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!

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#LoveTheatre Day

LoveTheatre
The Guardian and a couple of partners have declared November 19th #LoveTheatre Day. One of those partners is Twitter UK, which is the reason for the hashtag. It’s a day of celebrating theatre on twitter.

There will be one main hashtag (#LoveTheatre) to guide conversation throughout the day, with three smaller, sub-hashtags to highlight specific themes:

#BackStage (10am-12pm) will offer audiences and other arts professionals a glimpse into how a production comes together in the weeks and months leading up to the big night.

#AskATheatre (3-5pm) will offer a unique opportunity for theatre aficionados and aspiring actors to hear first-hand from the individuals and groups that make the magic happen.

#Showtime (7-10pm) will give those who can’t make it to a theatre the chance to sit in the “virtual stalls” to experience the a performance, or several, via Twitter.

Some Irish theatre companies are taking part as well.

The Lir tweeted some #BackStage photos and videos this morning, Pat Kinavin and Jim Culleton were answering questions on the Fishamble twitter, the Abbey are retweeting favourite theatre moments and The Everyman is answering questions.

The Guardian are collecting tweets here and their theatre critic Lyn Garner has tweeted some of her favourite moments.

LynGarderIt’s a nice idea – I’m in favour of celebrating theatre and hopefully the tweets will encourage people to book a ticket and see a show. The best way to #LoveTheatre is to go see something!

Journey to the End of the Night

On the 26th April, Journey to the End of the Night will take place in Dublin. This is a free street game played at night, and run entirely by volunteers.

Journey to the End of the Night -Dublin
Journey to the End of the Night -Dublin

It’s basically a giant game of tag, but with extra rules thrown in to make it possible to win and lose. All the players start from the same place, then they have to visit six check-points spread out over the city. But while they’re doing that, they are also being hunted down by the chasers. If a player is caught, they switch sides and become a chaser. The winners are those who make it to all the check-points without being caught.

Journey to the End of the Night was created in 2006 and since then it has been played in over 30 cities all around Europe and North America. Thousands of people have taken part, so there must be something in it!

It will be fun and exciting and unlike anything you’ve done before. The creators have described the experience as cinematic – like being the star of your own action movie. I suspect it’s very good for stress – a wonderful opportunity to ditch all your real life worries for a night and throw yourself into the game. Though maybe game isn’t the right word – one of the survival tips is “Bring a friend or two. Preferably ones you can outrun.”

The Dublin event is run by Make and Do who set up the prosocialrulebreakingclub a couple of years ago, run theatre games at Electric Picnic and are currently Artists in Residence at Project Arts Centre.

They are currently looking for volunteers to help make it all happen. The Volunteer sign-up form is here.

If you’re interested, you can learn more about the Dublin game, or find out more about Journey to the End of the Night in general or follow Make and Do on Twitter.

Related post: Interview with Hilary O’Shaughnessy

Cultural Freelancers Ireland

The Cultural Freelancers are holding their first meeting of 2014 on Monday morning. These fortnightly meetings began as a result of a session on freelancing at IETM last year. I started attending meetings last September. “Attending meetings” makes it sound like a support group, an arts-equivilant to AA or AlAnon, and in a way that’s exactly what it is! It’s a place to talk about your experiences and hear from people who are experiencing something similar. Sometimes a support group is necessary to help you feel less crazy about working in the arts.

During the problems experienced by Limerick’s City of Culture at the beginning of the year, artists were described as distrusted and undependable, while recent attacks on the Abbey can make it harder to defend a career in the arts. It can feel crazy to be following this career-path. It can be hard to see the value in what you do when the jobs you are doing are low-paid or no-paid, and when people see it as a hobby or a phase that you’ll grow out of. It really helps to talk to people doing the same thing.

The meetings are structured and everyone has to talk about something so there’s an equality in what we give and receive in each meetings. They are also warm and supportive. The group is not competitive or ego-driven and there is a social element and an opportunity to network as well. It’s run entirely by volunteers and is a fantastic resource for anyone working freelance in the cultural sector. It’s an opportunity to talk to like-minded people and feel some validation about your career choice. Your ambitions seem less impossible when you’re sitting next to someone who has done something similar and is willing to tell you all about it. It’s also a great way to start the week because the ideas and support that come out of each meeting mean that you feel energised and ready for the week ahead.

I really can’t recommend it enough! It’s open to freelancers working in theatre, dance, film, visual arts, literature, architecture, circus or traditional arts and there’s generally a good mix of art-forms and experience in each meeting.

To sign-up or find out more you can join the Facebook group or email culturalfreelancersireland@gmail.com

Your guide to the IETM Dublin meeting

Last year, Project Arts Centre announced that they would be hosting the IETM Spring meeting. At that time, I knew next to nothing about IETM. I’ve had a bit of a crash course since then in preparation for the Dublin meeting which takes place from April 11 – 14.

IETMIETM_Dublin stands for Informal European Theatre Meeting. The group has changed it’s name to the more inclusive International Network for Contemporary Performing Arts but the original name gives you a better sense of what the whole thing is all about. Like the fact that it’s all about meeting people. IETM is not a conference. It’s a meeting. The aim of the three-day event is for delegates to meet people in the performing arts, in the hope that they will be like-minded individuals that they can form useful and long-lasting relationships with.

A couple of the events in the Dublin programme illustrate this point – on Saturday morning, Day 3 of the Conference there are two early morning events – Run! and Jump!, where attendees are invited to go for a run through Phoneix Park or a swim at Seapoint. This has nothing to do with theatre or the performing arts, but it is a good way to get to know people and a good first step to cultivating a relationship!

Making links with Europe can only be a good thing for the arts in Ireland. Our little island nation can be a bit too inward looking sometimes, or only influenced by British and American culture – people who literally speak our language. I think it’s a good thing to have outside influences coming in to add something new to the mix.

The theme of the Dublin meeting is “Trust” and all the sessions relate to that theme. Some of the ones that I really like the look of are; Are The Performing Arts Driving Us Mad? which is about the mental health of those working in the arts and the role that the arts can play in improving mental health; The Big Debate: How to trust and be trusted which takes place in different venues over the three days of the meeting; another practical one – Trust Circus To Take You Into The Unknown which involves trust games and circus skills and the opening night Reception with the wonderful Pop Ceili. These are all delegate only sessions which means you have to sign up and pay the registration fee to attend. Registration fees start at €75 but you don’t have to be a member of IETM to register for the meeting. This is the Early Bird offer which ends on March 28th. After that the fees double to €150 so if you are planning to attend, register soon! It can be a difficult, time-consuming process so don’t try and do it in a hurry!

All That Fall by Pan Pan Theatre
All That Fall by Pan Pan Theatre

And if, like me you can’t afford the registration fee, there’s still the Artistic Programme, which is open to both delegates and non-delegates. There are five performances – Pan Pan’s All That Fall, Brokentalkers Have I No Mouth, a gig curated by Dylan Tigue called Let the music do the talking and two dance pieces – John Scott Dance’s Body Duets and Fast Portraits by Liz Roche Company. There’s also live art happening in the Cube each evening, which is free and open to non-delegates. Tickets for the other pieces are €10 and available from Project. (Delegate tickets are €6 and available in person only, from April 11th.) Most of these performances are happening in Project Arts Centre, which is the Meeting Place and Hub for IETM which means you get a change to get a sense of the IETM atmosphere and maybe do a little mingling and networking without registering for the full meeting.

You can also get involved as a volunteer, if you have the time to spare. Volunteers are asked for at least 3 days commitment (8 hours a day) between 8th and 14th of April. There are more details here and applications close on Friday, March 22.

I think if you can afford to attend, this is a wonderful opportunity to meet other art practitioners from around Europe and hear what their work practices are like. It’s unlikely that a meeting will be held in Dublin again so this is the year to do it! Who knows who you might meet or what connections you could establish. And for those without tickets, I think it’s worth paying a visit to Project during those three days and seeing the whole thing in action. Again, who knows who you might bump into!

No longer a student

Normally around this time of year, I write about things that I’m hoping to see in the Dublin Fringe Festival and the Dublin Theatre Festival. There are a lot of great shows in both festivals this year and both programmes are very exciting. And all the wonderful shows to choose from is one of the reasons that I haven’t managed to pick any favourites yet.

The other is that up to a couple of weeks ago, I was busy trying to get my MA portfolio finished and I’m really surfacing from that now. There was a lot of writing going on over the last couple of months but sadly none of it made it to the blog. Now that the portfolio is done and dusted, I will try and changed that.

I’m proud of the work I handed in and really glad that I did the MA. I had a wonderful time this year, I met and worked with some fantastic people and I learnt a lot. I’m a little bit sad that that’s all over. It’s also a little bit scary because it means I have to go back into the real world and figure out what to do next.

At the moment I’m am look for work. If you know of any jobs going for theatre graduates with lots of admin experience, please let me know! General career advice is also welcome. Or even general life-after-college advice.

In Praise of Galway

I’ve been working with Fishamble Theatre Company in Dublin for the last few weeks and while I’m enjoying the work and I love being back in Dublin, I spent a lot of time this week missing Galway. I felt like I was missing all the fun with the Volvo Ocean Race and Friday’s Silent Disco on Dominic’s Street. I’ve also been hearing stories of the endless lashing rain but it really hasn’t seemed to “dampened” the party spirit in Galway.

A few of my friends were performing on the Spoken Word stage in Volvo’s Global Village this week and a few more will be performing in the first ever Galway Fringe festival, which starts on 12 July. I definitely have to make a trip to Galway for that. I’m also looking forward to the Galway Arts Festival. It starts on July 16 and has loads of great shows including new Irish writing, all male Shakespeare and the famous Macnas parade which is free, and on July 22. And once the Arts Festival finishes, it’s time for the Galway Races. I’ve never been to the races but I’ve been told by many people that it is a very fun time. July is a busy time in Galway!

The Snug in Tigh Neachtain
The Snug in Tigh Neachtain
I had a great time studying in Galway this year and I really enjoyed getting to know the town. The people are friendly and there’s always a great atmosphere. If you’re tempted to visit yourself, I recommend staying close to the centre of town. Traffic is crazy and it can take a long time to get anywhere by car. It also rains a lot! I know people say it’s always raining in Ireland, but it really does rain more in Galway than the rest of the country.

That’s not a reason not to go but it is a reason to stay somewhere close to the centre of town because otherwise you’ll just spend your time trekking through the rain instead of sitting in a snug pub or a nice dry theatre.

Barnacles hostel
Barnacles hostel
Barnacles on Quay Street is perfect because it’s close to everything. There are at least three great pubs within spitting distance; it’s also very close to Shop Street where there are lots of great cafes. You have the famous McDonagh’s Fish & Chip Shop at the end of the road, though I’d also recommend The Kettle of Fish just round the corner on Cross Street – I haven’t tried their deep fried Mars bars yet, but the chips are excellent! It’s close to the Spanish Arch (and Nimmo’s restaurant – I’ve never been in but it always smells delicious – and the Galway Museum which has a great tea shop. It’s also just round the corner from Druid Theatre, where you can see The Great Goat Bubble, produced by Fishamble, from Thursday 12 July until Sunday 29!

And if you are lucky enough to get a dry, sunny day in Galway (it does happen sometimes!), it’s less than half an hours walk to Salthill prom. If you do go west, give my love to Galway and tell her I’ll be back soon!

Reviewing

This term I am taking the only compulsory module on my course – Theatre Reviewing. It’s a class I was looking forward to because we go to see a play every week, sometimes more than one, for free. I thought I would enjoy the class, I thought it would be similar to writing reviews for this blog, something I often enjoy but I would get feedback on my writing and hopefully improve a bit. It didn’t work out that way.

The first show we saw was The Mother’s Arms. It was perfect because it was a show I would not have chosen to see myself but one I thoroughly enjoyed. It was funny and joyous and very, very Irish. I loved it. And yet when I sat down to write down the review I had no idea what to say. I was completely intimidated by the idea that I might be asked to read my review out loud in class. I didn’t know where to start or what to focus on or even if I had anything vaguely useful to say. I was second guessing myself every two lines, I no longer trusted my own taste or opinions. I had to write to a word limit, something I don’t even think about when I’m writing here – I just write until I have said all I need to say. (This is one of the wonderful things about being your own editor and publisher!) It took me a really long time to write that review and the process hasn’t really got any easier.

One of the most difficult reviews to write was for the GUMS’s production of Spring Awakening. Two of my classmates were in the cast and I hadn’t read a review in class so I knew I would have to read this one! I felt like I couldn’t mentioned my classmates in the review because I didn’t feel like I could be objective about their performances. They were both excellent but I didn’t know if I just thought that because they were my friends! We also have a pretty quick turn-over on our reviews. We generally see the show on Tuesday and have to have our reviews ready for class on Thursday morning. I am often still struggling to finish the review on Thursday morning.

I am learning a lot in the class and hopefully my writing is improving but I still prefer writing here! We saw Fishamble‘s Silent last term. I loved it but I didn’t write about it for class. I am saving it to write about here! (It’s in the Peacock in June – go see it!)

Irish translations of Russian literature

Last term I had a class on Irish Playwrights Since the 60s and for my final essay, I wrote about Irish translations of Russian literature. There’s been quite a few of them! Lots of Chekhov – Brian Friel and Frank McGuinness both translated Three Sisters, Frank McGuinness also translated Uncle Vanya and Thomas Kilroy moved The Seagull from provincial Russia to the West of Ireland – and a few novels have been adapted for the stage as well – most recently Tom Murphy’s Last Days of the Reluctant Tyrant and Enda Walsh’s Delirium. My essay didn’t really say anything new about all this, just that it happens a lot, with various amounts of success and for lots of different reasons.

Roddy Doyle’s The Government Inspector, currently running at the Abbey, is yet another example of an Irish version of a Russian play. They’re everywhere! (I had a mild hiccup in my research – for about three weeks I was convinced Ibsen was Russian, probably because it suited my topic – there are lots of translations of Ibsen plays. He’s actually Norwegian.) The Government Inspector looks like a fun adaptation and I am going to try and see it before I head back to Galway in January.

I really enjoyed the Irish Playwrights since the 60s class. Each week we were assigned a playwright and could read any play by that person. Then everyone would present their play to the rest of the class and we would discuss them individually and as a body of work. I came across playwrights I had never heard of and was exposed to a huge range of plays over the twelve week term. It was great to talk about the plays and heard other people’s opinions on them. It was a very laid back, chatty sort of a class. It also gave me a great grounding in Irish playwrights which is one of the things I felt I missed out on by doing my degree in England. Reading so many plays was also really helpful for the playwriting class that I also took this term. The two classes feed into each other by forcing me to look at the plays both as a reader and a writer and I found that really useful.

The Highs and Lows of my MA

The first term of my MA is over. I still have one assignment left to hand in but essentially term is over and the Christmas holidays have started. It’s a bit of shock that the first term is over already but to be honest, I was a bit shocked to actually find myself doing the MA way back in September. I remember sitting in the Bank of Ireland theatre at the course induction meeting, hearing about the classes we would be taking throughout the year, and feeling surprised and amazed that I was actually there – I was actually doing this. This was despite, or maybe because of, the months of planning that brought me me there. I spent about nine months thinking about doing the MA before I actually applied. I liked the sound of the course and spent time writing my personal statement and gathering up all my supporting documents. I went through the checklist on Student Finance about six times to make sure that I really would be entitled to a grant, I did my sums wondering if I could afford it. I was amazed I actually made it happen after thinking about it for so long!

Once I got there, I had to get my head around the fact that I was back in college again. I thought it would be easy to get used to – after all, I’d done it before and this time I wasn’t even leaving the country. I was surprised how much I missed my life in Dublin, especially during the first few weeks in Galway. When I headed to London to do my BA, I was unemployed and living at home with my parents and not very happy with my lift. I had more to give up this time. I liked living in Dublin, I worked with people whose company I enjoyed, I had a job where I was liked and respected and where I was earning good money. I had friends in Dublin and my own little flat that I adored. And I turned that comfortable, enjoyable life upside down because I liked the idea of studying theatre again! There were times during those first few weeks when I wondered if I had made a terrible mistake! It’s hard to get used to not having any money (to be honest, I still struggle with that one some days!) and getting used to living in a house share is tricky too! Being forced to manage your own time after three years as an office drone isn’t easy; neither is trying to remember how to write essays and what is expected of you. To anyone thinking about returning to study, I would recommend writing out a list of all the reasons why you are doing it and what you hope to get out of it – it will be useful on the dark days when you wonder what the hell you were thinking and why you ever thought this was a good idea in the first place!

Thankfully, the risk paid off. I am really enjoying the course – I had great classes this year, I loved being back in a physical drama class again and devising little pieces of theatre, I liked reading plays and writing plays and talking about theatre, and going to see shows and discussing them afterwards with my classmates. I am also enjoying being a student again – I think it suits me! I have wonderful classmates who I am going to miss over the Christmas break and I’m looking forward to next term already. I have another physical drama class and I’m also doing a class in reviewing which means going to see something in the Town Hall Theatre every week and then writing! The class will be a writing workshop where everybody reads everyone else’s work and offers their opinions on it! Scary but useful, I think. I may throw a few of the reviews up here if they’re any good! So it’s worked out. I like my course, I like my classmates, I’m getting used to being a broke student again and I’m starting to like my life in Galway. Most days I love it and feel lucky and privileges and happy with the way my life is going. If nothing else the course has confirmed for me that working in the theatre is what I want to do.