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In memory: Past drama students of Gladys Sheehan set up their own theatre group

Over the years, hundreds of young people went through the Gladys Sheehan’s acting school. Now her past students have set up the Bloomers Theatre Group in her honour.

Gladys Sheehan
Gladys Sheehan

WITH AN ACTING career spanning over four decades Gladys Sheehan ran her very own drama school from a small studio at the back of her house in County Wicklow.

A school for all ages, her ethos was always to allow anyone who wanted to act to get up on stage and give it a go and over the years hundreds of children did just that.

Encouraging young people

A strong pillar in the Bray community, Gladys was a bubbly character, who engaged with young people, giving them an outlet and instilling confidence in themselves.

imageGladys on her way out to the studio at the back of her garden. (Via /Vimeo)

Starring in over 120 movies herself, she worked with the likes of Sean Connery, Gabriel Byrne and Pierce Brosnan, and Gladys passed the wealth of that experience onto her students.

image(Via /Vimeo)

Sadly, last March, Gladys Sheehan, aged 92, passed away. Having not seen each other for many years, many of Glady’s past students came together again to say their final farewell to Gladys at her funeral.

“What started as us all going to pay our final respects to Gladys at her funeral has turned into us setting up our own theatre group, in her honour and memory,” said Orla Murphy, one of Glady’s old students.

Blooms Day

“We initially decided at her funeral that we would all meet up for a catch-up, as it had been so long. Then we decided to meet on Bloom’s Day as it it was one of Gladys’ favourite days – she just loved James Joyce. So, what started out as a quiet catch-up over a few drinks soon became what we called the “Bloomin’ Hooley Variety Night” full of music, dance, drama and poetry, ” said Murphy.

All proceeds of the night went towards Bray Cancer Society, another cause close to Glady’s heart.

At 87-years-old, she posed as a calender girl to fund raise money for the group, stating that it should have been called “calender grannies” not calender girls.

image(Via /Vimeo)

Murphy said they discussed doing the evening as an annual event, in remembrance of Gladys, but said that after the variety night, they realised that many of them had an itch to get back up on the stage.

“It had been over 18-years since I stood on a stage, but after that night, we all felt that it would be a great way to honour Glady’s and all her great work,” said Murphy.

Just like that, the Bloomers Theatre Group was born.

What started out as a few past pupils of Gladys’ drama group has expanded to people that didn’t even know her and at the end of this month the group is putting on its first performance.

Using Fundit as a resource to raise money, the drama group quickly surpassed their target.

(Bloomers Theatre Group)

“We wanted the ethos of our group to be very much the same as Gladys’ was. She allowed anyone be part of the group, whether you had experience or not. And if there was an audition on in Ardmore Studios for a big movie or drama, she would always put people forward. She was very much about giving people opportunities. Just like her, we are open to all, whether you have been involved in drama for years, or have never had any experience being on stage,” said Murphy.

“From toddlers to adults – people started in the drama group young and just stayed on, that was because of her. She always stayed in touch, and I miss her. She used to call and ask how my little baby is doing, that was the kind she was,” said Murphy.

Murphy added that they hoped the Bloomers Theatre Group can carry on Gladys’s legacy.

Their first one-act plays are taking place on 26, 27, 28 February in Loreto Secondary School, Bray. For more information on tickets, visit the Bloomers Theatre Group here.

You can watch RTE’s Would You Believe programme on Gladys and her life here.

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