Today's One Act Festival is built upon a long and strong history that owes a great deal to the vision and dedication of many people - all committed to striving for excellence, while having some fun doing it! In the 1960s and 1970s, there was a vibrant One Act Circuit consisting of a regular number of One Act Festivals being run in coordination with the Three Act Festival Circuit. Groups competed to get the chance to run their One Act plays alongside the Three Act shows, in order to get through to a common Finals Festival, which was held annually in Naas, County Kildare. Despite the success of this arrangement, by the late 1970's the One Act Circuit had all but vanished with only eight or nine nominating festivals remaining. The gradual disappearance of nominating festivals for the One Act Circuit provided the impetus for the Amateur Drama League (ADL) to establish a sub-committee dedicated to creating a vision for the One Act Circuit and Finals into the future. Arising from the work of this sub-committee, the first dedicated All-Ireland One Act Finals were held in Talbot's Hotel, Wexford, in December 1981 and the foundations and format for the modern One Act Festival Circuit and Finals were laid.
A number of key changes to the One Act Circuit were introduced. Flexibility was allowed in the choice of venue that could be considered for a nominating festival, which meant that more nominating festivals emerged as they could be held in hotel venues, and in some instances, lounge bars of larger pubs. Elaborate sets were abolished and restrictions were introduced on how much set could be used. Many groups at this time opted for "The Black Box", using minimal furniture and curtains to set the scene. In an effort to cut cost for organising festivals it was agreed that there would be only three awards, given at the adjudicator's discretion.
The positive impact of the new changes and the reinvigorated One Act Festival Circuit was immediate. The ADL continued to run a successful annual One Act Circuit until 1988, when Pegasus Drama Group (cast picture on the left), was the All-Ireland Winner with a performance of 'The Death of Pilate'. The One Act Finals continued to be held in various venues around the country from Carrick-On-Shannon one year to Carlow the next, Newcastle, County Down in another year and Mullingar. Following continued growth and success of the One Act Circuit in the 1980s, and numerous meetings between the ADL and the Amateur Drama Council of Ireland (ADCI), agreement was finally reached which saw the ADCI taking overall control for the Three Act Circuit, and a committee of twelve, comprising responsibility for the One Act Circuit. For the first two years of this arrangement, the All-Ireland One Act Finals continued to be held in hotels. The first joint ADL/ADCI Finals were held in The County Hotel, Carrick-on-Shannon in 1989. The picture on the left, taken at that Festival, shows Angus Dunne, Maurice Cooper, Pat Kinnevane, Scott Marshall and Gerry Murtagh.
The second joint ADL/ADCI Finals in 1990 were held in The Grand Hotel, Malahide, Dublin. In 1991 the Finals were moved, for the first time, to a professional theatre venue, with the All-Ireland One Act Final that year being held in the Ardhowen Theatre, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh. Since then, the One Act Finals have been held in professional theatre venues around the country.
The success and popularity of the One Act Festival Circuit and Finals among participating amateur groups grew exponentially during the 1990s and, to date, the Annual One Act Finals have been held in diverse locations ranging from Limerick to Longford, Kilkenny to Virginia, Carrigallen to Carrickmore, and Ballyshannon to Ballyduff to name but a few.
Now in its 37th year in its current format, the All-Ireland comes to An Grianán Theatre Letterkenny for the first time. The long history and tradition of the One Act Circuit will continue and the best of the best will compete once again for the coveted title of "All-Ireland One Act Champion".
Oran O'Rua, Balally Players
Moat Club, Naas, last Year's Open Winners in The Mill Theatre in Dundrum. They performed Plaza Suite - A visit from Hollywood by Neil Simon
Blue Hat Productions
Blue Hat Productions from Cork, last year's Confined Winners in the Mill Theatre in Dundrum. They performed Two by Jim Cartwright.
Special thanks to Oran O'Rua for his contribution to this history section.