New theater finds old theaters

The Smock Alley Theatre was the first theater built in Dublin in 1662, after the Restoration of the monarchy brought fun back the British empire. It was home to the Theatre Royal for almost a hundred years after that.

It was rebuilt twice over the years, then finally demolished and replaced in with a 1813 with the Catholic Church of St Michael and St John.

The church in recent years had become the Viking Adventure Centre, which sounds both fun and slightly pathetic, and since that business failed, the building had stood vacant.

Now the Smock Alley Theatre has gotten a grant to rebuild a theater and acting school on the site. In preparation for the new construction, archaeologists excavated the site and found to their surprise the walls of the all three of the original theaters and all kinds of period artifacts.

Smock Alley Theatre director Patrick Sutton said leading archaeologists Margaret Gowan and Lindzi Simpson got more than they bargained for when excavators exposed the walls of the original theatre’s horseshoe-shaped ampitheatre as well as the theatres’ other incarnations in 1700 and 1735 after digging about two feet down.

“We didn’t expect to find the walls of the original three theatres but through this scraping away we unearthed the three lives of the theatres. It’s a great day for the country and the world history of theatre,” he told the Irish Independent. […]

They also unearthed some fascinating artefacts including a ceramic curler used by one of the actresses, pieces of the original mosaic floor tiling, a broken wine bottle and oyster shells left behind by theatre patrons who snacked on oysters during performances.

As Sutton points out in the article, the Globe theater, famous as it is, didn’t get to be built on the original site, so this is a great coup.

The artifacts will be moved to the National Museum and the foundations sealed for their preservation, but the hope is that once the new theater complex is finished, there will be a space to display all the finds.