Betty Ann Norton

June 7, 2020

It is with great sadness that we note the passing away of one of our longest serving, and most respected, colleagues: 

Betty Ann was a Licentiate of the Guildhall School of Music, the Royal Academy of Music and Drama and the Royal Irish Academy of Music. 

Betty Ann adjudicated at many Drama Festivals and Feis Competitions throughout Ireland, including the All Ireland Finals in Athlone. 

For over fifty years she was the Director of the Betty Ann Norton Theatre School and Agency and Core Youth Theatre. Recent Productions include the Irish premiere of Coram Boy by Helen Edmundson in The Mill Theatre and the O’Reilly Theatre to celebrate the School’s fiftieth anniversary and performances of The Importance of Being Earnest in Farmleigh House and Marley House.

She recently directed shows in the Mill Theatre, Cuisle Centre for Arts and a series of promenade shows in association with OPW and Heritage week in Rathfarnham Castle, Dublin Castle, Pearse Museum and Farmleigh House.

The Irish Times (Sunday, 7th June, 2020):

‘Betty Ann Norton, who gave her name to one of the State’s foremost theatre schools, The Betty Ann Norton Theatre School in Rathmines, Dublin.

For more than 60 years Betty Ann educated legions of school children and launched the careers of many television and stage stars as well as writers, producers and directors.

She passed away at the weekend at the Beacon hospital in Co Dublin. She was predeceased by her husband Michael J Cunneen in 2017, and is survived by her brother, the actor Jim Norton.

“She leaves a legacy of contributions to the arts, none the least her pupils who included Barry Lynch, Amy Huberman, Emma Donoghue, Eleanor Shanley, Moya Doherty, Claudia Carroll, Peter Crawley, Jim Culleton, Áine Lawlor and numerous others.

“The secret of life is to know what you want,” she said in an Irish Times interview in 2001. “I’ve always known that I wanted to teach voice and acting.”

Her own elocution lessons began when a neighbour near the family home off the South Circular Road in Dublin allegedly told her father that Jim had the most awful Dublin accent, and both siblings were sent to the Ena Mary Burke School on Kildare Street.

Betty Ann was just seven years of age but the experience was the start of a passionate love affair with the theatre which continued, even during the Covid-19 lockdown as the theatre school made videos and placed them on Youtube.

For many years she was based in Harcourt Street, where she was described as filling “the high, bright rooms of her theatre school … with energy, spreading passion generously and infectiously.”

Adamant that the school was “not a one-woman show” she always credited as co-director her husband, who she met on the Aran islands when, riding a bike, she knocked him down in the summer of 1965.

She also lionised teachers and staff.

As a child she went to St Louis Convent in Rathmines, “a small school in those days, in a Georgian building. We used sit around an open fire on settees to be taught.”

It was appropriate then, when there was a difficulty with the Luas in Harcourt Street – the developers were “irresponsible and insensitive” she said – that future expansion took place in the Cúisle Arts and Cultural Centre, at her former school St Louis High School, Rathmines.’

Funeral arrangements will be posted on and the Betty Ann Norton Theatre School Facebook Page.

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