By Joe Barrett
The curtain has come down for the final time on Laois playwright Frances Harney.
Announcing her decision to bow out after her last curtain call following her final play The Case Ms Harney said: “Having written, produced and directed ten plays with and for my community and having had time to reflect since the curtain came down on The Case, it is time to bow-out and leave the stage.”
Looking back over her stage career she said: “Starting with outdoor performances in the early decades of the 20th century, the people of Ballyfin have long valued drama.
“In the 1950s my father Seán Fitzpatrick and my godmother Maura Dunne were members of the Ballyfin Drama Group. Maura was still treading the boards with us 60 years later in our 1916 play, The Project.
Maura Conroy directed the Ballyfin Drama Group from 1980 up to the start of the 21st century bringing unparalleled success and distinction to the group, often winning or being placed in the Laois Drama Festival.
Many Ballyfin families have had intergenerational participation in community drama productions.
“For more than a decade I have been honoured to continue a vital part of our community experience, writing original plays, bringing them from page to stage, with as many characters as possible – usually between 30 and 40 – raising funds for local community organisations and The Cuisle Cancer Support Centre.
“These large cast comedies afforded many Ballyfin people the opportunity to take to the stage again, or for the first time.
“Seeing my characters come to life is an experience like no other, ranging from surprise to exhilaration and it brings fulfilment and satisfaction, along with the utter joy of belonging … being a small part of an enterprise much greater than myself,” she said.
Frances went on: “Community means more than living in the same place. It is the safety of being accepted, the comfort of the familiar and the enrichment of connection to others. At its most fundamental it is belonging to a community where people work together to one purpose. All our productions were powered by volunteers. From the car park, through the auditorium, onto the stage and backstage. I feel deeply privileged to have had so many willing and talented people help each year and I am deeply grateful to them all, to my family and to the thousands who have attended and supported our plays since 2012.”
I hope that Ballyfin Players will continue and that, in the hands of dedicated people, it will thrive and prosper. I wish them every success,” she said.