29 Sept 2022

Waterford All Time Greats: Profile #12 Teresa Deevy

Waterford All Time Greats: #12 Teresa Deevy

Waterford All Time Greats: Profile #12 Teresa Deevy

Born in Passage, County Waterford, in 1894, the late Teresa Deevy was the youngest of 13 children.

Deevy developed Meniere's disease while training to become a teacher, forcing her to leave college due to her hearing loss. She was sent to London where she learnt to lip read. It was in London that Deevy discovered a passion for theatre.

In 1919, Teresa Deevy returned to a turbulent Waterford in the midst of a War for Independence and quickly became involved in the Nationalist cause. She was against the approval of family visited republican prisoners in Ballybricken Jail.

Deevy also at this time began submitting her writings for publication both locally and nationally. Her first staged play, The Reapers, debuted in the Abbey Theatre in Dublin in 1930.

One-act comedy A Disciple followed and her first major play Temporal Powers staged at the Abbey in 1932. The latter won the Abbey’s new play competition that year and was followed by The King of Spain’s Daughter in 1935. The following year, Deevy produced her famous play Katie Roche, followed by sprawling historical play The Wild Goose.

There was a palpable hope that Teresa Deevy would be among those who would take up the mantle as part of a new generation of Irish playwrights for a theatre whose reputation had always rested on its writers. However, even at the height of her success, it was clear that Deevy was far from comfortable with the Abbey.

Deevy turned increasingly after 1940 to writing for radio. She never gave up on the theatre, and some of the works included in the Maynooth Teresa Deevy archive are the texts of plays written after she had parted company with the Abbey. In this regard, her life began to echo the situation of a character like Katie Roche, insofar as a vivid life of the imagination became a necessity in a world of material constraints.


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