Theatre Week at NUIG

Theatre Week is over. It was fantastic. It was also stressful and exhausting and very busy but I loved it.

On Monday night I got to perform ‘My Angry Vagina’ (one of my favourite monologues) to an appreciative audience. I heard that Tuesday night’s audience were even more appreciative and over the two nights, we raised €1,300 for V-Day and the Galway Rape Crisis Centre. Well done to DramSoc and the Feminist Society for a great production.

The One Act Play Festival started at lunchtime on Wednesday. I had one play at lunchtime and one in the evening on Wednesday and Thursday. Then on Friday, there was the omnibus edition with all eight plays back-to-back to an almost sold out theatre. I thought it would be a long hard night but it actually flew by. I watched some plays and hide backstage with my nerves during others. It felt like it was over all too soon!

Over apart from the clean-up and the award ceremony! I like award ceremonies. I don’t know why, I just do. I like celebrations of work well done. I like seeing people happy and thanking the people who helped them along the way. I especially enjoyed Friday’s awards ceremony because so many of my hugely talented friends were recognised for being awesome. The last award of the evening was the writing award for Best Play, which was won by Mr. Patrick O’Byrne for Ahhhh Lad!!. He was shocked and surprised and I was proud as punch to have been involved. I loved my cast, I loved the script, I loved working with all these talented people.

Well done to everybody involved. There was a lovely atmosphere backstage and at the after-party on Friday. It was just a great group of people to hang out with and I had such a great time. I’m sorry it’s over and I have to come back to real life and start worrying about my coursework again!

The full list of awards can be found here.

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Busy Week

Theatre Week has just begun at NUIG. The first day included rehearsals for two different one act plays (I’m directing one and performing in another), and a performance of The Vagina Monologues.

Yes, V-Day is also upon us again! This year I am helping to raise money for the Galway Rape Crisis Centre. My performance is done, but you can still see the show at NUIG tomorrow at 7.30pm. Tomorrow night I will be seeing Rhinoceros in the Town Hall Theatre. The One Act Play series kicks off on Wednesday and there will be performances at lunchtime and in the evening, Wednesday – Friday. And to round off the week, on Saturday, I’m going to see Carthaginans at the Town Hall. It’s going to be a busy week and I know I will be wreaked by the end of it, but I also know it’s going to be a lot of fun. And because shows are actually opening this week, I think it will be less hectic week than last week.

Last Monday I had four separate rehearsals for three different shows, and a directing workshop with Garry Hynes (which I will write about soon, promise!), and the week continued like that! By the time Saturday rolls around, I will be more than ready for it!

Reviewing and directing

Lyn Gardner wrote an article recently about reviewing actors’ performances which became a little bit about reviewing in general. The line “My rule is to gloss over a mediocre performance unless it comes with a star name attached” made me think about the reviews I write for this blog. It made me happy to know that I’m not the only one who wants to avoid writing a bad review. I just can’t bring myself to do it. Even though my influence is non-existant and it’s unlikely anyone involved in the production would read it, it would still feel mean. I know how much time and effort goes into a production, it seems unnecessary to dismiss all that while sitting safely behind my keyboard. If I don’t like something, I just don’t write about it. Of course, I have that luxury because I’m only really writing for myself. It nice to have people read what I write my reviews but I don’t have to answer to anyone else.

I write about the shows I like because I want to celebrate their good work and encourage people to go see it. I also think it’s useful for me because I want to create theatre, to write about it. Writing a review means I have to look at things a little more closely, to try and figure out why I enjoyed a particular piece of theatre so much. I can walk out of the theatre thinking ‘yeah, I really liked that’ but when I sit down to write about it, I have to think about what it was I liked about it, what made it so enjoyable, what made it work. (It would probably be helpful to write about shows I don’t like and try figure out why I they didn’t do anything for me, but I am a generous reviewer – if I like something, I will attribute it to the skills of the theatre makers, if I don’t like it, I’ll blame myself; I didn’t get it, it’s not my sort of thing, etc.)

I do mention acting (though I’ve never written anything as beautiful and concise as the examples in that article) because it’s something that interests me. The thing I find hard to review is directors. I find it difficult to see a director’s influence. I say this as someone who has both directed and been directed, who has been in very rehearsal rooms. I know a director’s contribution can be huge, generally is huge because it’s their vision you are seeing onstage, but with a good director you don’t really notice that. The whole thing will seem so natural and right that it’s impossible to imagine it happening any other way. That is the result of a million decisions and aborted attempts but if it’s a good show – you don’t that. I have a lot of respect and admiration for good directors, even if I don’t generally mention them in my reviews!

V-Day Retrospective

I was surprised how nervous I felt on the day of the show. I was expecting to feel excited that the day was finally here, but ready for it; maybe not tranquil but reasonably calm. Instead I felt on edge all day, my to do list constantly hoovering at the edge of consciousness and constantly worried that I’d forgotten something. It was a stressed out restlessness that made it hard to get things done.

I arrived at The Sugar Club half an hour later than I intended to after standing at a bus stop for 15 minutes feeling sick with nerves. There was so much to do and so little time and instead of running around getting things done, I had to stand still and wait for a bus!

Once I got there and the cast started arriving and we started getting things done, I relaxed a bit. That was our first day in The Sugar Club, the first time the cast had a chance to get up on stage. There were lots of last minute decisions to be made so people didn’t walk into each other and knew when to sit and stand and speak. It was the first time we got to use the mikes. There was a lot to get through.

Almost as soon as I started to feel calm, it was time to clear out of the space in anticipation of our audience! Suddenly it all felt very real! I spent 40 minutes getting people in, greeting people I knew, checking up on the cast, how many tickets were left, etc. Technically, the show was sold out but most of the tickets were waiting at the door to be collected and paid for. We had a great crowd but we probably could have squeezed a few more in.

Finally, finally, finally the show began and there really was nothing else I could do. I’d done a little bit of directing at university but this was the first time I’d sat with a paying audience, watching a show that I had put together. I was so proud of the cast and the audience really seemed to enjoy themselves, and I enjoyed the show along with them. It was wonderful. I was beaming with happiness from the first word to the last.

It was a great night, everybody I talked to enjoyed it immensely. The cast were all a bit disappointed that we had one night. We probably could have filled The Sugar Club for a second night, at least. It was a great venue and they looked after us very well.

Thanks to our fantastically generous audience we raised $280 for the V-Day project in Haiti and €1732 for Ruhama, on our one night. Thanks also to the hard work of the cast and everyone else involved on the production it was a very successful Dublin V-Day.

V-day minus one

I meant to write a lot more about The Vagina Monologues while we were putting the show together. I wanted to write about the auditions, the fundraising, the rehearsals, but I was too busy to write about it while it was all happening. Now the show is almost here days away and all the tickets are sold. Tomorrow afternoon, we’ll head down the The Sugar Club for some last minute preparations and before we know it, the big night will have arrived! I feel ready and excited and happy and tired.

I wanted to write something before the show because however things go tomorrow night, I am really glad I did this. I’m proud of my cast, who are amazing and have worked really hard, and I’m a little bit proud of myself too.

I had planned to submit an application to the Dublin Fringe Festival last month. I went along to the pre-application talks and workshops and then, about a week before the deadline I got a bad dose of The Fear. It completely paralysed me and meant I couldn’t do anything. I felt untalented and unimaginative. I couldn’t imagine anyone being interested in anything that came out of my brain. As well as doubting my creative abilities, I had no faith in my practical skills. I just didn’t believe I would be able for the work involved. I wouldn’t be able to organise a cast or crew, I wouldn’t be able to sell my show, I wouldn’t even be able to get it to the stage where it was ready to be seen by the general public. I felt I was too old to be submitting work to the festival, too old to be working in the arts at all. This idea of making new things was a young persons game – you needed to be young and optimistic and a little bit native to take that leap of faith and believe that you will be able to cope with the consequences.

Basically I let the little, doubting voice in my head convince me that submitting anything would be a colossal waste of time.

I mention this here because I had all those fears about The Vagina Monologues last January. I was really nervous signing up to do, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to look after all the different aspects involved – finding a venue, fundraising to pay for that venue, auditioning a cast, organising rehearsals and rehearsal space, organising publicity and ticket sales, etc. I wasn’t sure if I was up to it. I was afraid.

I’m not saying the last three months have been easy – they have been really hard work – but I managed to made things happen. And people were kind and supportive and helpful all along the way. I managed to surprise myself and that’s always nice. And once or twice a week, I got to hang out with an amazing group of women.

So maybe I’m not too old after all. In the future, I will ignore the doubting voice and have a little more faith in myself. It’s a lesson I needed to be reminded of, even though it’s one I know and have seen in evidence before. But it was a good reminder and one I will cling to in the future.

Tomorrow will be an exciting night and a happy night and the end of tiring three months that have made me very proud!