Siamsa's record 21 years of magic - archives 1988
MANAGER Martin Whelan wheeled a cake on to the stage of the Siamsa Tire stage to make a token gesture at celebrating the coming of age of the folk pageant 'Siamsa'.
The 21st season of Siamsa began in May and the cake that Martin produced was by way of mid-season reminder that the folk theatre had something worthwhile to mark this year.
Siamsa's 21-season run in Tralee is an achievement without equal in the history of Irish theatre.
Artistic director, Fr Pat Ahern, launched Siamsa on its way at the Mercy Convent Hall in Balloonagh in 1968. Martin Whelan, now regarded as one of the most respected and talented figures in Irish Theatre Management, estimates that the summer runs of Siamsa in Tralee - first in Balloonagh, then in the Ashe Memorial Hall Theatre - have been attended by about 165,000 people.
"I would imagine that the number of people who have seen live performances of people everywhere - Dublin, London, Broadway, Germany, Belgium, Holland, and so on - would be in the region of 400,000," he said.
Siamsa Tire has been honoured in many ways - its performers have sung and danced for Queens, Presidents and Prime Ministers. Its shows have been hailed on Broadway and drew the biggest crowds to the Dublin Theatre Festival last year and Siamsa Tire was awarded the European Folk Art Prize in 1974 by the Stiftung FVS Foundation in Germany.
But the cream on the cake for the company in its 21st year is the invitation to do a tour of Australia in October.
The bi-centenary invitation came from Prime Minister Bob Hawke and the group heads off on October for its three-week tour.
Siamsa Tire's 21st season also has been marked by the announcement that it is getting a grant of £700,000 towards the cost of a new theatre.
The company has a performing group of 60 with eight full-time employees and workshops unearthing new talent in West Kerry at Carraig and in North Kerry at Finuge.