International Theatre Exchange – Mags O’Donoghue checks in from Finland

After a long day, leaving Limerick before 4am and with a flight delay to get to know Helsinki Airport very well, I arrived in Oulu Friday night and was greeted by Brent Cassidy, director of the Irish Festival of Oulu. Brent hosted me in his home for two nights. I was able to spend the weekend exploring the area near his house by bike, heading through forest to the beach. On Saturday evening we headed to an Irish session which was amazing and bizarre. It’s odd to be so far north, to be the only Irish person, and to feel almost less Irish than everyone here. It’s definitely making me wish I could play more than ‘Twinkle twinkle’ on the tin whistle. Brent is fluent in Irish so it’s lovely to be able to speak a bit again, though I’ll admit I’m struggling with his Ulster Irish tongue. Flashbacks to that part of the Leaving Cert tape test!

On Sunday I met Anna Kaisa, who will come to Limerick as part of this exchange in November. I’m staying with her now until the festival starts next week. We went to an event at her workplace where we ate and watched some Finnish Improv Comedy. Luckily I got a running English commentary from her as so far in Finnish I can only say hello, goodbye, milk, gluten free and bag (and the odd expletive!).

Monday was the first day at the Irish Festival office in Culture Centre Valve. Brent took me on a tour and introduced me to some of the staff members there. It’s an amazing facility with a café, theatre, studios, and offices for various cultural organisations.

It’s been very grey since I arrived so I was really glad to see light today when the sun came out and I took a gorgeous walk around in the evening. The Autumn colours here are spectacular.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday was European Day of Languages and the Irish Festival was invited to perform and have a stand at an event at the nearby shopping centre. Anna Kaisa and I handed out festival programmes and spoke to people about the festival. With my handful of Finnish words and their mostly excellent English I didn’t do too badly. The festival definitely has a good reputation in the area. Almost everyone we spoke with already knew about it. But there are similar struggles here as at home with getting people to attend and especially to book tickets in advance.

The rest of this week was spent preparing the artist packs and itineraries for next week. I’ve been slowly getting to know all the members of the team and am being well looked after by everyone. Anna Kaisa and Asta, the festival producer, took me to sample my first reindeer stew on Thursday so just so everyone knows – I ate it…it’s delicious…sorry Santa!

On Thursday evening the 30 plus volunteers came to a meeting at Valve to go through the schedule and roles. It was a good chance for everyone to meet over pizza and get to know each other and the festival a bit more.

We ended the week by beginning to decorate Valve with an explosion of festival balloons and posters. Slowly taking over the place! I also had a really interesting meeting with the director of Valve, Arja Huotari, who shared loads of information about this great cultural centre they have here. It really is an amazing space for supporting artists with both office, rehearsal and performance space. There are some wonderful photography exhibitions hanging at the moment and the place is always buzzing with visitors to the café and the comic store and with people attending various dance and other classes. It was great to be able to chat to her about Limerick too and the projects we have going on and about the Belltable:Connect programme I’m on. All these international connections are so important to have and this is a really great opportunity to learn how things operate in other countries.

The countdown is on for the festival now. I’ll be taking over the @irishfestoulu Twitter account next week so do follow along there with all the madness of the most northern Irish festival in the world! Hei hei!

Director Sinead Hackett reflects on Fishamble Mentoring Programme

BelltableConnect Fishamble Mentoring Programme, photo by Ken Coleman

Limerick your a lady…….

And so are you Marketa. The boys from Fishamble ain’t so bad either 😉.

All jokes aside, I  just really want to say thank you  for  the  place on the Belltable:Connect mentorship programme.  It was a  valuable experience.

Driving down to Limerick city once a month over the past 10 months to meet and connect with other emerging directors in the Beltable theatre was exciting.  The directors group was hosted by Jim from Fishamble  theatre company, whose manner is so chilled he put us all at ease.

It was full of first times for me and first times can be nerve wrecking. This is my first time to ever blog!!!!!.

But it was also my first time  to ever pitch. My first time to sit in on a mentorship programme, my first time in THE Beltable theatre,  my first time having any connection with Limerick City and my first time meeting all the other young, hip, cool emerging directors and Jim.

Little by little we got to know each other,  our styles, our preference and our projects, through the monthly  meet ups and chats.

It was great. Hopefully we will meet again. Until then onwards and upwards.

Sinead.x

Playwright Niall Carmody on presenting his work to peers

Belltable:Connect Fishamble Mentoring Programme, photo by Ken Coleman

Having spent countless hours among the other mentees, taking and providing criticism (always constructive) on varying projects, we were given the opportunity to present some of our work to professionals in the theatre sector. When preparing a piece of work to present to a room full of strangers I tend to over think the prospect, allowing it to become a monster determined on devouring me. In the session running up to the presentation Gavin posed a question to our group; ‘what do you want from the presentation?’ Sitting amongst the other mentees I thought ‘I just want it over’. I had no definite answer to his question. Visions filled my head on how my work would be received. Images switching sporadically between wads of cash or rotten fruit being thrown from our gathered audience. Both scenarios were equally as terrifying, a face full of fruit would be embarrassing but an influx of capital would bring paralyzing pressure to succeed. The weeks inevitably passed and the day of reckoning flew closer and closer. I decided on presenting Play on Words, a piece that will be shown in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival by Tiger’s Eye Theatre Company. A safe bet, it is a play that is happening anyway it had a run out at the Scene and Heard Festival, it may not be loved but it certainly won’t be hated (hopefully). Box ticked. Job done. Yet Gavin’s question still bothered me, what did I want from the presentation?

On the 20th May, we gathered in the Belltable Hub and soaked up the nervous energy. Each person assuring the next that ‘it’ll be grand’ and ‘it’s no big deal’. We practised the running order with plenty of nervous laughter and awkward timing. There is nothing like a group of strangers to be honest about your art. These were professionals after all, not Mammy and Daddy patronising placing your work on the family fridge. At 2pm we were prepared for battle. Our invited audience filed into their chairs, nobody carried boxes of rotten fruit thankfully. The presentations came and went without any stumbles or issues. As each person finished their presentation the room became lighter and lighter; the cloud of potential screw ups lifted from the room. The relief was palpable, ironic that a group of theatre makers were so jittery about a four-minute presentation. Having completed my own presentation, I relaxed and enjoyed the pitches from my peers. My mind drifted to Gavin’s question, ‘What do you want?’ and it hit me. Sitting amongst representatives of the theatre community, each at different points in their careers, I wanted reassurance that what we are doing is worth it. That you can create art and lead a happy life. That the ‘struggling artist’ title does not have to be a lifetime sentence. And it is possible, it’s not a lifetime sentence. It is by no means a simple task, but it is possible. It is easy to become fatigued and disheartened working in theatre as you constantly struggle for employment and funding. I have gone through stages of bitter self-doubt when attempting to justify my career choice to friends and family.

The presentations carried out on the 20th May gave an insight into differing theatre projects, but more importantly for me it revitalised my passion for the art. If a room full of intelligent and talented individuals see the worth in pursuing their passion, then I owe it to myself to do the same. We push ourselves to the point of self-destruction to pursue our passion, and we always survive. That’s the fun in theatre, that’s the fun in living.

Director Róisín Stack checks in from KunstenFestivalDesArtes, Belgium

BelltableConnect Fishamble Mentoring Programme, photo by Ken Coleman

This is my second attempt at a blog post. The first was written a few days after a run of a show I’d directed. I was writing about the post-show bubble and how difficult it is to review your own work without letting other people’s opinions, good and bad, influence your relationship with it, yet how necessary it is to reflect on the whole experience in order to move on to the next thing.

I didn’t submit that blog because the more I read it, the more critical I became of it (which was fitting giving the subject matter) so I decided I’d wait and write again while away on an upcoming trip which might give me a new perspective.

Now I am on that trip, in Belgium, attending shows in Brussels as part of KunstenFestivalDesArtes, and in Ghent to explore the work of Ontroerend Goed. The work I have seen so far is a mixture of performance art and political interactive theatre. Some of it I have found quite inaccessible – it seemed more about the artists’ intellectual ideas as opposed to the execution of a piece that left room for an audience.

The shoe is on the other foot now, as I experience, interpret and judge the work of others, just a couple of weeks after churning over how to take praise and criticism of my own. I’m looking at these performances as an audience member, a [sensitive] critic and a theatre maker. I find hope in the things I don’t like, because I feel I can do better, and I find inspiration in the things I do like because it makes me want to be a better artist.

The work I have seen here traverses a line between stage and spectator, performance art and theatre, science and philosophy, film and lecture. These are not theatre pieces as such but happenings, protests, experiences, live art. I realise that although I talk about the desire to make theatre which is unpredictable and disruptive, I still want my work to involve skill, heart, aesthetic and a sense of artistry. Much of what I have seen here does not have that – the idea is the piece, rather than central to it; the execution seems disregarded and this is where I encounter a tension within myself.

I feel quite lucky that I can come away here and have these experiences and reflections. It’s great to be able to go and see work outside of Ireland as it informs my perspective and reminds me that it’s all relative. Last year I attended a workshop in London where participants complained about how theatre in the UK is too traditional, yet often in Ireland we regard theatre in the UK as being progressive (and obviously there are many organisations there which are). On the other side of that, this year I’m experiencing work which is so untraditional, it makes me wonder where the line is between accessibility and experimentalism. So much of this depends on audiences, on the appetite for the arts in any given place. Who am I making the work for? What am I responding to?

I’m not altogether sure where this leaves me in relation to my own theatre making and the post post-show bubble. The piece I recently directed was not experimental but it afforded me the opportunity to try out some simple yet potentially risky ideas, to work with somebody else’s script and a smaller cast. All of these elements of the traditional theatre process gave me secure conditions in which to create work and as such I learned an awful lot about directing. For my next piece, I plan to write it myself but leave room for collaboration and devising, working with a small cast and drawing on elements of Dadaism and post-dramatic theatre. A few weeks ago, I might have thought I was proposing something cutting edge but by European standards, this is nothing new – this is old hat. And that’s OK. I’m not making this piece for KunstenFestivalDesArtes and while I’m glad to have another context in which to place what I want to do, I’m not going to change my perspective to try to be relevant.

It’s great to be reminded that I’m not creating in isolation, in my own community, or my own country, but surrounded by continents of artists and a whole world of audiences. It’s quite freeing to think beyond my own perceptions of what theatre is and the possibility of where it could take me.

On the plane home I came across an extract from the writings of WH Auden and was reminded that reflection, self-criticism and authenticity are age-old struggles (I also thought it would make me sound very learned to conclude my blog with a quote from a poet):

”[Every writer] needs approval of his work by others in order to be reassured that the vision of life he believes he has had is a true vision and not a self-delusion but he can only be reassured by those whose judgement he respects . . . No writer can ever judge exactly how good or bad a work of his may be, but he can always know, not immediately perhaps, but certainly in a short while, whether something he has written is authentic – in his handwriting – or a forgery”

Brendan Griffin – Writers’ Mentoring Programme

Belltable:Connect Fishamble Mentoring Programme, photo by Ken Coleman

“Not so easy being a fly on the wall”

Fly 1                            They don’t mind getting up on a Saturday morning, I’ll say that for them.

Fly 2                            They are only here one Saturday in a month? They could well be sleeping the hell out of all the other Saturdays.

Fly 1                            True. True enough.

Fly 2                            We’ve ruled out Zumba, yoga, choir. Not a step, stretch or a note between them.

Fly 1                            Not a one. And we’ve also knocked in the head a water protest group.

Fly 2                            I think so. They have the enthusiasm alright, plenty fire in the belly, but they are way way too happy to be as a water protest group.

Fly 1                            I was sure they were a prayer group at the beginning. The way they all sat in a circle. And they have a shared reverence to something.

Fly2                             If only they occasionally closed their eyes or looked upward I would have given you the prayer group.

Fly 1                            And you are sure, not a political party? There is a leader, they share literature, there’s loads of discussion?

Fly2                             Has anyone walked out in a huff, banged a door? Has anyone been stabbed in the back?

Fly1                             Not that I noticed.

Fly 2                            We can definitely rule out a political party.

Fly 1                            And you have also given up on the community group idea?

Fly2                             For a time I was fooled by the obvious common purpose of the group. But has anyone said, “through the chair”, “point of order”?

Fly1                             Nope.

Fly2                             And a community group would certainly have talked at this stage about holding a raffle or a cake sale.

Fly1                             True.

Fly2                             They are a tough group to crack for sure.

Fly1                             Not to mind mentioning the parallel world…

Fly2                             Stop. Stop right there. Haven’t we enough mystery on our plate besides bringing up the group next door?

Fly1                             We have.  We have for sure.

Fly2                             I need a break.  Want to head down to that sugar bowl?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Playwright Paul McNamara’s thoughts on Fishamble Mentoring Scheme

Belltable:Connect Fishamble Mentoring Programme, photo by Ken Coleman

The theatre writing course I am involved in as part of Belltable:Connect is not simply a writing course. It is a theatre course.

I have been a writer for a little under twenty years, which may sound impressive but I am only 23 so a lot of my career has well, flown under the radar. For as long as I can remember I have loved to write. From the age of four or five I have loved writing stories and poems. Creative writing assignments in school were an exciting challenge. While I still write poetry and have also in recent years delved into performance poetry to relative success another form of writing has taken over my interest.

Theatre didn’t enter into my life until my first year of college when I got the chance to act and then to work backstage. My first attempt at writing for the stage followed the next year. As part of the Writers’ Society in Mary Immaculate College I wrote numerous short plays which I would often help produce, direct, act in, provide music and lights for… etc. In other words it was quite a small setup. But over a number of years we managed as a group to improve and get bigger and better. We did this by, well, making every mistake possible and learning from them (for the most part anyway.) This led me to writing and producing my first full-length play in college ‘Searching for Rusty.’ Searching for Rusty was probably, for me at least, the pinnacle of my experience in college theatre. After that I was ready to try and enter in the real world and try to write outside of college. I was ready to write. I was excited. I also had absolutely no idea what to do, how to do it or where to find answers. Until…

Belltable:Connect entered into my life at the perfect time. I wanted to write and work in theatre but I didn’t know how. This was my way in. The course wasn’t going to do everything for me but it has given me the opportunity to learn from my mentor Gavin, my fellow writers, many of whom have a wealth of experience, and also the directors in the other course. I have gotten to learn about play structure, about character building, how to effectively critique a play. Also, very importantly, I learned how to effectively take critique and understand why certain kinds of feedback are given.

When I said at the start of this piece that the course is not simply a writing course it is a theatre course I meant it. The interaction we have with the directors, industry professionals and each other teach much more than just writing. The classes don’t just teach you how to write they try and help you understand the place of the writer in theatre. How to work with directors, managers, actors etc. and how you must realise all theatre is collaboration and everyone has a role in the creative process.  This class for me has been a great aid in transitioning away from college theatre. I have got to meet and learn from so many great up and coming writers and directors. I have made connections that could lead to collaboration. The course has allowed a network of young writers and directors to come together and I cannot wait to see what everyone will accomplish both individually and hopefully in many cases as teams comprising of the people we have met here. After almost twenty years of writing (15 off which my parents and relatives were my only readers) I have a hell of a lot left to learn but this course has been a great start.

-Paul McNamara

Writer Louise Holian on being part of Belltable:Connect

Belltable:Connect Fishamble Mentoring Programme, photo by Ken Coleman

This mentorship in Belltable came along at a time last September when I really needed a lifeline,-applications for everything between day jobs & arts stuff were coming back ‘No’s’ time and time again and I was feeling very deflated so when I got the email to say I had got a place on the course, my whole self just lit up and there were, I’m not embarrassed to say, a few tears as I sat rereading it over and over again ready to burst with a joy that just invaded my everything.  I needed someone to recognise the potential in me that I know I have as a writer person thing and maybe to take a bit of a punt too and Gavin did that in choosing me to be part of the 12 so I’ll always be thankful to him for that.  Soon after starting this course I found out whilst being glued to my Gmail – a daily routine, I had also got a place on The Next Stage – another artist development initiative as part of The Dublin Theatre Festival and I know this would not have happened if I hadn’t got the place on the playwrighting course so one definitely happened as a result of the other. I was back in the land of happy and hope and ’I am part of this’ – in the room and on an equal footing with people a few months before I never thought I would be.

Living a bit out in the shticks of Co. Galway, I can sometimes feel a bit on the outside or the only ‘creative in the village’ as a writer/performer full of ideas and wanting  people to play / explore with ; staring out the window hugging my mug of  builders tae , sitting not content  at the table ‘trying to write’ – feeling  a bit lost betimes  with the ‘am I writer if I’m not writing, am I an actor if not acting, should I just go and work in a shop and stop codding meself debacle. So a journey to Limerick once a month, off the bus and in the doors of the Belltable at 9.30 on a Saturday morning, a coffee and let’s get stuck in, is to me a joyous relief and release and where I fit really – It’s there with my extremely talented group that I realise my gut feelings are right- I do have a contribution to make in the arts arena – I need to get out, make things happen, persist and make my mark cause no one else will do it for me. Life and ourselves can get in our own way sometimes and the thing we are meant for we can run away from or have to in some cases cause the rent needs paying etc but what I find this course is giving me as the months progress on aside from technical skills and meeting my peers which is a massive part of the good stuff is, it connects me and reconnects me, I feel rooted – an Anchor I think is the word. So regardless of any other goings on or noise in my life when I’m there, I’m present and I’m a writer (fuck it I said it ha ) and most importantly I’m me.

The few hours seem to tick by in a heartbeat and I’m walking away’ back into a busy Limerick Street/ soundscape with a sudden ‘oh it’s over ‘haze feeling.  I want more, more of those few hours all the time, more ‘challenge me’ , more time with those people in my group I’m getting  increasingly intrigued by with every meeting,  more let me into the theatre space to play and create , more who are these directors in the room next door …. I just want to live in it- this world and not outside it if that makes sense.  Bring on next time :-).

Director Elena Coderoni: Plunging into the unknown – Why leaving your comfort zone is important.

BelltableConnect Fishamble Mentoring Programme, photo by Ken Coleman

“Deep practice is slow, demanding and uncomfortable. To practice deeply is to live deliberately in a space that is uncomfortable but with the encouraging sense that progress can happen.”
― Anne Bogart

Every so often I find myself at a crossroad in my life where plunging or freezing are the only possible solutions;  I need to decide whether to risk what I have cumulated until now in the chance of getting more and opening more doors to myself, or whether to keep the safety of the status quo, albeit paralyzing any other possible action that would get me astray from a path that is already growing sterile.

As a person who has moved to a foreign country (at the age of nineteen, barely fluent in the language, with no friends nor family in the location) I always promote getting out of your comfort zone when the situation calls for it; sure, it is very scary at first, and you might regret your choice a couple of times, but the final outcome and the experiences you derive from it are worth the price.

All my good life choices have been determined by stepping out of my comfort zone: this mentorship was for me a full trust fall, for I did not know if I was experienced enough, capable enough, and every time I take the bus or get a lift from Cork to Limerick I am getting out of my comfort zone (as I suffer from travel sickness and I never know what the journey will bring me to).

Directing was another bold choice I made. It wasn’t the reason why I enrolled to college initially, and I had past problems due to being in a power-conflicted theatre company that made the experience less than appealing; but I slowly came to the realisation of all the possibilities it could open up to: the feeling of creating something new on the stage, like putting together pieces to form a delicate mosaic or a decoupage, working together with the actors as the designers while coordinating their skills like a conductor in an orchestra. It sounds very pretentious, but the feeling of elation and pride that comes after all the work for a play is so ephemeral for me that I don’t have any other way to describe it other than these images.

When you first step out of your comfort zone everything seems bigger and scarier than it actually is: everyone in the mentorship group seemed so much more experienced and bolder than me, and I was afraid I could not keep up with the others. I believe it was the result of being stuck in my comfort zone in all the other areas of my career: I had a few plays in mind I wanted to put on, but I kept postponing them because I thought I was not ready for it. I decided to stop overthinking and a little after I accepted the direction to a contemporary play (Eigengrau, which shall be put on this spring), and the stage management of Cork Shakespearean’s Hamlet.

After that, I kept asking myself ‘what can I do more?’. There is always the fear I am not good enough for a certain project, or not ready enough, or that I am too young for it, but truth is that because I am this young and this inexperienced I do not have a reputation to defend, or a track of success to keep up to, nor a comparison to previous work: one tends to believe people will have high expectation, but the reality is that I worked too little for people to even have the chance of forming new expectations on me. So why not plunging into big oceans and try something difficult and new? The outcome will certainly be more interesting and fulfilling that staying in my comfort zone and repeating things I know I can already accomplish.

My latest and current challenge is directing Cork Shakespearean’s Julius Caesar. This is a classic example of what I was writing earlier, for I love this play beyond reason, and when I first saw it live-streamed two years ago I went out the Gate cinema jumping around and the first thing I did was message a friend of mine to tell him that I wanted to direct that play.

When the occasion presented itself I jumped on it, but all kinds of fear came about: Shakespeare is absolutely marvellous and intricate, but the text can be off-putting to many actors and many audience members if not well performed, and it is definitely the kind of play people have expectations on before ever seeing it. Not everyone understands the language, so projection, both physical and vocal, must be on point; diction must be correct, there is no space for carelessness.

Plus, I never worked on Shakespeare as a director before.

So I was terrified.

And then, I started to apply my usual solution: it is a small trick I use everytime I approach a new genre of play or a new art: it is a very simple way to get yourself to extend your comfort zone, and it works on analogical thought and experimentation.

The first part is easily explained: you need to find the similar within the new, to connect what you already know or have seen and experienced within the new context. I found for instance that it was easier to explain Shakespeare if I connected it in my mind with rules of harmony, which I am also currently studying. Relying on interdisciplinary has always been a good solution for me.

The second part required pushing yourself more outside your comfort zone: it is not only about experimenting, but also trusting your co-workers while they do so, keeping yourself from controlling the room all the time. I find that using other minds and relying on others always reveals new opportunities and new directions and sometimes gives you the solution (or the information) you need to settle down in your new environment.

At the end of the day, once you push yourself to practice this little two tricks every rehearsals, you find out you survived the plunge and have completed a new project.

There is no art that hasn’t profited from borrowing from new, unexplored sources, while blending familiar concepts and rules to create a new product: impressionism and art nouveau were influenced by ukiyo-e; jazz and rock started through experimentation, and even great classics like Johann Sebastian Bach’s and Debussy’s work were the product of plunging into the unknown, exploring new rules and new rules of harmony and counterpoint. Beckett, Pinter, and Strindberg are obvious examples. Postmodernism is an extreme one, but it has brought a lot of fruits to the table.

Noticing new things and relating them to the familiar has always been a common practice amongst all arts: dance and theatre have profited by their relationship to the rest of the world, and are always about the renovation and hybridization that comes when new minds take on exploring. It’s what both realism and character storytelling have in common: observation, analogy, and experimentation, repetition (of gesture or concept).

It is about learning to trust yourself and your ability to adapt to new situations, your problem solving skills as a director, and your abilities to explore the text in new ways and with different approaches.

It is also about learning to trust your colleagues, which is something of extreme importance to me: it is about trusting them to put as much work as you in the project, to be as enthusiastic as you about it, to make it their baby as much as yours, to keep exploring it with you and to accept the trust you put into them.

It is also hoping that everything will be fine, while knowing that something might go wrong, and be ready to adjust yourself to the new circumstances if it does.

At the end of the day, the only rule about art is to keep moving, and plunging into new territories can bring you to whole new continents to explore. To boldly go, where no one else has gone before.

Director Shane Hickey-O’Mara on theatre, self-doubt and Belltable:Connect

BelltableConnect Fishamble Mentoring Programme, photo by Ken Coleman

‘I don’t believe anyone ever suspects how completely unsure I am of my work and myself and what tortures of self-doubting the doubt of others has always given me.’ – Tennessee Williams.

To think that even Tennessee Williams suffered through ‘tortures of self-doubting’ certainly gives every theatre-maker reason to breathe a sigh of relief! I have begun with this quote given that no other has as aptly summarised my experience in theatre, one in which doubt has unquestionably been the order of the day. On the 9th of June 2010 I sat down to begin the first paper of my Leaving Certificate: English Paper 1. In the composition section there was, amongst a selection of possible choices, a question which asked for a reflection on my personal experience of the dramatic arts. After a few moments of blind panic about whether or not I had any or enough experience in this area, I bit the bullet. I spoke about being brought to the theatre as a child, I was lucky that my parents brought me to anything that tickled their fancy, regardless of whether it was marketed at young audiences or not. This was opportune in that I was exposed to a myriad of different styles of theatre, from the avant-garde to traditional pantomimes to puppet shows. In my essay I spoke about these productions, as well as my hope to join the Mary Immaculate Dramatic Arts Society (MIDAS) if I managed to acquire enough “points” to get into my chosen course: a B.A. in the Liberal Arts at the aforementioned college. Low and behold, I did get in but when I had the chance to join MIDAS I wilted, I just couldn’t work up the courage to join. I went to their productions that year, worked at my confidence and, at the beginning of my second year, I auditioned, gaining a role in my fellow Belltable:Connect member, Tara Doolan’s production of Simon Grey’s Butley. Have you ever seen Shakespeare in Love? You know the man playing the apothecary, the man with one of the less demanding roles who frets continuously about his few lines, so much so that he becomes completely overwhelmed? Well, that’s how I equate my short lived acting career: as the production’s resident “Doubting Thomas”. Despite this, I had developed “the bug” and over the past few years I have hurled myself into any and all productions that have come my way: but, luckily for the audiences, always back stage!

This has been my over-arching experience of theatre: doubt. Every time I have worked on a production, be it as production manager, stage hand or props master, I have been struck down with an acute case of “Imposter Syndrome”. This insecurity held me back initially, that was until I found a text that I just had to bring to the stage, the text that I credit with leading me to directing: Enda Walsh’s Disco Pigs. I needed to work on this piece and, as I quickly learned, the only way forward was for me to direct it! Through harnessing our own unique brand of moxie we pulled it off, although, characteristically, I called “fluke” and dived straight into another production in order to prove to myself and others that I could do it. My own ‘tortures of self-doubting’ propel me forward, they make me work so much harder. It’s fair to admit that the knockbacks have been many and often; as many of my friends have gone on to emigrate in search of work and/or have settled down into more traditional jobs as teachers or in retail etc, I have tried to remain unswayed: persistence is key after all!  Whenever riddled by chronic doubt I try coming back to what I believe to be the essence of theatre: storytelling. I am, at heart, an empath and a story teller. There are so many pieces that I want to bring to the stage: a multiplicity of stories by writers such as Caryl Churchill, Paul Zindler, Diana Son (amongst many others) as well as those by burgeoning artists, work that alights upon themes that include gender, sexuality, family and nationality. Of late I have come to the conclusion that the plays I should endeavour to bring to the stage are those that both terrify & excite: I want to feed on the doubt that tries to consume me, thereby transfiguring it into creative impetus.

Theatre is full of overpowering personalities and enormous egos; everyone vying for the exact same, painfully few, opportunities. It’s one of the smallest industries in the country and is, therefore, highly competitive: a feature that deepens the doubt and insecurity I and many of my peers feel on a continual basis. Belltable:Connect has flown in the face of this trope, in lieu of the Directorial “Hunger Games” I had expected, it is more akin to a group counselling session wherein we share our individual doubts and discuss our daily conundrums. This has proved invaluable to me; our monthly conversations have allayed several doubts I have had in addition to having taught me that there is no ‘correct’ strategy when it comes to directing. Our group consists of a mixed bag of abilities and styles: there are some who come from musical backgrounds and some who utilise dance in their work; there are those with a passion for technical innovation and/or the avant-garde; there are directors who adapt established texts while at the same time there are those who devise new work. For me, the best aspect of Belltable:Connect has been the ‘Connect’ itself. Talking to the other participants has led me to the realisation that at the end of the day we are a multitude, all feeling our way through this crazy industry, all caught up in the same dance.

Director Mollie Molumby: Reflections on Participating in Belltable:Connect

Belltable:Connect Fishamble Mentoring Programme, photo by Ken Coleman

I could not have started the Belltable:Connect Director’s mentorship programme at a better time. Before participating in the programme, I was feeling somewhat lost having just finished university. In college, I had been allowed to fail -it didn’t matter as long as I was able to learn from it and get something out of it. This was to be my first year outside of the warm and cosy bubble of drama studies. Now, the stakes are much greater and it feels like every piece of my work will be taken as a statement of what kind of artist I am. Frankly, this terrifies me. It has been refreshing to have a place to seek guidance and advice from directors both relaxed and/ or as scared as myself! To pick their brains about anything from funding to thrust staging. To give advice as well as receive.

A lot has changed since I began the mentorship programme back in September. The day after my first session in the programme, Half Light won the First Fortnight Award at the Dublin Fringe Festival. This meant we would get to remount the show as part of the an incredible festival challenging stigma through the arts. It made my heart soar to see fellow mentees Mike, Rebecca, Martin, Niall and Shane all come see the show. It’s an incredibly supportive group.

Additionally, a few weeks after our first mentor session I began studying at Artstrain, the National Association of Youth Drama’s course in Drama Facilitation. This has also been a wonderful experience where I am gaining new skills in designing and leading workshops and also taking time to reflect on my directing skills.

Last weekend, I travelled to Galway to participate in Branar’s Tiny Plays initiative, collaborating with Fionnuala Gygax on a new children’s play The Boy in the Boat. I am also collaborating with Fionnuala on a new piece called How to be a Superhero, which I am directing a work in progress of as part of Smock Allies Scene and Heard. This will be performed in three weeks time.  I am really looking forward to Play on Words by fellow Belltable: Connect mentees Niall Carmody and Shane Hickey-O’Mara, also being presented as part of Smock Allies.

I am also hearing lots about ALSA Productions, Sonar, Ferocious Composure, Mothers Artists Makers, and Honest Arts, all founded by fellow director mentees. I am very excited to check these out!

Website: www.bombinatetheatre.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/BombinateTheatre
Twitter: @BombinatePlays