A bit of an overview post of the past couple of months. It’s been busy.
– A Girl is a Half-formed Thing won a Fringe First and the Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award 2015 during its run at the Traverse this August. Aoife Duffin also won the Award for Acting Excellence from The Stage. The London run at the Young Vic for early 2016 has been announced.
– I designed for performances in more dusty disused spaces: a doll factory in Crolly, Co. Donegal, and an unused shop unit in Smithfield, Dublin. More to follow on these.
– My photo (right) was used for the front cover of the Earagail Arts Festival brochure.
– I’ve been selected to take part in the Theatre Forum/Dublin Theatre Festival Next Stage programme later this month – aka theatre bootcamp.
– I was invited to take part in a lovely Dinner and Dialogue event to talk about good design in a beautiful Georgian house in Dublin’s city centre, as part of the year of Irish Design.
– Moonfish Theatre’s Star of the Sea is fitting up again this week for its national tour, including a few days as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival.
– Thanks to grants from the Arts Council’s Theatre Artist Development Scheme I’m developing a pilot initiative with Mermaid Arts Centre called Gap Days for freelance theatre workers to take paid days to think, dream and plan for later this year, as well as preparing for year four of the Pan Pan International Mentorship programme.
Like I said, all go.
Earlier this year I worked with Ewa Segner and Siobhán Bourke of Irish Theatre Institute to compile a website to highlight stage and screen designers coming from and working in Ireland.
You can access the website here. It is in Beta mode for the next few weeks, and the content is being updated and added to every day – an ever-growing catalogue of the work of costume, set, lighting and sound designers/composers who design for the stage, and production, hair, makeup and costume designers who design for screen.
A Girl is a Half Formed Thing horizon ideas sketch
Most exciting (for me) is the chance to see some of the sketches side by side with the final production images – it’s always a treat to see the development of ideas, and the idiosyncratic ways that designers approach their work.
The timing of the website going live in June was to coincide with both the year of Irish Design and the Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space. However, it is a resource that will be kept up by ITI, along the same lines as their Playography and Irishtheatre.ie sites.
Earlier this year, I was commissioned by the secretariat of the IETM international network to write a ‘mapping’ report that outlines the current situation of the contemporary performing arts in Ireland. Incredibly difficult to distill it all down, but I had a go.
Here it is in all its sweeping, unsubtle, gap-filled glory.
(Thanks to Cian O’Brien of Project Arts Centre for being the outside eye and reassuring me that you’d never guess from reading it that I was a left-leaning liberal.)
The Theatre of War Symposium, Abbey Theatre, 22-24 Jan 2015
PDF of schedule here
After slowing down to comatose this Christmas, my brain needed a good jolt to get going again. And what a jolt this was.
I hadn’t been able to attend the previous Abbey Theatre symposium on Theatre of Memory in January 2014, but had heard good things. A symposium on war, though? That was a harder sell for me. However when the ever-inspiring Dominic Campbell said he was on the programming committee, the decision was made for me. Dominic has a fantastic way of connecting people and creative ideas and often comes at topics from a direction I can’t predict. Conversations with him always leave me with a list of things to go home and google.
The programming of the symposium was excellent – both in terms of the spectrum of speakers and the scheduling of the three days. Nobody had quite enough time to speak, which meant they filled every second they were on stage with energy, so as an audience we rattled from one new thought, artistic practice or viewpoint to another. Also, thankfully, the few sessions I was less interested in flew by too.
As part of the symposium, the Abbey were able to bring together the extraordinary women involved in the recently established Project Ariadne which is a network of female theatremakers working in conflict affected areas. Securing visas alone was an administrative feat – the women traveled from Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Serbia, Palestine and Burundi via Belgium to speak at the event. Having them all in the one place for the first time, Ariadne‘s organisers Suzannah Tresillian and Georgie Wheedon were able to see the scale of the potential that the network has – I’m pretty sure a few stiff drinks were downed to help cope with the enormity of the situation. I was very lucky to have dinner with the network – I’ve never sat at a table so full of inspirational women.
Thankfully, the Abbey has much of the Symposium online, day by day.
DAY 3 (still to come)
I’ve listed my own highlights of the event here, with added links:
- Ariadne Project’s website and Twitter. The network members spoke on various panels during the symposium, and more information on each of them can be found here
- David Cotterrell‘s talk on the experience of being a war artist in Afghanistan
- Playwright Stacey Gregg’s piece on the “peace walls” in Belfast, as part of the Barriers panel on day 2
- A presentation by Ray Dolphin of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on the fragmentation of Palestine
- Dr Anne Dolan of TCD’s paper looking anew at the Irish Civil War
- Extracts of songs from Helen Chadwick‘s performance War Correspondents
- Vladimir Shcherban on how Belarus Free Theatre keeps operations going
Thanks to Noelia Ruiz and Siobhán O’Gorman for asking me to speak on a panel as part of this event – a day-long symposium on scenography in Trinity College Dublin. It really was a great day, and felt like there was a lot still to say by the end of it.
While I missed some of the papers, I did get to hear some great presentations by:
Rachel Hann on the terminology around scenography (I hope to be able to repost some of what she said soon – it was really useful to hear her own definitions around stage design / scenic design / scenography / set design)
Sarah-Jane Scaife, talking about her beautiful Beckett in the City series
Cathy Leeney and Elaine Sisson both presenting very interesting papers about the documentation of design
Aoife Monks talking about magic/mundane lives of costumes and props (who also came out with the great line that “theatre is just made out of stuff and work”)
Sodja Lotker, Director of the Prague Quadrennial, talking about their upcoming event in 2015
Abstracts of all these paper and more can be found here.
When Veronica Dyas asked me to help her put together an installation/performance this May called Here & Now that would be the cumulative event in a project she had been working on for the last few years, I wondered what I could bring to it.
She didn’t need a designer – she knew what she wanted in the space. She didn’t need a producer – she had one on board, and knew that I don’t consider myself a show producer anyway. She didn’t need a director or an outside eye – it wasn’t really that kind of thing. I wasn’t sure what benefit I could be to her, but I have a lot of respect for Veronica, so said I’d help in what way I could. We agreed to meet once a week.
Veronica had what seemed like an enormous satellite team of excellent people contributing work in response to her and her thoughts. Among the people I didn’t meet, who she’d met originally on her Camino walk and were now collaborating remotely, she was working with:
– Eoin Winning designing lights and making everything work
– Dylan Tighe and Little John Nee contributing beautiful music
– The Company members Nyree Yergainharsian as producer, and Jose Miguel Jimenez making a video piece for the performance
– Louis Haugh creating a photographic installation
– Actor Conor Madden filming a documentary
– Theatre maker Sorcha Kenny responding to a previous part of Here & Now where Veronica gave away (nearly) everything she owned
– Amy Conroy of HotForTheatre working as script dramaturg; choreographer Ella Clarke advising on movement
– Aoife O’Sullivan as the dream stage manager
We talked, and I started to see what I could do for her. What I didn’t expect was that working with Veronica would do just as much, if not more, for me. Her practice of encouraging everyone to be in their dream – doing the thing they most want to do – created a feeling of connection, togetherness and calm over the whole event, for participants and audience alike. Everyone was welcome into the space she created. Everyone was at home.
Having the opportunity to be involved in the collaborative practice that Veronica led reminded me of why I got involved in working in the arts in the first place. Her creative openness and dogged optimism combined with a endless reservoir of integrity has encouraged me to keep interrogating my own ideas and plans to make sure they ring true. Thanks Veronica for reminding me of the feeling of long-distance walking, and how it’s worth the effort to bring that frame of mind into everyday life.