An Emory & Henry College English professor who has distinguished himself in the study of Irish literature has been awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to research the history of the Ulster Group Theatre in Northern Ireland.
Competing against scholars from Harvard, Stanford, the University of Virginia and other prestigious schools from across the nation, Scott Boltwood was chosen from approximately 1,000 applicants to be an “All-Disciplines” Scholar in the United Kingdom for 2011-2012. Applicants represented all areas of research, from physics and psychology to classics and political science.
Boltwood is one of only two dozen professors nationwide selected for the honor.
The Fulbright Program was established by the U.S. government in 1946 and has grown to become the world’s most prestigious educational exchange program, designed to “increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.” While the program sends about 1,000 U.S. scholars to 125 countries, the competition for slots in Europe and the United Kingdom are the most prestigious and attract the most applicants.
Starting in August 2011 and continuing until July 2012, Boltwood will be hosted by The Queen’s University of Belfast, Northern Ireland, where he will be a Research Fellow at the Brian Friel Theatre Research Centre, and he will formally present his research to faculty and students in the departments of English, Irish Studies, and Drama. He has also been invited to speak at universities in both Ireland and England. The Fulbright award will also require him to travel to London as US cultural representative to meet US embassy officials and even members of the British Parliament.
While a Fulbright Scholar, Boltwood will pursue his ongoing project that is focused on the Ulster Group Theatre, a company that was one of the United Kingdom’s most influential and successful outside of London. Between 1940 and 1960, the Group staged more than 200 plays, at least 60 of which were written specifically for the company. The theatre was lauded in local newspapers as the national theatre for Northern Ireland, rivaling even Dublin’s Abbey Theatre, the National Theatre of Ireland. Many of its actors and directors became mainstays of English stage and screen throughout the era.
Once the Troubles started in the 1960s, the bombings and political murders of this civil war between Protestants and Catholics destroyed much of civil society until the Peace Process started in the mid 1990s. During this time, theaters along with movie houses and restaurants closed, as people avoided such popular attractions. The Group closed as well, and by the 1970s many of its accomplishments had been forgotten.
Boltwood’s research promises to restore for the public this example of religious cooperation in the era before the Troubles that will be meaningful to Northern Ireland today. As he stated in his Fulbright proposal, “By restoring these comedies and dramas for both performance and critical discussion, my work will reveal the 1940s and 1950s as a period in which Protestant and Catholic playwrights and actors achieved a level of collaboration which questions the easy stereotypes of sectarianism and separation in post-war Northern Ireland.”
Boltwood has been researching, teaching and writing about Ireland and Northern Ireland for more than a decade. His early research resulted in a respected book about the celebrated Irish playwright Brian Friel, whose plays have won several Tony awards on Broadway and have been staged not only in Ireland and America, but in Russia, Argentina, South Africa, and even Japan.