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Tributes to Sam McCready - trailblazing actor, director, writer and teacher

Jimmy Fay
Jimmy Fay
Lauren Harte

By Lauren Harte

The late playwright and actor Sam McCready has been described as "a titan of Ulster Theatre".

A founder member of Belfast's Lyric Theatre, Mr McCready had been at the heart of the city's cultural life since the 1950s, influencing generations of actors with his teaching here and in the US.

Executive producer of the Lyric Jimmy Fay said his legacy will reverberate for many years to come.

He added: "Sam was in every sense a Renaissance man of the theatre; his great talents included actor, director, designer, writer, painter and drama teacher.

"He first played in the Lyric in the late 1950s, where his exceptional talent was spotted by Mary O'Malley. Sam's passion for theatre was life-affirming and pragmatic.

"He saw the power of the positive energy created by theatre and set up the Lyric Drama Studio for young people when the Lyric opened its doors in 1968.

"His profound impact on the theatre world here is vast and far-reaching. He worked right up until relatively recently, his energy was truly extraordinary.

"He will be much missed by all his friends, colleagues and students and his passing closes another chapter on the inspiring story of that firebrand generation that founded the Lyric Theatre."

Last year illness forced Mr McCready to abandon plans to direct a new play about legendary Belfast singer Ruby Murray.

Ruby!, written by Michael Cameron, will open as planned tomorrow night.

"We know that Sam would have wanted the show to go on," Mr Cameron said in tribute.

"In the last messages we exchanged he expressed his excitement as opening night drew closer," he added.

"There is a tradition in theatre to give performers one last big round of applause and we intend to do that as a tribute to Sam, the father of our production.

"We are comforted to know he will be watching over us in the coming days."

Chief executive of the Arts Council Roisin McDonough said Mr McCready's influence on the shape of professional theatre here cannot be overstated.

"He was a great actor and director in his own right and, as actor, theatre-maker, mentor, teacher and friend, he dedicated a lifetime to encouraging younger actors to reach their own creative potential and inspired many of our finest actors who would go on to achieve world renown.

"Sam McCready was revered as an artist internationally, but he will be remembered locally with unusual warmth and affection by the entire arts community of Northern Ireland.

"We have lost one of our leading lights, an inspiration, and a truly lovely individual."

DUP leader Arlene Foster said Mr McCready would be missed by "the many who enjoyed his performances, paintings and writings here in NI".

Former UUP leader Mike Nesbitt described Mr McCready's passing as "a huge loss to the arts in Northern Ireland".

Alliance councillor Emmet McDonough-Brown said his work "will always be remembered, with his legacy shining through in the many he'll continue to influence in years to come".

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