THE former chairman of Dundalk Town Council, Conor Keelan has presented The Chairman’s Award to Tony Rice for his outstanding contribution to the Dundalk stage.
The award is given each year to someone who has made outstanding contributions to the community.
Tony Rice’s involvement with Dundalk theatre and set design covers more than five decades and includes all the great drama and history the town has witnessed in the past half century, including the visit of President Bill Clinton in 2000.
Cllr Keelan said the Chairman’s Award is a great opportunity for the town council to show its appreciation for those who have contributed to the cultural life of Dundalk and he was delighted that the award was going to Tony Rice who has won the affection and admiration of the people of the town.
“Dundalk has a proud tradition in the performing arts,” he said, “and Tony has been an important part of that tradition.”
Tony’s wife Colette said that when a set is being dressed and props collected, door handles, pictures, and other household items have a tendency to vanish.
“His involvement in the theatre ensures he is never under my feet,” she said, even if sometimes his grandchildren ask ‘does Granda live in the Town Hall’.”
Tony thanked Cllr Keelan and members of the town council. He also paid tribute to Joey Hardy, a wonderful set designer and the late great Tommy Clarke.
Fergus Mullen spoke brilliantly on behalf of the local arts community and this week Dundalk Arts Officer Denis D’Arcy told The Democrat that Tony was one of the great names that will always be associated with Dundalk theatre and performing arts.
“I remember,” he said, “on the eve of the Clinton visit, Tony working away past midnight on the set at the square in the drizzling rain.
“There is no one to equal his selfless dedication, his talent and expertise, his experience, and his great eye for detail and perfection.
“He staged the most prestigious events all over the town, in school halls, churches, open-air and venues that didn’t even have a socket or plug.
“He staged productions in every part of Ireland, in the US and on the Continent.
“As set designer he created some of the most memorable stage pictures ever seen in the Town Hall,” said Denis.