Anna Manahan was born in Waterford on 18 October 1924. After early success with her native Waterford Dramatic Society, Anna Manahan enrolled in the Gaiety School of Acting, run by Ria Mooney in 1944. Her first professional job was with Shelagh Ward’s fit up company, and throughout the late 1940’s and 1950’s, she worked as a freelance actor in many of Dublin’s theatres.
In 1955, she married stage director and actor Colm O’Kelly. He died less than a year later whilst they were both on tour in Egypt with the Gate Theatre Company. Anna went on stage that same night dedicating her performance to her husband. She never remarried.
In 1957, she came to national prominence for her critically acclaimed role of Serafina in the first Irish production of Tennessee Williams' The Rose Tattoo in 1957. The production achieved unexpected notoriety when the cast were falsely accused of using a condom, then illegal in Ireland, on stage.
Rarely at rest, during her 60- year career Anna play at theatres throughout Ireland, Europe, the USA and Australia. She received a Tony Award nomination in 1969 for her role in the Broadway production of Brian's Friel's Lovers. Returning to Broadway 30 years later, she won the 1998 Tony Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama for her portrayal of doomed mother "Mag" in Martin McDonagh’s The Beauty Queen of Leenane.
Playwright John B. Keane wrote the play Big Maggie specifically for her and in her last stage role in 2005, she starred in Sisters, written for her by Declan Hassett.
Her roles in television included The Riordans, as Mrs. Kenefick in Me Mammy, the lead in Leave it to Mrs O'Brien and as Mrs. Cadogan in The Irish R.M., and Ursula on Fair City. She also appeared in such films as Ulysses, The Viking Queen and Clash of the Titans.
Among the honors Anna Manahan received during her lifetime was the Gold Medal of the Éire Society of Boston in 1984, the Freedom of Waterford City in 2002, and an honorary doctorate from the University of Limerick in 2003. She became the first Patron of Active Retirement Ireland, in 2008, after she spoke out strongly against government proposals to remove universal entitlement to medical cards for the over-70s. She died on 8 March 2009.
Archival History ↴
Personal papers of Anna Manahan transferred from her home in Waterford City on temporary loan for exhibition purposes to the Irish Theatre Archive at Dublin City Library and Archive in September 2009, by kind permission of Anna’s brothers Joe and Val Manahan. Collection formally donated to the Irish Theatre Archive, June 2015.
Immediate Source Acquisition ↴
Content & Structure
Scope & Content: Anna Manahan (1924-2009) ↴
Papers relating to acting career of Anna Manahan from 1941 until her death in 2009. Includes printed material such as theatre programs, posters, handbills; includes press pack relating to Irish R.M; includes sketches of Anna, and costume designs; includes memorabilia relating to Eire Society Boston Award (1984); Freedom of Waterford City (2002), and conferring of Doctorate in University of Limerick (2003). Includes correspondence which includes letter from John B. Keane regarding Big Maggie and letters from Micheál Mac Liammóir and Hilton Edwards; Includes large photographic collection consisting of over 200 items, dating from 1941-2008’; includes recording of talk Anna gave to students at AADA; includes poem from Micheál Mac Liammóir.
Appraisal Destruction ↴
Future accessions of scripts and personal papers relating to career of Anna Manahan due to be donated by her family by end 2015.
Items are arranged by document type
and then chronologically.
ITA/282/1 Theatre Programs (1942-2005)
ITA/282/2 Posters (1940-1979)
ITA/282/3 Handbills (1998-2005)
ITA/282/4 Press-Cuttings (1941-2005)
ITA/282/5 Correspondence (1941-2008)
ITA/282/7 Costume Designs (1967-2003)
ITA/282/8 Scripts (1931-2008)
ITA/282/9 Press Pack (1984)
ITA/282/10 Sketches (1960-1999)
ITA/282/11 Photographs (1947-2008)
(a) Production Photographs (1947-2002)
(b) Headshots (1941-2008)
(c) TV/Film Appearances (1966-1998)
(d) Awards/Honours (1975-2003)
ITA/282/12 Production Notes (1977-1997)
ITA/282/13/1 Recordings (1999)
ITA/282/14 Miscellaneous (1949)
Conditions of Access & Use
Available to view by public who apply for research card in Dublin City Library and Archive Reading Room, 138-144 Pearse Street, Dublin 2.
Conditions Governing Reproduction
The terms of the Copyright and Related Acts (2000) allows DCLA to provide photocopies of material for research purposes only. Researchers wishing to publish will be obliged to write to copyright holders for permission to do so.
ITA/282/11 Photographs and other documents scanned in preparation for Anna Manahan Remembered Exhibition in 2009
IE DCLA/ITA/266 Scott Family Theatre Collection
IE DCLA/ITA/230 Finegan Photographic Collection
IE DCLA/ITA Digital copies of images received from Gaiety Theatre, Red Kettle
Theatre Company, and Druid.
IE DCLA/ITA Program Database
IE Waterford Treasurers Museum: Permanant Anna Manahan Tribute Exhibition
Papers used to create Anna Manahan Remembered Exhibition
curated by the Irish Theatre Archive, 2009.
Descriptive Control Area
IGAD: Irish Guidelines for Archival Description. Dublin: Society of Archivists, Ireland, 2009.
Date of Descriptions
15 May 2010, edited 6 July 2015