Tara Doolan – Why Directing?

BelltableConnect Fishamble Mentoring Programme, photo by Ken Coleman

If you had asked me when I was 17 and leaving school what I wanted my career to be, I couldn’t have answered you. But I think that is the case for most people. I had always had an interest in the arts. Writing, Musicals, Theatre and even visual art. However I felt I posessed none of the skills or talent to perform or make artwork. I loved telling stories though and Theatre for me became an outlet.

I chose what most people think is a very general degree. A Bachelor of Arts and I loved every second of it. I thought I could be a teacher and stay involved in the amatuer dramatics world, not having realised that all of those plays I loved seeing had to be made by someone.

Theatre found me without me even realising it. Without Mary Immaculate college I would not be where I am today. MIDAS the drama society was very active and well supported by Dr. Michael Finneran who gave willingly of his time and expertise.

I started to stage manage and knew I had found a role that I was good at, then I was given my first opportunity to Direct, that is when I found my passion. They say if you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life. When I was 21 I was offered a paying job to stage manage and the penny dropped, I realised I could make a living from working in theatre and I was sold. I was going to work in  theatre and become a Director.

I don’t know if you’re aware but to obtain a job as a director starting out, is incredibly difficult, but I was lucky, I also love stage management and in doing that job I get to work with amazing directors with decades of experience and learn so much about every angle of theatre.

Directing has many definitions but I suppose for me I see it as having the opportunity to get into the nitty gritty of the story and characters and then step out to support the cast and design team to create the world that the director has formed from that process. It is challenging, collaborative and so rewarding.

Before I graduated I set up my own company Honest Arts, with Pius McGrath. You may wonder why so many people set up their own companies, the simple answer for us was to make work. In August 2013 we made our maiden voyage to the Edinburgh Fringe with our first show “The Mid-Knight Cowboy”. It was exhausting and challenging and the definition of jumping in at the deep end but it was also exhilarating and educational. The Play also was a part of the United Solo Theatre Festival in New York Later that year.

We were fortunate enough to receive funding for our second piece from Limerick National City of Culture ‘Waiting In Line’. That piece was nominated for best Set Design at the Irish Times Theatre Awards and also won the Cutting Edge Artist Award at the Toronto Fringe Festival. We had figured out an identity for our company. We then had to regroup.

We have spent the last year developing two new pieces of work. One of which is a play titled ‘PUNT’ which will debut on March 31st & April 1st  2017 as part of the Limerick Fringe Festival in Shannon rowing club. It is a story about gambling culture and the adventures involved with a life of investing in chance.

This mentorship scheme has been a sort of haven. To be able to set aside time every month to meet with like minded people with different styles, opinions and experiences is so helpful to broadening your mind and troubleshooting problems. It is also about getting to know other people who are going through the same process as you and having a safe and supportive space to be able to explore and learn.

My favourite thing about directing is that you can never know it all, you can always be surprised by what a good story and creative team can produce.

As I finish writing this, I ask myself why is this the topic of my blog, who cares about why I am directing? The answer is, I became involved in theatre for fun and to work creatively but now it has become my vocation. There is not only one path to take in pursuit of your passion in life, every person will find their own way, it takes patience and endurance to progress, but eventually you will be rewarded. I am proud of my accomplishments thus far but I have only begun my journey, and courses like the mentorship help me to continue on my path.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HonestArtsCo/

Twitter: @Honest_Arts

Tkts for ‘PUNT’: http://limerickfringe.com/performance/punt/

Playwright Dermott Petty on Theatre and storytelling

BelltableConnect Fishamble Mentoring Programme, photo by Ken Coleman

My name is Dermott I am a ginger and writer from North Clare. I’m not sure I have always wanted to be a writer? I am dyslexic, it was 11 by the time I had learned to read, the writing came much later. To this day my handwriting and spelling are a source of immense embarrassment and shame. I always feel that someone is literally going to drag me away from keyboard to show  the world what an imposter I am as a writer.

I enjoy play-writing for the storytelling potential. I worry sometimes that Theatre sees itself more as high art, sometimes ignoring its roots as bawdy, rough, in your face entertainment with  explosive passionate rows and conversations to spin your head. I also dream of a 32 county socialist utopian republic so both counts may be elusive.

Story and ideas are fantastic to me, yet characters are more  compelling for their mystery, wisdom and ignorance. Not every character has a story or an idea but they all have that one trait that makes them different. A secret not known, a drink too many, a kiss better forgotten.

In my family many such delicious contradictions abound. My Dad was a plasterer, he went to England just after World War 2. He loved England. Coventry, London or Brighton were all a possible source of fortune and craic for him And yet he became a draft dodger. Declaring that ‘he did’t want to fight for his country why would he fight for a foreign land’ he was on the run for a number of years. There was the practical concern of been cannon fodder in Malaysia or Cyprus in the dying light of the British Empire. The surprising fact was that afterwards he still  loved England and he loved English people, he was at best politically a reactionary. Left wing ideas and Hippies had the same value of a bad fart to him. And still he made no apologies for not taken the Kings shilling.

On my Mother’s side my Great Grandfather had emigrated to the USA and spent many years in the Wild West. He ran a saloon that the outlaw Jesse James was a regular patron in. He bucked the trend and return to live in Ireland and bought a small farm in West Clare. He built a cottage on the top of the mountain with a view of Liscannor Bay.

The house also had a unique feature. While it was a typical West Clare cottage it had one and a half floors. When we were kids this was a mild source of mystery. Why would anyone only build only half a floor?

Many years later an Uncle explained to me that Great Granddad was a bit of a dandy. He had returned from the United States with a certain flair, a confidence verging on cocky, with a thirst for liquor that would sadly never be quenched.

He first wanted to build the house on the very top of the mountain, with a lovely view but totally exposed to the raw relentless winds of West Clare. Eventually friends and neighbours persuaded him to build the house into a more practical sheltered site. Each day while building the cottage  he would buy a barrel of porter for the workers, and as importantly, for himself. In the West of Ireland in the late 19th century a barrel of good porter was costly. Alas too costly, as he ran out of money with only the one and a half flours of the cottage build. Practicality always wins over grand visions so my mother and her family lived in the only 1 and a half sided cottage in West Clare. Peoples dreams are not always a testament to living happily ever after, more akin to continuing to live.

I have a feeling that in the near future Theatre will be more about storytelling as we enter an age of powerful fragment media. The Fishamble program is very enjoyable. The writers are all very different, funny, hard working and all very determined to change Theatre in the Mid West one scene at a time.

Momentum (by director Alan Dalton)

“No director is perfect. However talented or technically brilliant a director might be, there is always some hidden flaw. But then again no director, however limited his gifts, will be entirely without some hidden virtue” (John Caird, Theatre Craft)

All in all, it has been a super busy last few months since I graduated from the CIT Cork School of Music honours degree in Theatre and Drama Studies. I wasn’t totally sure about what route I was going to follow after my training. To keep going down the performance route or to follow my gut into Directing.

When I look back now to how anxious I was finishing college. All the usual “out in the big world” graduate questions bopping around my head; “What am I going to do next? Where am I going to find work? Will I go to London? Will I end up working in theatre? Will I be an actor? Am I an actor? Will I end up working in a café? Will I do a masters in Directing? Will I do a masters and end up working in a café?”.

No, I didn’t move to London and start a masters (that story is for another day).

I did end up getting the part time job in the café.

Instead of falling into this hole of anxiety and dread, that can easily happen to all of us, I decided to look at things a bit more positively and take things each step at a time. Quite quickly things began to fall into place. I feel like I’ve been riding this massive wave of forward momentum since the Summer. This wave has already brought about so many great things for me; was assistant director on Corcadorca’s Cork Midsummer Festival production, I set up a production company ALSA Productions with my girlfriend and fellow graduate Sadhbh Barrett Coakley, we self-produced a show and brought it to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, we devised and presented a brand new piece of theatre as part of TDC SHOW 2017, was hired to direct a new piece of writing by Strive Theatre which will tour Waterford and Cork and I am also back in college production managing their final year show.

Not only all that, in among all that madness, I was also accepted onto this wonderful Belltable:Connect Fishamble Mentorship Programme.

We are now at the half way point of the programme and the time has just flown. Each session more invaluable than the last. Before I started, I was not comfortable calling myself a “director”. I wasn’t sure what to call myself and I was afraid to call myself a director in case anyone would ask me, god forbid, about being a director. Through our monthly discussions, facilitated with such ease by Jim Culleton and listening to the experience from my fellow mentees, I’ve realised that I am and we are, most definitely all directors! It has been such a privilege to be able to sit among the group and listen to opinions, thoughts, problems, concerns and most importantly advice. Every session I have left with another door that I thought was closed shut, now open and available to walk through. I think I am most blown away by the amount of respect in the room for one another. It is truly a haven. I refer to the sessions as a “self-help group” for directors, and have continued this “therapy” back in Cork with fellow mentee Mike Ryan over the last few months as we tackle individual projects of our own.

We all can create our momentum and when we do anything is possible.

Al Dalton

Follow ALSA Productions on Facebook & Instagram: @alsaproductions

Director Mike Ryan – There’s Lots of Reasons To Put On A Play

BelltableConnect Fishamble Mentoring Programme, photo by Ken Coleman
BelltableConnect Fishamble Mentoring Programme, photo by Ken Coleman

“Of course, there’s lots of reasons to put on a play”, Jim Culleton gleefully realised in answer to the question he had just asked of the directors present. Session number three of the Belltable:Connect: Fishamble Mentorship Programme offered plenty of discussion and discourse, as had the previous two instalments, but having thoroughly settled into the format by now, the assembled theatre creators wasted no time in getting to the nugget of this week’s topic.

It’s been a manic three months for all of the directors taking part, but after three sessions I’ve come to the conclusion that directors’ lives tend to be manic all the time. Thank god! I thought it was just me. I think that this realisation, more than anything else, is the great success of the programme so far. Being a director, you tend to lock yourself away in the little pocket universe of whatever play you’re directing. Being given the opportunity to discuss the highs, lows, and the general process of creating theatre as a director has been invaluable so far. Myself and Al, one of the other directors from Cork, joked early on that it was like a group counselling session for directors, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

Last February I set up my own theatre company called Ferocious Composure with some of the designers, actors and managers that I had worked with in UCC. The name came from the commentary for the 2014 All Ireland Gaelic Football Final. I can still hear Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh’s voice as I sat in my car on the way back from helping with a puppet show in Meath. “The Kerry team have shown ferocious composure all year”. It’s how we in the company like to imagine ourselves. Ferocious yet composed, ready to pounce, and full of potential. I’ve come to realise over the past three sessions that, sadly, it’s not a trait unique to the individuals I recruited for my own endeavours. All eleven of my fellow directors have that same quality. I’m sure the playwrights group is the same. The theatre industry can be vicious and unforgiving at times, like a perpetual, harsh winter. I’ve come to the conclusion that if you set out to work in theatre in Ireland, you have to be driven, prolific and imaginative, while simultaneously maintaining your cool and standing your ground, otherwise you’ll be weeded out remorselessly before you even get a leaf out of the earth.

To push the metaphor even further into infuriating hyperbole, the “group counselling sessions,” in that case, serve as a welcome reminder of what awaits you if you do make it into the sunlight. More, like-minded individuals, ready to hear your woes, share their own experiences and offer help and advice in order to facilitate your own growth as a director/plant.

Working on my current production, “The Nun’s Wood” by Pat Kinevane, I’ve found the sessions incredibly helpful in two major ways. Firstly, the collective knowledge of the group is immense, especially with Jim thrown into the mix. I’ll often find myself rapidly scribbling notes for five or ten minutes at a time while listening to another director’s experience, or hearing the advice being offered to that director. Sometimes I’ll find myself offering an answer to somebody else’s question, only to realise that I’ve inadvertently solved one of my own problems. Secondly, (and to sheepishly bring things full circle), I’ve realised that I’m not alone in the madness of creating theatre. The problems I’m facing have been faced before. The thoughts and worries I’ve had have all been experienced already. Knowing that I have a safe space to which I can retreat once a month to say “Oh! That’s happened to you too?” gives me great confidence in my own ability and in my own choices.

It’s a mad auld industry we’ve chosen to plant ourselves in, and people get drawn into it from incredibly diverse backgrounds. I’m not sure if anybody really knows exactly why they put on a play. There’s lot’s of reasons to put on a play. There’s no one right answer to the question, but after three sessions I’m sure of one thing. Right answer or not, I’m not alone in being compelled to do it anyway.

Mike Ryan

“The Nuns Woodis running at the Granary theatre Cork from December 13-17. Tickets can be booked HERE.

I’m all out of bubblegum! – Pat Hynes on Belltable:Connect

BelltableConnect Fishamble Mentoring Programme, photo by Ken Coleman
BelltableConnect Fishamble Mentoring Programme, photo by Ken Coleman

I’ve been into writing since I was a tot. Myself and my pal Pony were always half-trying to outdo each other with tales of derring-do, entertaining ourselves by putting a spin on the dreary “English Composition” exercises we were doled out in National School (i.e. My Dream, or My First DOT DOT DOT). We eventually started to write daft stories without the aid of a prompt, creating whole worlds for our own entertainment. Our stories were peppered with grisly scenes of bloody death, like Rambo on steroids (I suppose it’s no surprise as we both saw First Blood when we were 7). Often the protagonist was alone and found themselves in the midst of a jungle, or a dense forest with jeeploads of sweaty, grimy men emerging from the undergrowth on all sides, bearing ill-will against our hero, mostly just for existing. There was no need to reveal anything about these guys’ inner turmoil; to provide a back-story or explain further would be to obfuscate, we just wanted to get straight into the action. We didn’t get bogged down in the detail, we took our joy in seeing them get bogged down in the muck and jungle.

Flash-forward three decades, and I’m still at it: still producing short stories, but mostly plays and screenplays. They mightn’t be as bloody as the first, but there are still liberal doses of horror and violence to be found in there. As well as telling stories, I’m selling them – flogging books in our bookshop, Scéal Eile Books in Ennis by day, but by night (and on weekends!) I’m writing away.

One of my plays was short-listed for the Eamonn Keane Playwriting Award (Listowel Writers’ Week) earlier this year, and others made the short-list for RTÉ’s PJ O’Connor Award, and the Bruntwood Playwriting Award. I’ve been to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival twice in the last decade, once with a company play, and the last time with my own offering Sparks; a one-man show with Darren Killeen, brought over by our own Scéal Eile Productions, set-up by myself and my wife Éibhleann. We very much follow the ethos “Keep on keeping on”. I’m enjoying being part of the Belltable:Connect /Fishamble Mentoring Programme. The best part about this mentorship so far is being given prompts by Gavin Kostick (which are very useful and in stark contrast to my past experience of writing prompts and workshop environments), and being led creatively towards the production of new ideas.

It’s very easy to become lost in a world of ideas when you are working alone outside a group, and sometimes you just need a kick up the arse and someone to tell you to just write the fecking thing and stop procrastinating! Gavin hasn’t given anyone a kick in the arse yet but once he’s over his tennis injury… well let’s hope he’s not out of bubblegum! I’m working on a new play, which will develop throughout this next year as part of the mentorship, aided by the finest selection of biscuits to be found in any theatre, anywhere. Thanks, Belltable!

Director Martin Kenny: ‘what price could you possibly put on the idea of change?’

BelltableConnect Fishamble Mentoring Programme, photo by Ken Coleman
BelltableConnect Fishamble Mentoring Programme, photo by Ken Coleman

“I have squandered the years the Lord God gave to my youth
In attempting impossible things, deeming them alone worth the toil”
– “The Fool” by Pádraig Pearse

For this second session of the Belltable:Connect programme in conjunction with Fishamble: The New Play Company, the early focus was placed on Beckett’s seminal text, Not I, as well as Theatre Lovett’s recent production of A Feast of Bones, two plays chosen by Rebecca Feely and Mollie Molumby as their respective favourite theatrical texts. Rebecca spoke passionately about Not I as a text and its place within Beckett’s body of work, nestling itself within his trope of dehumanizing the human body and consciousness in an attempt to excavate the essential experience of what it is to “exist”. Mollie prefaced A Feast for Bones by speaking on another of her favourite plays, Every Brilliant Thing by Duncan Macmillan, and how the author so effectively speaks about issues surrounding mental health within the context of family theatre. This led on to the discussion of Theatre Lovett’s production and how the company creates dynamic, absorbing and challenging works for audiences of all ages and how this ability to communicate across age and experience gaps highlights the strength of the company’s work and the themes it engages with. The discussion of both works was characterized by sincere passion, both speakers eager to share what makes these plays and production so pertinent to them and their development as directors. Mollie concluded speaking about TYA (Theatre for Young Audiences) in highlighting its lack of funding in Ireland and widened the discussion to ask the group if they thought there were any other areas of theatre which were underfunded in Ireland.

This question was met with flitting eyes and wry smiles until the common consensus was shouted simultaneously: “ALL OF IT!”.

Although we all laughed and acknowledged the hardship of funding our work in theatre, the mention of it in the room was quite palpable – a sense of worry trickled in. Funding was raised further in the director’s roundtable on current projects in development, and it struck me how quickly the passion of speaking about theatre in the first half of the session was tempered by discussions of money and funding.

I quote Pádraig Pearse above for this very reason. The quote shows how the work of art and theatre is what we do it for, not for financial gain or recognition, and allowing money to constrain our ideas in contradictory to our work. Theatre and the arts are not a means, they are the end. The Fool is featured in an upcoming production I am directing and acting in with the Arts in Action programme in NUIG this month. The production is called  Love, Loss, Freedom and it gathers together poetry from 1916 as well as music of the era to reflect the ideas of the Rising and to articulate what gave rise to it in the first place. Being surrounded by these revolutionary ideas has instilled me with a certain renewed faith in doing theatre and establishing a career in the arts. The ideas championed in war poetry of the era not only reflected the ideas of the time, it helped to bolster and strengthen them. Granted the outcome of those ideas was bloodshed and death, but it serves to show the strength of art and how its echoes resound enough to influence action. Although a necessary evil of working in theatre (and practically throughout life in general), money should not allow us to deny ourselves the chance to pursue what is we truly want to do.

And this is not an unrealistic world view, or a naive one. Or a “millenial” one for that matter. The idea that the arts exist beyond monetary value lead many to view it as superfluous – what good does it provide economically in a capitalist society? But what price could you possibly put on the idea of change? Granted, each and every piece of theatre may not have a wide reaching effect itself, but in the way similar shows with similar themes communicate with one another to begin to affect change, this is the real strength of theatre and the arts.

In doing the Belltable:Connect programme, we as directors and playwrights come together to share this passion for theatre and the arts and for a brief period get to consider the work itself without considering the extenuating circumstances of it. This is not to say we live in a lovely little theatrical bubble. Rather there is a safe space for us to share creativity and therefore bolster ourselves for when the time does come to seek funding. It allows for a renewed sense of faith in our ideas and in ourselves. These “impossible things” are indeed themselves, “worth the toil” and it’s great to have the opportunity to be reminded of that in being part of this programme.

Theatre Makers 2017 Mentor – Lynne Parker

Lynne Parker
Lynne Parker

Director Lynne Parker is one of the main mentors working with the Theatre Makers 2017 creative ensemble, January to July 2017.

Lynne is Artistic Director and co-founder of Rough Magic. Productions for Rough Magic include: Northern Star, The House Keeper (Irish Times Best New Play 2012), The Critic, Travesties, Peer Gynt, Phaedra, Don Carlos (Irish Times Best Production 2007), The Taming of the Shrew (Best Production 2006), Improbable Frequency (Best Production, Best Director, 2004), Copenhagen (Best Production 2002), Sodome, my love, Three days of Rain, The Sugar Wife, Spokesong, Pentecost, Hidden Charges, Down Onto Blue, Lady Windermere’s Fan, Digging for Fire, Love and a Bottle (Bank of Ireland/Arts Show Award), Danti-Dan, New Morning, I Can’t Get Started, The Way of the World, The Country Wife, Decadence, Top Girls. Most recently the world premieres of Hilary Fannin’s Famished Castle and The Train by Arthur Riordan and Bill Whelan.

Other Theatre includes – Heavenly Bodies (Best Director, 2004), The Sanctuary Lamp, Down the Line, The Trojan Women, The Doctor’s Dilemma, Tartuffe, The Shape of Metal (Abbey Theatre); The Drawer Boy (Galway Arts Festival); Lovers (Druid); Bernard Alba, Me and My Friend (Charabanc); Catchpenny Twist (Tinderbox); Bold Girls (7:84 Scotland); The Shadow of a Gunman (Gate Theatre); The Clearing (Bush Theatre); Playboy of the Western World, Silver Tassie (Almeida Theatre); Playhouse Creatures (Old Vic); Importance of Being Earnest (West Yorkshire Playhouse); Love Me?! (Corn Exchange); Comedy of Errors (RSC); Olga, Shimmer (Traverse Theatre); Only the Lonely (Birmingham Rep); La Voix Humaine (Opera Theatre Company); A Streetcar Named Desire (Opera Ireland); The Drunkard, Benefactors (B*spoke); The Girl Who Forgot to Sing Badly (The Ark/Theatre Lovett); Macbeth (Lyric Theatre Belfast); The Cunning Little Vixen, Albert Herring (RIAM). Most recently, Seamus Heaney’s Beowulf (Tron Theatre, Glasgow) Stewart Parker’s Northern Star and The Provoked Wife by John Vanbrugh (The Lir Academy).

She was an Associate Artist of Charabanc Theatre Company. Lynne was awarded the Irish Times Special Tribute Award in 2008 and an Honorary Doctorate by Trinity College Dublin in 2010.

Theatre Makers 2017 Mentor – Deirdre Kinahan

Playwright, writer and actor Deirdre Kinahan. Photo: Barry Cronin
Photo: Barry Cronin

Theatre Makers 2017 will have two main mentors, working with the creative ensemble January to July 2017, playwright Deirdre Kinahan and director Lynne Parker.

Deirdre is actively involved in the Irish Theatre Sector both as Playwright and Producer.  She is a member of Aosdána and currently sits on the Abbey Board (Ireland’s National Theatre) and on the Stewart Parker Trust advisory committee whose mission is to encourage new writing for the stage. Her work is translated into many languages and produced regularly both in Ireland and on the International stage.  2016 saw productions of Deirdre’s plays in Chicago, New York, Washington, London, Warsaw and Ireland.  Deirdre is published by Nick Hern Books.

Deirdre’s latest play Wild Sky, commissioned by Meath County Council Arts Office  is written in commemoration of events  leading up to the 1916 Irish Rising and premiered in Spring 2016 at various venues Ireland and the US.

Deirdre is currently under commission to The Old Vic Theatre (London), Manhattan Theatre Club (New York), Fishamble: The New Play Company (Ireland), with numerous other theatre projects in development.

Deirdre has written for The Royal Court and Bush Theatre London, Fishamble: The New Play Company, Abbey Theatre, Civic Theatre, Project Arts Centre, Tall Tales and Livin Dred in Ireland. Her plays include: Wild Sky, Spinning, Halcyon Days, Bogboy, Moment, Hue & Cry, Melody,  Maisy Daly’s Rainbow. For Radio, she has written: Bogboy (RTE) and A Bag on Ballyfinch Place (BBC).

Deirdre has won numerous playwriting awards most notably The Scotsman’s Fringe First for Halcyon Days in 2013 and the Tony Doyle Bursary with BBC Northern Ireland in 2009.  She is the recipient of the Jim McNaughton Tilestyle Bursary 2013,  A Peggy Ramsay Award 2014 and Arts Council of Ireland Commission Award 2015. She is represented by Curtis Brown London and The Gersh Agency, New York.

First Playwright Session of Mentoring Programme

BelltableConnect Fishamble Mentoring Programme, photo by Ken Coleman
BelltableConnect Fishamble Mentoring Programme, photo by Ken Coleman

Niall Carmody is a playwright originally from Limerick who now lives and works in Galway. He is a recent graduate of NUIG and is currently working on a set of original plays. Here he writes about the first session of Belltable:Connect Fishamble Mentoring Programme for Playwrights and Directors:

‘The first session of our Belltable:Connect programme filled me with the same nervous excitement of the first day of school. Arriving at the Belltable in Limerick City I met the other participants. Over tea and coffee we introduced ourselves and talked about expectations and hopes for the programme. An overview of the history of the Belltable:Connect programme was given to the group by Marketa Dowling, the Belltable Programme Manager. We were introduced to Gavin Kostick and Jim Culleton of Fishamble and split into our appropriate groups; Directors with Jim, Playwrights with Gavin. We made our way to the playwrights room and immediately got down to business. Gavin explained each session would be composed of three parts. Firstly we would discuss the plays we would be given to read for each session. Secondly we would discuss our task to be submitted to Gavin for the upcoming month (covering themes surrounding the plays discussed in the class). Thirdly each week four writers would present an idea they have to the group for feedback. These ideas could come in the shape of a script or presentation or simply a brain storming session.

For our first session we discussed the plays Woman and the Scarecrow by Marina Carr and Swing by Steve Blount, Peter Daly, Gavin Kostick and Janet Moran. The two plays chosen contrast greatly as Swing is a devised piece full of movement and dance whereas Woman and the Scarecrow is a stiller play with emphasis on dialogue and conversation. The two plays highlighted contrasting styles of writing and theatre making as one play is a solo work while the other is devised by four different artists. Next we examined the opening of Antigone which highlights the epic elements of Greek Tragedy. The contrast between the opening of Antigone and Swing lead to our first task for the next session. We are each to write an opening to a play and send them to Gavin of discussion in our next session. Four members of the group also put themselves forward to present an individual idea of the next session. From the first session I can see the programme being an interesting ten months full of writing, discussion, and collaboration.’

Start of Mentoring Programme for Playwrights and Directors

Belltable:Connect Fishamble Mentoring Programme-photo by Ken Coleman
Belltable:Connect Fishamble Mentoring Programme – photo by Ken Coleman

On September 24th, 2016, we welcomed Jim Culleton and Gavin Kostick of Fishamble: The New Play Company to Belltable:Connect. Jim and Gavin lead the 10-month Mentoring Programme for Playwrights and Directors. Limerick-based director Ann Blake here shares her experience of the first session:

‘At the early time of 10am on Saturday September 24th, the Belltable foyer was unusually abuzz. Mentee directors and playwrights gathered, were furnished with coffee and pastries – quite welcome to those who had to be up early to travel I’d imagine – and got ready to start the mentorship venture, Belltable:Connect in association with Fishamble Theatre Company. Having been welcomed by Marketa Dowling of the Belltable, we split into our respective disciplines, directors with Jim Culleton and playwrights with Gavin Kostick and headed upstairs to the Arts Hub.

In the directors’ room I saw faces I recognised amongst the many I didn’t. It became clear, as each person was introduced, that this was a diverse group of directors of varying ages, backgrounds and hometowns. We got to know each other, explored ideas of what a play actually was and soon found ourselves at our coffee break. That funny ‘first day at school’ feeling where you want to get to know the people you don’t know took hold. Being Ireland and the very small community that is Irish theatre, it wasn’t surprising to find I had friends in common with a quite a few of the participants.

By the end of the day some of us had had an opportunity to share concerns about projects we were working on and tap into the hive mind available to us as well as offer our thoughts on work others were looking for ideas and/or support around. As I’m starting directing a show this week, this was good timing for me and particularly helpful.

In a lovely turn of events I went online yesterday and saw that one of the projects discussed, Halflight, won the First Fortnight Award in The Tiger Dublin Fringe – congrats Molly!’

Ann is a theatre director and lives and works in Limerick. Her most recent work is The Crucible with BA in Contemporary Applied Theatre in Mary Immaculate College, she is currently working on Cars Production with UL Drama Society.