The Dublin Gay Theatre Festival is an annual event, celebrating contribution of gay people to theatre, past and present. The festival was founded in 2004 to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of Oscar Wilde, in his native city. With an emphasis on new or recent international and Irish works with a broadly gay theme or relevance, the Festival has grown to become the largest event of its type in the world.
The festival creates new opportunities for visibility and affirmation for existing and emerging gay artists and theatrical works. Its criteria for inclusion into the programme are broadly interpreted to include works by gay writers, works that have a gay relevance or theme, or works that include either performance or another artistic contribution by gay people.
Participation and attendance is open to all who wish to witness and acknowledge the immense contribution of gay people to theatre in all its forms.
Festival director Brian Merriman on 2020-2021…
Hello everybody, from the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival!
We’re a small organization of volunteers, but we come together every single year from the May Bank Holiday to present two weeks of Irish and international new LGBTQ-themed plays, including topics like masculinity, feminism, and gender identity.
We have of course adopted Oscar Wilde’s marketing philosophy. This is a green carnation . . .
He was a clever man. When he had an opening on the West End [of London], he was afraid if the theatre critics didn’t like the play, he wouldn’t get much coverage. So he asked all his gay friends to wear a green carnation in their lapels on the night so that the gossip columnists would be intrigued.
Well, I’m not sure that many people are as intrigued these days about a green carnation or about a gay play, but it’s wonderful to see so many diverse people and so many gay people, allies and straight people come into our small theatres every single year.
I think what we do is important. For example, we have, thanks to Dublin City Council, our Flags on the Quays every year. Do you know, when we did that about 14 years ago, it was the first time the word ‘gay’ was ever seen in public, flown on the Quays? And, indeed, we also got the first radio and TV ads that said the word ‘gay’.
I think it’s important, because we give not only a voice to new writers today, but we also tell people the stories that couldn’t be told in the last century. And it’s a very liberating and educating thing to do.
We mainstream our festival so that everybody is welcome to come. And we’ve had players from all over the world, having created Dublin as the centre of gay theatre in the world, which I think is a great achievement.
We must have 5,000 performances to date, and it’s all done by volunteers. Our funding levels are so low, you wouldn’t believe it! And we have come together every year with professional people who said, “I’ll help.” And every year we’ve managed to put on 20 to 25 new plays for eight performances each throughout the city.
Of course we love the work – and we publish the work in these dark days of Covid because we have no stages – but we have lots of pages! And here’s the plays that we’ve published: 10 HIStories, and The Plays Inside, written by people who are locked down by Covid. And there’s the story of Oscar and his two lovers. And there is the story of the LGBT contribution to the 1916 rising. And you’ll also find the story of the festival in Wilde Stages in Dublin.
Our future works, of course, are this: we hope we’re going to survive.
We’ve been locked down now for two seasons with our cash too – and, of course, without volunteers. But all is good to go from May, 2022, and very much so we appreciate the support of the National Lottery in helping us survive.
Best wishes to you, all best of luck, and keep up the incredible work that you’re doing to make Ireland a better and more inclusive place!