History was very much on the mind of John Travers when he officially opened the 64th Ballyshannon Amateur Drama Festival on Saturday night last in a packed Abbey Centre.
Festival Director in Ballyshannon, John said it was a particularly proud night for him to officially open a festival that clearly meant so much to him and the people of the town and environs who he thanked for their loyalty over the years.
Mr Travers, who is chairman of the Amateur Drama Council of Ireland (ADCI), noted how the early 1950’s in Ballyshannon saw the birth of a multiplicity of organisations and groups involved in culture and the arts.
However, he traced the tradition of performance on stage through drama and music back much further.
John Travers, has been involved as an officer of the Drama Society since 1978, taking over from his now late father Henry John Travers, who was ill at the time, as secretary in 1978 and more recently that job is the same, but the title is now Festival Director.
As chairman of the ADCI, a post he assumed in October of last year, he has been exceptionally busy on various fronts, opening festivals in Enniskillen, Kiltyclogher and Carrickmore in the past ten days alone.
He will continue as chairman of the ADCI for two years and automatically then assumes the presidency for a further two years.
John has always had a love for drama and the stage. His early onstage sorties involved musicals. He was a ‘Gentleman of the chorus’ in The Desert Song in 1974 - a show that included leading cast members such as Brian Stephens, William (Billy) Finn, Larry Carlin, John Keon, Phyllis Kane, Ben Dorrian, Angela Currid, the late Cecil King, the late Margaret McGinley and Graham Laird, with Dublin based professional Niall Murray the lead.
“A Memorable Corpse”
In more recent times he was, MC Michael Daly reminded the audience, “a memorable corpse” in The Wake in the West and his first stage role was a 1998 production of Girls in the Big Picture where he shared a stage with, among others, Pat Sweeny, Richard Hurst, Tony Rooney and Eddie Grimes. Other parts included Widow’s Paradise, The Rugged Path, Thy Will be Done and Key for Two.
But as a Festival Director/secretary of Ballyshannon Drama Society his legacy will always be the consistently high standards reached by the annual Ballyshannon Drama Festival. Consistency has been the key and there has been a real rebirth in interest and involvement in drama with Ballyshannon, famed for its achievements in the 1960’s winning an All Ireland with Old Road, returning to something of that glory when the society went back out on the drama circuit - winning the confined with Steel Magnolias and competing regularly now in Athlone at finals time.
Now retired, he taught Latin, History and Geography from 1972 to 2009 in De La Salle and Coláiste Cholmcille.
SECOND WIN FOR BALLYSHANNON
Meanwhile, good news for Ballyshannon Drama Society came through later on Saturday night when they won their second festival outright at Kiltyclogher with their production of Harold Pinter’s Old Times. Interestingly, as reported in this paper six weeks ago, Pinter actually performed on the Abbey Centre stage in the 1950’s. At Kiltyclogher Ballyshannon Drama Society won: Best Play Open; Best Director Conor Beattie; Blue Riband, Ballyshannon Drama Society; Best Actor, Richard Hurst; Best Actress, Rachel O’Connor; Best Set, John Travers.