Congratulations to Mrs Maureen Dunn, a parishioner of the Church of the Ascension, Cloughfern Parish, Diocese of Connor, who received an MBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours.
Maureen, 79, was honoured for her services to drama and the performing arts. Honorary secretary of the Newtownabbey based Theatre 3, Maureen is also vice chairperson and honorary secretary of the Association of Ulster Drama Festivals and has been secretary of Newtownabbey Drama Festival for more than 30 years.
She discovered her passion for theatre at the age of 10, when she won two tickets in a schools’ art competition to attend the Grand Opera House Christmas pantomime, Cinderella, starring Des O’Connor.
“As soon as the curtain went up, I was just amazed by the whole spectacle and the beauty of it all,” Maureen recalls. “I thought, I would love to be on that stage, and in 1986 that dream came true when I played Theresa in Remembrance by Graham Reid at the Opera House with Theatre 3 in the finals of the Association of Ulster Drama Festivals.”
This was two years after she joined Theatre 3 – in the early days, Maureen was an actor and later took on the role of artistic director.
Her leading roles included playing Mrs Venables in Suddenly Last Summer by Tennesse Williams, Evie in The Gingerbread Woman by Neil Simon, Mrs Birling in An Inspector Calls by JB Priestly, and Mother Miriam Ruth in Agnes of God by John Pielmeier.
The group represented Northern Ireland in many UK and All-Ireland Finals, most recently with Bench at the Edge by Luigi Januzzi, in Harrogate, England, in 2019.
As a mature student, Maureen gained a 2:1 BA Hons Degree in Theatre Studies and Anglo Irish Literature from the University of Ulster in 1997. In 2006, she established a Youth Drama Workshop for 8-18 year olds in Ballyearl Arts Centre.
Outside of the pandemic, each year Theatre 3 would do one full-length play which would be entered into competitions, a touring summer theatre show, and a one-act play for the autumn festivals.
Maureen has travelled all over with the theatre group. “There is competition, but I meet so many nice people,” she said.
While drama and theatre are her passion, Maureen is a qualified dental nurse, and prior to retirement had careers as both a dental nurse and as a secretary.
She and her husband Norman were married in Cloughfern, where Maureen has been a parishioner since the age of 14. They have four children.
She founded the parish drama association, the Ascension Players, 20 years ago, offering parishioners the opportunity to take to the stage and raise funds for the church while doing so.
News that she was to be awarded an MBE had come as a big surprise, Maureen said. “I am totally delighted and feel very honoured as I really represent a brilliant organisation, and everybody who goes out and acts or directs deserves an award because they are all amazing,” she said.
Maureen is looking forward to travelling to Buckingham Palace to collect her MBE in the coming months.
This article was written by Karen Bushby, Communications Officer for the Anglican Diocese of Connor.