Fringe application time

TigerFringeI spent a lot of time over the last few weeks putting together my application and supporting documents for the Tiger Dublin Fringe. This is the first time I’ve submitted an application. Despite being a long-time fan of the Fringe, and working on a few festival shows, I’ve never managed to take the next step and put in an application of my own. I’ve often thought of applying. I have attended many pre-application workshops and information evenings with a small idea that I thought might grow-up to be a Fringe show. But then the meetings would make me nervous – the amount of information, all the different areas you needed to consider, all the things that could go wrong – it just made me what to hide under the bed. And I would let the fear take hold and the application deadline would pass quietly while I stayed hiding under the bed.

This year was different. I still had The Fear, I still doubted myself and my own abilities and considered throwing in the towel at least once a day, but I was able to talk myself out of it. I feel ready now. The Collaborations show was a huge confidence boost, but I’ve also spent the last three years learning about the amount of work that goes into putting a show on stage and then getting people in to see it. Despite studying drama for many years, these are all things I learnt after graduation. Since I finish my MA in Galway and moved back to Dublin, I produced a couple of shows in the 2013 Fringe, a week-long show in Smock Alley’s Main Space and a dance theatre piece in the Boy’s School. I also worked on a national tour last year with Singlehood. With all that experience under my belt, I feel much more confident in my abilities to make theatre happen.

I’ve had the opportunity to see up-close how shows of different scales, styles and budgets are put together, where the money goes and different ways to sell tickets. I’ve learnt something from every single job. Helping other people is a great way to learn and get experience. I definitely recommend it for anyone who wants to make theatre but doesn’t feel ready yet. Producers are always in demand, particularly around Fringe time. It’s a job that requires good organisation and communication skills, and a good dollop of cop-on. You will undoubtedly feel like you are making it up as you go along – don’t worry, so is everyone else! Signing up for the Fringe’s willing workers list is a good place to start, or just approach theatre companies that you would like to work for and tell them what you have to offer.

I have no idea if my application will be successful but I enjoyed putting it together and thinking about this show that I want to make, and I’m very happy that I finally took the plunge and applied for the Fringe Festival!

Friday Five: Ways to get cheaper theatre tickets

cheapTicketsOne of the reason I love books and reading (see last post) is because you can do it for free. All you need is a library card and away you go! (Note to authors and publishers: don’t panic, I have a healthy book-buying addiction as well as a library card.) I’m going through a bit of cash-flow crisis at the moment (I’m broke) so I have seen very little theatre lately, which is probably another reason why I’m writing about books. Theatre are be an expensive habit but are a few ways to save some money on your theatre tickets.

  1. Early Bird Offers. Theatres love early bookings because it lets them know the theatre won’t be empty, and they can relax a little bit. They want you to book early so they offer discounts. Project Arts Centre offer 25% off the ticket prices for most shows, if you book two or three weeks in advance. At the moment, the Dublin Dance Festival are offering early bird discounts for all their shows until March 29th. They are also doing Dance Deals where you get money off if you book 3 or more shows at the same time.
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  3. Previews and matinees are often a bit cheaper than other shows in the run. Sometimes different days can be cheaper than others. Tickets for Romeo and Juliet at the Gate are €20 for previews, €25 for a Monday night mid-way through the run and €35 on a Friday night. It’s worth being flexible about when you go to see a show.
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  5. Be a friend. A lot of friend’s schemes are prohibitively expensive but the Abbey have some reasonably priced ones. The best of the bunch is the Cameo Club which is open to under 26s and students of all ages. It’s €10 a year and you get half price previews and €10 standby tickets. If you don’t meet the criteria for that, Chorus membership is €25 and gives you half price preview tickets and priority booking.
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  7. Offers on Facebook and Twitter. If you can’t afford a friends subscription, friend your favourite theatres, festivals and production companies on Facebook or follow them on Twitter instead. This is where they will often post about special offers or run competitions for free tickets. For The Walworth Farce, Landmark were offering €20 tickets for unemployed theatre go-ers, purchased on the day and for Rough Magic’s Everything Between Us, they had a limited number of €10 tickets for under 30s. If social media is not your thing, consider signing up to their mailing list.
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  9. Volunteering for festivals is a way to get to see shows for free. Most festivals offer free tickets in exchange for the shifts you work and sometimes you will get into the shows you’re working on. There are loads of good reasons to volunteer but  the free tickets are definitely up there.  The Dublin Dance Festival are currently looking for volunteers. Application close on Friday, 17th April.

I will miss Terry Prachett but there still lots of great books to read

TerryPrachettSince the sad news of his death came last Friday, I have read some lovely tributes to Terry Prachett, and often had a little weep. (I really like these two on the Standard Issue website – AT LAST, SIR TERRY, WE MUST WALK TOGETHER and DON’T THINK OF IT AS DYING. JUST THINK OF IT AS LEAVING EARLY TO AVOID THE RUSH, and this one by Frank Cottrell Boyce in the Guardian.) I started reading Prachett’s Discworld books the summer I did my Leaving Cert and fell in love with them immediately. They were recommended by a friend – we’d bonded over a shared love of Red Dwarf and then I sent her off to read Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and she sent me off to read the Discworld novels. I am very grateful to her for that – what a gift! All those wonderful stories, all those jokes, all those terrific characters. And now, there’s no more. No more Sam Vimes fighting everyone in sight so he can get home to read his son a bedtime story. No more stories about Tiffiany Aching and the Nac Mac Feegleys (after the final one). The news of his death was very sad, even if it was not unexpected. (That’s a lie – I didn’t expect it, I was hoping for a miracle cure. Surely it was a one in a million chance.) As well as reading other peoples tributes to him, it makes me want to watch The Hogfather and wonder what’s happening with The Watch tv series. But I also feel lucky to have those books in my life, and lucky that despite being a fan for 15 years, I still haven’t read everything he’s written. And even those I have read, I know I will read and enjoy again. They are so crammed full of jokes and clever parodies and wonderful minor characters, along side the great plots, that I know they are worth reading again.

Celebrating all the great books he gave us feels more useful than being sad about his passing. And in the spirit of celebration, I started thinking about other writers that are still with us and still writing wonderful books that make me glad I’m alive to read them!

1. Jilly Cooper is still writing and is working on a new horsey book! I love this article about how Riders is 30 years old and the best erotic fiction of all time! I started Riders the morning after my granny died. I was 15 and instantly hooked on Jilly Cooper. For a long time, her books were my literary drug of choice – the ones I went for when I needed to escape from my own boring life. I’ve probably read Riders, Rivals and Polo at least 5 times. And yes, her books are not as saucy as they used to be, either because I’m not 15 any more or because she’s almost 80, but I am still looking forward to her next one.

2. Caitlin Moran has to included on a celebratory list because she is just a pusher of joy. She’s an enthusiast and somehow manages to be infectiously enthusiastic about the simplest things like fluffy towels. She makes the world brighter and more bearable. I don’t know know if she’s working on a new book but I am looking forward to watching Raised by Wolves over the next few weeks and liked this profile in the Guardian at the weekend.

3. Marian Keyes. I’ve been reading Marian’s books longer than I’ve been reading Terry Pratchett’s and I still look forward to every single one. I read her most recent book – The Woman Who Stole My Life – just before Christmas and really loved it. I bought it a gift but had to read it first! She’s also an absolute tonic on twitter, another person who is just out to find the joy in things. I really think the people who decry twitter as a rage-filled cesspool are just following the wrong people.

4. Tana French is an Irish crime writer that I heard about from an American classmate a couple of years ago. For some reason she is much better known in the States than in Ireland, though all her books are set in Dublin. And they are wonderful. I don’t read a lot of crime novels but I really really enjoy these. I love getting hold of a new Tana French novel, looking forward diving into that world and knowing that I’m going to be completely obsessed with it for the next few days.

5. Louise O’Neill, another Irish woman, who published her first novel the very creepy Only Ever Yours last year. It’s set in a future world where girls are trained and rated for the sole-purpose of male pleasure. It’s terrifying and heart-breaking, and one that stays with you for days. Her next novel is about rape culture and I’m really interested to see how she dissects that messy minefield.

I’ve also heard great things about The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins and The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan. And Kate Atkinson has a new book out this year, and so does Judy Blume and Ali Smith and Harper Lee! So many great books that I can’t wait to get my hands on. Not to mention all the writers that I haven’t yet become acquainted with. Yes, I’ve listed loads of women writers, mainly because these are the books I’ve excited about right now. I’ve never had trouble #ReadingWomen but I do read male authors too. I read Funny Girl by Nick Hornby earlier this year and absolutely loved it, I’m looking forward to David Nichols’ Us and I’ve just started This is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz.

These are the people I’m looking forward to reading, the books that make me happy.. Any gems that I’ve missed?

Friday Five: International Women’s Day

iwd_squareThis Sunday is International Women’s Day. It has been celebrated on March 8th since 1975 but Women’s Day has existed in various forms since the early 1900s, often in connection with the labour movement. It’s a day for celebrating the achievements of women and also for recognising the inequalities faced by the women and the work that still has to be done. Here’s a list of events and articles about women in the arts and culture.

1. The Women of the World Festival at the South Bank is now is it’s fifth year and it just seems to get bigger every year. The line-up is always incredible and yet I’ve never actually managed to get over to London for it. Luckily they are very good at putting all the talks online. Everything from the past three years is up on their YouTube channel and no doubt this year’s talks will join them.

2. Previous WOW speaker Emer O’Toole will be on the RTE Book Show on Saturday evening at 7pm, celebrating IWD with Lisa Hannigan, Norah Casey, Viv Groskop and presenter Sinead Gleeson. The Irish Times have been celebrating Irish women writers all week and all those articles are collected here. (Watch out for the paywall.) This weekend the paper will include an all female version of the famous Irish Writers poster that you see all over the place. Fintan O’Toole called it a joke with a serious point.

3. I read a couple of great articles on women’s “madness” this week. Mad in inverted commas because generally the behaviour being dismissed as madness is just simply behaviour that deviates from the norm, ie it’s not how men behave. Or it is a logical reaction to how the women in question have been mistreated. B. N. Harrison writes about The Unified Theory of Ophelia: On Women, Writing, and Mental Illness for the Toast and Julie Holland writes about Medicating women’s Feelings for the New York Times.

4. Another area where women face discrimination and struggle to tell women’s stories is on the screen. You only had to look at the recent Oscars to see the lack of women in the writing and directing categories, and the lack of women in general in the Best Picture nominees. This matters because popular culture matters. It shapes how we see the world and it needs to include women, in front of and behind the camera. A group working to improve this is Women in Film and TV International. The Irish branch is currently making a come-back and you can find them on Facebook.

5. If you want to hear more about the many and varied issues that affect women’s equality, the National Women’s Council are holding a Soapbox event today, outside the Central Bank in Temple Bar from 12 – 4pm. Last year over 35 women shared their thoughts and experiences from the Soapbox. This year’s speakers will include a wide range of women from Ireland’s artistic, political, musical and journalistic community.

All done!

On Thursday morning I felt ready for the day ahead and the show that night. We’d had a good dress and tech rehearsal the day before, the show was looking really good – we were ready! And then as the day went on, the nerves started kicking in. A lot of people I knew were coming to see the show that night and I didn’t want to disappoint them. I was suddenly afraid that it wasn’t funny and I should have put in lots more jokes. By the time I had to leave for the theatre, I wanted to run away and hide.

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When I got into Smock Alley, it was buzzing. It really felt like something exciting was happening and that distracted me from my nerves. We ran lines in the Banquet Hall, where there was one, maybe two other company doing the same. There were small groups warming up or having a quick bite to eat before their show. When we headed backstage to get set up, that was also a hive of -very quiet- activity. With four shows in each space, there were people everywhere! We ended up in a corridor while we waited for the cast of the previous show to finish up. We had a chance to run it onstage one last time (the advantage of having a very short show!) and then suddenly it was time to let the audience in!

I was very nervous as I sat in the dark and waited for the show to start. Then it started and my cast were wonderful and the audience laughed when they were supposed to laugh, which was a major relief. Not only did they laugh, but they listened and it felt like they were getting it. It was great. I had a pen and notebook in my lap but took zero notes. There was no need! I was on a bit high after that and in bar afterwards, I felt giddy and happy as I tried to talk to six people at once. People said lots of lovely things and I felt content and proud. Friday also went well – I was a little less nervous, though we also got less laughs. Mostly I was pleased and grateful to all the friends who came over the two nights. It was really kind of them and made me feel very supported. I was also so grateful to my cast who did such a lovely job with the script. They really couldn’t have been better.

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And now it’s all over but I’m glad that I did it. I was a fantastic experience, even the scary bits. Even the stomach-churningly terrifying bits when I wondered what the hell had I gotten myself into. Taking a play from page to stage has been enormously encouraging for my writing. Now I know that I can write something that makes people laugh! That makes people think! That makes them discuss it in the bar afterwards! I also learned a lot about editing. Listening to your own words over and over again makes you want to cut them down to the bare essentials. Everything has to be justified and the rehearsal process really puts that to test. I am hoping I’ll be able to write more sparingly in the future.

Mostly it was a joyful process of taking something that was just an idea inside my head and making it into a piece of theatre that I could share with other people. That was exhilarating. I want to do it again now!

AllDone