Bríd Dukes, Civic Theatre’s Artistic Director will retire this week after 17 years at the Tallaght venue. A seasoned, well-respected member of Ireland’s artistic community, producer, writer and mentor to many local, regional and national theatre companies, she will step aside on the 22nd April.
Bríd Dukes has worked in the arts since 1967, first as a Stage Director with the Abbey Theatre and then as freelance in RTE and in other theatres. She worked as a Director with Siamsa Tíre – the National Folk Theatre for three years. Bríd has had three radio plays broadcast and one children’s play produced. She has one Irish-language novel for teenagers, Filleann an Feall, published. Bríd was the founding Director of the Belltable Arts Centre, Limerick, 1981-86 and with husband Gerry set up the Riverrun Gallery in Limerick in 1987. In 1993 she co-founded the Hallward Gallery on Merrion Square and worked there until she was appointed Artistic Director of the Civic Theatre in Tallaght in late 1998.
Core to her leadership has been her unerring support of new companies and artists balanced alongside an innovative high quality programme of touring and produced work. Since she became the Civic Theatre’s artistic director in 1998, Bríd Dukes has produced or co-produced 20 productions including Little Gem, Denis & Rose, Attaboy, Mr. Synge!, Thesis, Trousers, The Goddess of Liberty and Faith and has cultivated relationships with an extensive roster of esteemed artists including Gerry Stembridge, Elaine Murphy, Donal O’Kelly, Don Wycherley, Gina Moxley, Paul Meade, Dan Colley, Deirdre Kinahan, Liam Halligan, Michelle Read and Veronica Coburn.
As a result of her extraordinary vision and fortitude, the Civic Theatre has become a major asset to both the city and national theatre portfolio and provides audiences with a range of productions year-round, serving approximately 40,000 patrons each year.
In addition to her producing work, Bríd’s tenure will be remembered for its emphasis on the youth ensemble programme TENDERFOOT. Tenderfoot is an apprentice theatre programme for transition year students. Each year, forty students from eight different schools, representing the geographic and socio-economic make-up of the region, participate. There is no cost to students to take part in the programme. Tenderfoot provides young people who wouldn’t ordinarily gravitate towards the arts an opportunity to initiate an interest in them. In the course of the programme, the students, our tenderfeet, work alongside working theatre professionals, theatre artists – writers, directors, designers and production technicians to develop their art/skill be that writing, production design, costume design, performance or stage management.
Speaking of her time spent as Artistic Director of the Civic Theatre, Bríd Dukes said: “It’s been a great experience setting up the Civic Theatre and working in it for 17 years with the best staff anyone could ever wish for. It would be impossible to pick a favourite show but Tenderfoot with Veronica Coburn at the helm is I suppose very close to my heart. I wish the Civic every success for the future.”
Speaking of her contribution to the arts, Tenderfoot Coordinator, Veronica Coburn said:
“I would like to not just thank but pay tribute to the wonderful Bríd Dukes. It was Bríd Dukes who first imagined a programme for transition year students. It was Bríd Dukes who gave me the opportunity to embark on this rich vein of work. It has been Bríd Dukes who has ensured that Tenderfoot has continued to exist from year to year despite the recession and dwindling resources. Her commitment to the young people of South Dublin County, her belief in the importance of their place in our cultural institutions, and her capacity to put her principles into action is an inspiration.”
Speaking of her departure, Civic Theatre Board Member, Billy Coman said, “The Board wishes Brid the very best as she embarks on a new chapter in her career and sincerely thanks her for her expertise and dedication to the development of the Civic Theatre and its growth since we officially opened in March 1999. Without her it would not be the success it has been and we congratulate her for her artistic direction that has brought so much entertainment and enjoyment to the citizens of South Dublin.”
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