The chairperson of the Abbey Theatre board has said the theatre has been undergoing a process of change, which includes increased gender balance, using new and overlooked voices and bringing different kinds of companies onto the Abbey stage.

However speaking at the Oireachtas Committee on Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Dr Frances Ruane said an unintended consequence has been that some artists feel the changes at the theatre have contributed to their personal hardship.

She said the theatre regrets that and is committed to addressing those concerns.

Earlier this month more than 300 theatre practitioners signed a letter taking issue with work practices at the Abbey and the number of bought in or co-productions being staged at the national theatre.

Actor Declan Conlon told the committee that more than 400 people have now signed the letter.

He said there has been a disproportionate number of revivals, co-productions or bought in shows at the theatre.

He said a decrease in in-house production has had an impact on the theatre ecosystem.

Mr Conlon said there is a communication problem at the theatre and criticised delays in responding to calls and emails.

He said the large number of plays being directed by Abbey Co-director Graham McLaren means a "single artistic voice" is dominating self-produced shows and he called for the reinstatement of the casting department.

Director of the Arts Council Orlaith McBride said €300,000 of funding has been withheld from the Abbey pending clarity on issues including employment opportunities, the presentation model and remuneration.

She said the council is working with the theatre to ensure the best outcome for practitioners and audiences.

A meeting is due to take place on Friday between the Abbey and signatories of the letter.

Abbey Co-director Neil Murray said some brilliant people have left the theatre in recent times but he added that they have been replaced with some brilliant people and there is a solid team in place. 

He also said there is no question that those who signed the letter would be "blacklisted", saying many who signed are friends and all are colleagues.

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