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.

MA Showcase

On a course called Drama and Theatre Studies, it’s probably not surprising that most of my MA classmates like being on stage. The course itself is a mix of theory and practical classes and most of the class took the practical classes – Ensemble Acting and Vocabularies of Theatre Composition. There was also a lot of involvement in NUIG DramSoc and six of the eight One Act plays were written, directed or performed by someone in the MADT class.

The idea to do a showcase for casting directors and agents came about when Maureen Hughes was speaking at the Town Hall Theatre’s Drama Day at the end of February. One of my classmates asked if she would come and see us if we did put on a showcase. Her advice was to book somewhere in Dublin, put on a lunchtime show and invite as many industry professionals as possible. That seemed possible; it even sounded like it might be fun. We were still considering the idea when we asked Mikel Murfi after a workshop if he had any suggestions of suitable scenes or plays. He was very enthusiastic about the idea and that helped us think that it was a good idea. As usual with things like this we had to push to get it started  but once we got things up and running, it started to take on a life of it’s own. (I usually find that happens around the time you book a venue and start inviting people. Putting down money is also a really good incentive to make things happen.)

We contacted a few venues and got a great price from Bewley’s Café Theatre. Our lunchtime show became an early-evening show. We held a cake-sale to raise money, got a bit of sponsorship and the university pitched in a little bit as well. We had a date and a venue and guest list. We even had money to pay for the whole thing. We just had to put together a show.

The trickiest part was figuring out which scenes to do. We needed things that could stand up on their own and also show our actors to the very best of their abilities. The cast consisted of nine women and four men and we had to find something for everybody. There were a couple of long sessions with piles of scripts, passing the books around, reading little bits, considering and rejecting and trying it different ways. Eventually we got twelve scenes with something for everyone. We juggled rehearsals around essay deadlines and slowly the show started to come together.

Last week it all became very real. On Tuesday we did an open dress rehearsal in the Bank of Ireland Theatre in college. It was the first time we did the whole show together and it was great to perform in front of an audience. It was also lovely that people took time out to come and see us and stick around to give feedback afterwards.

On Thursday we headed to Dublin for our busy day in Bewleys. They let us get in to the space at 10am in the morning, which was great because it was the first time a lot of people had been in the theatre. We had to leave at 12pm because there was a lunchtime show on but we were back for our get-in at 2.30pm for a show starting at 5pm. It was a little bit hectic!

The event itself was a huge success. We had a lovely audience who all seemed to enjoy themselves. Bewley’s looked after us very well. I really cannot fault their hospitality, even when there were 13 people warming up on the stairs they were lovely about it. The show went really smoothly too – no hiccups and everybody definitely upped their game on the night! There is a whole lot of talent in my class and I’m delighted that we got a chance to show it off. This was something that the class came together to do ourselves; it had nothing to do with our course. We all worked really hard on something that was entirely ours.

Afterwards we went out for dinner and then there was dancing and drinking in the hostel and a little bit of sing-song and it was a really nice way to end the year. Our first class trip was to Dublin in October for the Dublin Theatre Festival and this felt like a nice way to bookend the year.

I don’t know if anyone will get any work because of the showcase but it felt like a success to me. We’ve already got a good return on all our hard work!

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!)

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.

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!

Looking forward to 2012

Here are a handful of theatre related things that I am looking forward to this year.

  1. Blue Raincoat’s production of Rhinoceros at the Town Hall Theatre, February 27 – 29
    My MA class did a two-day workshop in corporeal mime with Blue Raincoat last November. I hadn’t heard of the company before that and I had no idea what corporeal mime was. It was an interesting couple of days and based on my basic knowledge Blue Raincoat’s style, I’m very interested to see what they’re like on stage.
  2. Fishamble’s Tiny Play’s for Ireland at Project, March 15 – 31
    Last year Fishamble held a competition looking for three minute plays that said something about Ireland today. They got over 1,700 entries (including one from me)! The winners haven’t been announced yet but the plays that are selected will be performed alongside tiny plays from established writers. I think it will be an interesting evening of snapshots and the audience will walk out of the theatre with their heads full of stories!
  3. Alice in Funderland at the Abbey, 30 March – 12 May
    At this stage, it probably goes without saying that I’m looking forward to this production but I thought I’d say it anyway! The show stays true to the absurd surrealism of Lewis Carroll’s original and I’m delighted that it will on at the Abbey who have the ability to bring the crazy, inventive ideas in the script to full fruition. You don’t need a huge budget to make great theatre, but sometimes it’s nice to have it! This is going to be a great show.
  4. Willie White’s first Dublin Theatre Festival, September 27 – October 14
    Willie White was the Artistic Director of Project Arts Centre for nine years before he became the new Festival Director earlier this year. As you can probably tell from this blog, that Project is very favourite theatre in Dublin. There’s always at least one thing in their programme that I’m dying to see. It’s also more than just a venue as they offered great support to new artists over the last few years with the Project Catalysts and Project Brand New.
  5. The House directed by Annabelle Comyn at the Abbey, 7 June – 14 July
    Annabelle Comyn directed last year’s production of Pygmalion at the Abbey that I loved and I’ve recently discovered Tom Murphy’s plays so I’m interested in seeing this show. Murphy was the first playwright on our list of Irish Playwrights since the 60s and that was my first proper introduction to his work. Before that I’d seen The Last Days of the Reluctant Tyrant but I didn’t really like it. I read The Famine for class (which will be performed as part of Druid’s Murphy cycle later this year) and found it a dark and brutal play. A lot of his work seems to be a bit grim. I also saw the DramSoc’s production of The Morning After Optimism last year, which was a very strange but enjoyable play. Slowly but surely, Tom Murphy is winning me round and I’m looking forward to seeing more of his work.

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.

A few words on the Dublin Theatre Festival

I was only in Dublin for four days of this year’s Dublin Theatre Festival but I still had a great festival! I was there with my entire MA class as part of our course! This meant free tickets! It also meant I was surrounded by other people who were seeing theatre everyday. We were all eager to talk about the things we’d seen and what we’d liked and didn’t like. It was wonderful.

I’ve really engaged with the Theatre Festival over the last couple of years, especially last year when I was volunteering, but often I see shows on my own. There are loads of reasons for this – most of the shows in the Theatre Festival are expensive and I feel bad asking a friend to pay to come along with me, especially if I’m going to something out of curiosity and half-expect to hate it. I think I would have very uncomfortable if I’d brought someone along to see Tim Crouch’s The Author last year. I feel I’m a little bit responsible for the person I bring to the theatre; I want them to have a good time. And sometimes I just want to go to the theatre on my own. However I did like sharing this year’s festival with my classmates and having people to discuss the shows with. I liked hearing what other people thought and about the other shows they had seen. It was especially nice to do it with people who are coming from the same place I am – they are interested in theatre as a possible career. They are looking at it in the same way as I am, a way that it slightly different to the way my friends do when I drag them along to the theatre. (That’s an exaggeration – there’s my dragging, just gentle persuasion and sometimes just a suggestion that is eagerly accepted. I do have friends who like theatre.)

I loved being in Dublin again and I loved seeing so much great theatre. I think it was a fantastically strong festival. I saw six very different shows (Juno and the Paycock, Laundry, The Lulu House, Rian, Peer Gynt and Request Programme) and there’s easily another six (Trade, The Wild Bride, She She Pop and their Fathers, Gob Squad, Heroin, I ♥ Alice ♥ I) that I’m sorry I missed out on. I’m already looking forward to next year’s festival especially since it will have a new director in the shape of Mr. Willie White.