The Papers of Louis Lentin

Louis Lentin Portrait Photograph 2Louis Lentin (11 December 1933 – 22 July 2014)

Theatre, radio, film and television director.

Head of RTE Drama and a founder of Israeli television. His pioneering work made a major contribution to Irish cultural life for nearly half a century.

Louis Lentin’s archive was generously donated to the Library by his family in 2015. The Library of Trinity College Dublin is indebted to Ronit, Alana and Miki Lentin. The papers consist of Lentin’s scripts, production files, correspondence, research notes, reviews, and photographs of his theatre and TV work. The display, currently on view in the Long Room, examines his work for theatre, including Krapp’s last tape, and The Voice of Shem; and work for television, including Insurrection and Dear Daughter.

Born to a Jewish family in Limerick, Lentin attended Trinity College in the 1950s to study medicine, was drawn to the theatre through the dramatic society Trinity Players. During his leadership Players debuted at the Edinburgh and Wexford Festivals in 1954. He became a theatre director after graduation in 1957 and established Art Theatre Productions in 1959, which produced the Irish premieres of Samuel Beckett’s Endgame and Krapp’s Last Tape. One of his most successful productions, The Voice of Shem, an adaptation of Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, was produced for the Dublin Theatre Festival in 1961 and went on to represent Ireland at the Théatre Des Nations festival in Paris.

In 1961 Lentin was invited to join the fledgling Irish national broadcaster Radio Teilifís Éireann. He worked as a floor manager, news director and director, mostly on drama productions for television, most notably Insurrection (1966), a dramatic day-by-day reconstruction of the 1916 Easter Rising screened during the 50th anniversary of the events.

In 1967 he travelled to Israel and was instrumental in the establishment of Israel Television. He trained directors and producers and produced a number of programmes including Israel Television’s inaugural transmission and a series of Catholic, Orthodox and Armenian Masses from Bethlehem in Christmas 1968.

Louis Lentin Portrait PhotographHe returned to Ireland in the late 1960s and resumed work with RTÉ, becoming Head of Television Drama in 1978, and commissioned many new plays by Irish writers, including Maeve Binchy and Neil Jordan. In 1989 he left RTÉ to establish Crescendo Concepts, an independent production company responsible for ground-breaking work including the drama-documentary Dear Daughter (1996), which dealt with the harrowing experiences of Christine Buckley and others in the Goldenbridge Industrial School run by the Sisters of Mercy. Dear Daughter eventually led to the Taoiseach making a public apology to the survivors of industrial schools and to the setting up of commissions of enquiry and a redress board.

His last film for television was Grandpa, Speak to Me in Russian (2007), a documentary about his paternal grandfather Kalman Lentin who migrated to Ireland as a child of 14 from Lithuania, from where most of Ireland’s Jewish community originated.

Lentin won many national and international awards for his work including The Jacob’s and the Sunday Tribune Awards, the Prague D’Or and Banff nominations for both Dear Daughter and The Work of Angels (2000), a documentary on the Book of Kells produced in collaboration with the Library of Trinity College Dublin.

Estelle Gittins