St John’s Theatre and Arts Centre
Originally a beautiful, 19th century church, today, St John’s is a magnet for culture and theatre enthuasists from all corners of the world. The theatre’s shadowy ambience, combined with the charisma and friendliness of the staff who run it, ensure St John’s Theatre is a special cultural experience for locals and visitors alike.
ST JOHN’S PAST
For over two hundred years, St John’s was home to Listowel and North Kerry’s Church of Ireland community; it was a place for the Anglican community to gather, reflect and worship. In 1988, the community decided to kindly gift the church to Listowel Urban District Council, who agreed to convert it into a theatre, arts and cultural centre. Today, St John’s Theatre is one of the most active theatres and arts centres in the south west.
ST JOHN’S PRESENT
St John’s Theatre hosts a remarkable 160 artistic and cultural events each year. It runs regular workshops in dance, contemporary dance, drama, music and traditional crafts, and its annual drama summer school helps foster young artistic and thespian talent. St John’s churchy arches and stained glass windows create the perfect theatrical atmosphere and audiences have enjoyed some wonderful plays here over the years. Recent productions of contemporary, cutting-edge drama from the likes of Tom Murphy have received much acclaim, while the much-loved classics of Irish theatre are frequently staged; John Millington Synge, Sean O’Casey and of course Listowel’s own John B Keane and Bryan MacMahon. The reputation of the theatre as a unique, characterful and intimate musical venue is growing, with the best of soft rock, Irish traditional, jazz, bluegrass and a range of classical composers and ensembles, including soloists and small orchestrates, preforming within its walls. St John’s Theatre is also a warm and welcoming home for some of the country’s greatest visual artists. With local luminaries like Liam O’Neill, Elayne O’Connor, Olive Stack and Tricia Healy sharing the hallowed walls with internationally renowned artists like Pauline Bewick and Tighe O’Donoghue Ross.
A major ingredient in the success of the venue is the theatre’s passionate and charismatic, if somewhat eccentric, director, Joe Murphy – or ‘Vicar Joe’, as Listowel’s culturally curious natives call him. Joe’s passion for the arts and theatre has driven this theatre forward, ensured it is not only a beautiful and unique venue, but also a cultural centre, a living, breathing artistic community in the heart of Listowel town. To the local arts world’s shock and disappointment, Joe announced his retirement in 2018. However, he has now being replaced with the indomitable Máire Logue, formerly Festival Manager at Listowel Writers’ Week, and Máire has vowed to carry on the bright flame that Joe lit.