Founding Family

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It is such a great pleasure watching someone share what they love. This week Paul and I had the opportunity to see DUBLIN BY LAMPLIGHT, a Corn Exchange Production, on the Abbey stage. It is the first time that we’ve watched a full production in the redesigned auditorium from up the top. And what a treat. There was a full house and it was filled with people of all ages. There was a palpable energy in the theatre that night. One could sense that the audience were just as excited to be there as the performers were. And they were. The actors were delighted to be sharing the work and it showed.

I think for the most part as actors we are grateful to be working when we are working, but sometimes you can just see that extra something, that glee, that play, that comes from the understanding of the great privilege it is to bring stories to life and to entertain while you’re at it. Of course certain shows lend themselves better towards this co-conspiracy with the audience and DUBLIN BY LAMPLIGHT, in all its commedia dell’arte glory, is such a show. It is highly theatrical and filled with humour and pathos and it asks the audience to trust and come along on a journey. The actors are changing roles and changing costumes and giving it socks from head to toe. And then there are the moments of absolute delight when one of the actors breaks one of the walls and interacts with the musician who has been scoring the entire production so far. An absolutely delightful moment of theatre.

Thanks to the actors who delight in playing the part and sharing themselves so fully with the audience. We are putty in your hands.

Home Sweet Home

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What is home? You’ve heard that “home is where your heart is” or maybe where you’re born. Maybe it is where you grew up or where you live now. Some find home in other people or in a feeling. I’m not sure I know exactly what it is, but I know for sure that I’m now more at home than I have ever been.

I think part of that might be that I’ve landed. For the first time in my life I’m just here. Present. I recently had to submit for Garda vetting (that’s like a background check) and included in the application was a list of every address I’ve lived at since birth. I had to ask my mother for help, because though I remember the apartments, duplexes and homes and the situations around living in each place, I couldn’t recollect all of the addresses. In the end I counted 18 (and this may not include temporary accommodation here and there). On average that is 2.3 years per address, however my last apartment was 10 years and my first room in Dublin was 4 years, so there was a time where it was nearly a new address every year. My parents were great when I was younger to keep us in the same schools and with the same friends as we went from place to place, I know it wasn’t an easy feat. So I don’t think I ever looked at where I lived as potentially permanent. I always planned to move out at 18 and then I knew I was likely to move out of Grand Rapids after college and then I thought I’d come back to the States at some point for my career, but I didn’t expect it to be for more than 3 years.

This last move has been different. Though we are not yet in permanent accommodation, I am home. I’m not Irish, but this is where I have come, with my husband to join our friends and colleagues to build a theatre. Theatre is home. Ireland is home. Paul is home. It is interesting, in the same way committing to marriage is interesting – you gain so much by forsaking all others and saying with conviction I do. I do commit to building this dream, here in this place. You don’t know where life will lead, but you are firmly on a path and you can breathe.

#WakingTheFeminists, Rekindling the Flame

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Picture in front of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin with a large number of women, #WakingTheFeminists

#WakingTheFeminists, Dublin, Ireland 2015

I’m inspired, incited, and wowed by the movement that is underway in Irish theatre right now, #WakingTheFeminists. What gets me especially jazzed up about this movement as opposed to similar movements in the States (that I am also in support of, by the way) is that in Ireland change actually seems possible. The country is large, yes, but you can reach a national platform, you can unite voices, you can assemble en masse and you CAN affect change. We felt this with the YesEquality vote earlier this year.

Not everyone feels a feminist spark in their gut, I totally understand. But I do, I have for a very long time. For the most part I shove it down, ignore it and try to redirect that energy, making my point by putting my head down and working bloody hard. I’m not sure where that feminist drive came from, but I can feel it in my very fiber, it must be somewhere in my DNA. Though growing up I wouldn’t have considered myself one and neither of my parents are outspoken feminists, in fact I’m not sure that they are feminists at all (however, having a mother who filed for divorce and raised you as a single parent certainly sends some strong signals of female empowerment).

I remember feeling and seeing the injustice of gender inequality early on, and I remember being ridiculed the first time I spoke out. I was a freshman in high school and we were doing current affairs or persuasion speeches in English class. My speech was about women in the workforce and I ended it with “Watch out men, here we come.” Maybe a little threatening looking back on it, but even at that young age it incited fear and backlash in some of my male counterparts. They mocked me, laughed at me and tried to make me feel small. I ended up in tears. I don’t think their reaction was malicious, though it certainly felt that way, I think it was part of some sort of instinctual, in-bred, systematic, cultural fear and belief that is ego-based and primal. And this is what we are up against, a primal sense of justice and equality versus others’ primal drive for superiority and survival.

A friend said earlier this week that what is most infuriating is how much the dynamic changes from the bottom of the pyramid (i.e. those of us who are cobbling together a living in the arts), where equality has a much better chance of existing, compared to the top, where equality is less likely to play a part in the decision-making. So, how do we engage those at the top of the pyramid? How do we encourage them to experience people and work outside of their own circle with an open mind? How do we expose them to other voices in an inviting and unthreatening way? The systematic part of the problem is that theatre and entertainment, like many other industries, is about relationships. You hire people you know and trust. If you are not exposed to, if you are not aware of, the talented female playwrights and directors out there, you are less likely to hire them. So again how do we address this imbalance?

The new plays festival I co-produce, NEWvember, has a blind submission process which certainly helps – one year the writers chosen may be five men and one woman, then the next year it is five women and one man. Over time it equalizes out because the equal opportunity is there. But this is just one small scale example and is not a viable solution for programming a National Theatre.

The truth is that I don’t know how to make the necessary changes, but this movement is raising awareness of the issues, bringing these problems of inequality into the light, into the collective consciousness, and that is certainly a good place to start. We must stand together. We must not give up. We must keep talking about it. We must wake the nation, wake the world.

For more on the movement visit: https://wakingthefeminists.wordpress.com/
For an inspirational documentary about second wave feminism in the USA, that I am proud to have played a part in, check out: She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry by Mary Dore