I remember a production of ‘The Field’ in The Club House Hotel, during the early 90’s.
Smithwick’s Brewery employee Tom Halpin played the role of the Bull McCabe.
In the dramatic pub scene, where McCabe demanded the silence of the village on events that were about to unfold, Halpin came into his own.
Fearsome and powerful, he delivered his lines with gusto.
From my seat in the third row, I could see that disaster was about to unfold. A creaking flat on stage right was about to collapse.
Tom spotted the problem and positioned his shoulder at the wall, ensuring the set stayed intact. From there, he delivered his final lines.
Class. Exactly what you would expect from Tom.
The Boy Scouts motto – Bí Ullamh, may also be applied where thespians gather, for they must be alert, and they must always be prepared.
Many curtain calls after that night, a long sojourn at the Watergate Theatre was to throw up its own ‘Halpin’ moments.
Our Watergate Productions team staged over fifty in- house shows, which featured some of Kilkenny’s finest actors, directors, lighting designers and set designers.
After every successful show; the actors received the applause and plaudits. Fair enough.
However, if the truth be told, without the stage crew nothing would happen. The stage manager, for example, is the very cornerstone of any production and it is often their acumen and foresight that ensures a show does not cross the thin line that separates a successful production from a disaster.
Without the stage manager, an actor may as well whistle Dixie.
We were blessed to have had in our corner Mick Kavanagh (another Smithwick’s Brewery man) who stage managed most of our shows.
Pantomime or theatre, like a good second in boxing, Mick was always on hand.
He was assisted on many occasions by a Rioch’s man Aidan Doheny. Today, Aidan is employed as a full time professional in this area.
When Mick died, it was difficult to know who would replace him.
Enter Sheelagh Lynch, stage left. If ever a person was suited to theatre work, it was Sheelagh. She took to it like the proverbial duck to water. It was if she had served a long apprenticeship and earned a bachelor’s degree in Stage Management & Technical Theatre.
From the beginning Sheelagh was calm, authoritative and confident. She settled, quickly. Her commitment, dedication and leadership qualities central to her work ethic.
Later, with Lake Productions, Sheelagh flourished. She displayed patience and panache as she stage-managed such shows as ‘Trad’, ‘After Sarah Miles’ (both staged at Cleere’s Theatre) and ‘War of the Worlds’ performed at the Set Theatre in John Street.
Sheelagh also stage managed ‘The Odd Couple’, staged by Gowran Little Theatre group. Other shows she worked with in various capacities included Jesters, KMS, and Stonyford Stage School.
Her last production was ‘The Beauty Queen of Leenane’ with Moonlight Players, staged in Thomastown.
For Sheelagh this may have been a new venue and a new group, but the challenge was welcomed. Unsurprisingly she triumphed.
Moonlight Players learned much from Sheelagh as they benefited from her astute guidance and her understanding.
Her stage management excelled and was integral to the success of the endeavour.
There was a lot more to Sheelagh than the theatre. But she was circumspect and divulged little of her home life or of her other interests. Casual conversations elicited the fact that she was a literate and a well- read woman.
It is what one would expect from a woman from ‘The Continent’ and a past pupil of ‘The Lake’ school.
I would not be surprised to discover that she was a woman who dabbled in writing. Nor would I be surprised if a search of a wardrobe in her house discovered a treasure of short stories or poetry with her copyright stamp on them. She had that way about her.
As a colleague and as a friend she was pleasant, funny, kind, understanding and empathetic.
Her family and home were sacrosanct and remained a private domain.
For now, we are thankful to have shared part of Sheelagh’s life journey and we are grateful that this talented lady was a major part of the amateur theatre scene in Kilkenny.
Sheelagh’s contribution to Lake Productions was enormous. She was one of our first members and was always willing to support and promote. Her body of work has enriched the theatre world and is widely appreciated.
Prior to her death, Sheelagh had a lot of groundwork completed on a forthcoming production of ‘The Kings of the Kilburn High Road’.
Alas, she will not see it staged.
On Sunday the news of Sheelagh’s passing devastated our close- knit community. As we attempt to comprehend the enormity of Sheelagh’s passing we feel lost and alone. Our hearts are broken. One of our gallant band has, prematurely, exited stage left.
Suffice to say we will miss her, greatly.
Be at peace sweet kind and gentle lady.
As the hearse left St Johns Church, a guard of honour was formed by members of the Kilkenny theatre fraternity.
Later, The staff of the Clubhouse Hotel formed a guard of honour at the entrance to St Kieran’s cemetery.
From your friends in Lake Productions
For Sheelagh –
The Stage Manager
She always arrived at the first rehearsal
With script and pencil.
Any director would wish that the actors script
Had received the same attention as hers.
Pencil notes scribbled over different scenes,
Question marks on lines she needed clarified.
A red pen showed her confusion with a line.
Her customary net bag full of possible props that would be needed
“Never too early to start,” she would say.
A somewhat late arrival to the world of theatre
I remember her delight
When she learned something new.
Like the day we told her about The Ghost light on the stage
Tradition dictated that this light
Remained on when the theatre went to black,
This helped to light the way for the ghosts that are said
To inhabit virtually every theatre.
As stage manager she excelled.
Props in the same place each night-
Nothing left to chance
You knew as you broke the leg from side stage
To enter the world of imagination
She had your back.
The nod she gave that said get ready,
The thumbs up as you re-emerged
Letting you know you did a good job
When the curtain came down.
As actors retired to Tom’s for a few libations
She would be found on stage preparing for the next night
Props in place. Check.
Stage ready. Check.
Lights out. Check.
Ghost light on. Check
Now she joins the list for whom that light is lit.
We think of her and smile.