and festive celebration on our humble emerald island; the lasting impact of which has been forever engrained on the succeeding generations and habitants of Thurles, Co. Tipperary. A town whose streets have welcomed and embraced all walks of life, art, music, and celebration, all in the name of community. A town with an estimated greater population of just 8,000 people has produced some of the finest examples of local community effort in the name of performing arts and music, but where does it come from? What fuels the insatiable desire to perform, take part, support, and engage with our community?
It would be difficult to ignore the daily drama of living in a small Irish town; the lawn doesn’t mow itself, the stretch in the evening is noticeably less grand as we approach winter, and the immersion definitely doesn’t switch itself off. An equally difficult drama to ignore is the unstoppable rotation of theatrical productions that Thurles wears very proudly on its sleeve.
Long established pillars of the arts community in Thurles include Thurles Musical Society (est. 1951) who produces a full-length musical every spring, and Thurles Drama Group (est. 1967) who stages two full-length plays every year. Members of these two incredibly hard working groups are also our schoolteachers who produce Christmas shows in schools, shop workers who fly the posters and vend tickets for the shows, solicitors, youth workers, parents, family, and friends who all come together as a community for the sake of the arts.
The trickle-down effect of this movement gave birth to Phoenix Productions (est. 1998), a youth theater company who produces a full-length musical production every Autumn, and often a cabaret in the winter. Phoenix attracts the youth of the town who may have caught the performance bug from their school productions, or who may have just been blown away by their first experience attending a show.
Our secondary schools Ursuline Secondary, Presentation Secondary, CBS Thurles, and Coláiste Mhuire Co-Ed undertake the immense task each winter of encouraging our teenagers to explore new territory in the performing arts, many of who may never have even considered the arts community beforehand. Shedding adolescent awkwardness and personal insecurities at a rapid pace, the school productions are the birthplace of many long lasting friendships, journeys of self-discovery, and for many, realizations of previously undiscovered talents and interests. The ability to explore oneself vicariously through characters in a production may be one of the healthiest outlets for adolescents as they make sense of life as a community. The sophistication and professional approach toward productions undertaken by the schools with gargantuan shows like Evita, Jesus Christ Superstar, Phantom Of The Opera, and Little Shop Of Horrors have prepared students for further participation with Phoenix, and upward to the Thurles Musical Society and Thurles Drama Group.
Of course these productions could not be possible without the venues of Thurles such as Premier Hall and our school halls, and the incredible personnel who maintain them. The audio and lighting technicians such as Star Systems who consistently deliver with nationally acclaimed skill and attention to detail, and inspiring the future generation of audio engineers and lighting designers work around the clock to deliver to the very highest standard. The nimble fingers that stitch the costumes into the early hours of the morning, and the hands that wash the subsequently malodorous frocks at night keep the cast suited up and fresh each night. The make-up team that keeps the cast looking the part every night. The parents committed to permanent taxi duty getting everyone to and from rehearsals are instrumental in the production of a successful show. The graphic designers dedicated to creating the visual artwork, stage design, and promotion put their visions together to give each production its own unique veneer and image. The directors and production managers diligently take on the responsibility of making the show happen, overcoming goliath obstacles that nobody even hears about. Every single community member that involves themselves with these projects becomes these projects.
The undeniable positive of this is the experience of a closely-knit community. The Thurles community has benefitted year after from these productions, grown closer together as a community and, well, if home is where the heart is, Thurles will be beating in our chests until our last breath.
Written by Cruthaigh team member "An Ghluaiseacht".