To celebrate 30 years of Fishamble, we are publishing a series of blog posts focusing on the everyday experiences of our staff, colleagues and collaborators. We continue our series with a post by Fishamble's Literary Assistant Tess Koetting, who joined us as we began the process of shortlisting plays for A PLAY FOR IRELAND.
This semester I was given the opportunity to work as an intern for Fishamble: The New Play Company. While Fishamble at its heart is a small organization, during my time here I was able to see just how far their influence extends. After many years in the Dublin theatre scene, Fishamble has curated an extremely positive, progressive, and inclusive reputation, remaining at the forefront of the anti-harassment and anti-bullying movements that are currently taking place in Irish theatre.
As a Literary Assistant, my position mainly consists of two things: script submissions and A Play for Ireland. During the last four months my main job was to read, organize, and evaluate on all the manuscripts that Fishamble received. This includes sending acknowledgment letters, filing author and script data, writing analyses reports, and finally sending feedback letters. Each play sent in to Fishamble is read in full and receives a detailed feedback letter which describes the pieces of the script that caught our attention and suggests areas where it could be improved. The letter is reviewed by Gavin and then sent on to the author.
Fortunately, my time at Fishamble has coincided with the beginning of two other very large projects, Show in a Bag and A Play for Ireland, which was announced as a part of Fishamble’s 30th anniversary celebration. For this project, thirty plays have been chosen out of over three hundred submissions to kick off a two-year process, beginning with a development period at our six partner venues around the country. The submissions for this project were wonderfully varied and engaging. Some covered expected topics, taking on the conversations that have been central to recent national discussion in new and unexpected ways; other subjects were utterly unexpected, and still discussed with immense passion. The response was overwhelming in a way, and the selection process involved quite a bit of discussion. However, ultimately everyone agreed happily, and the chosen submissions yielded thirty ambitious, focused, and diverse projects.
I was also able to observe the application process for Show in a Bag, a collaborative initiative between Dublin Fringe Festival, Irish Theatre Institute, and Fishamble that has been running for nine years. This project encourages actors to write and star in their own hour-long productions, with minimal cast and props. After lengthy workshop time, the productions are given a performance slot in Dublin Fringe Festival and then provided with resources to enable touring connections across the country. Show in a Bag remains an important project in theatre community, as it puts all the power of production in the actor’s hands.
Working at Fishamble this semester has been a great experience; I’ve been given opportunities to step outside my comfort zone, be involved with major projects in Irish theatre, and make connections with vibrant and interesting people – including those wonderful people working inside the Fishamble office. Through months of reading, I was given the opportunity to advance my critical analysis skills, and spending the past few months writing feedback letters has helped me hone a practiced voice that is able to convey critiques and suggestions in a friendly and professional way.
One interesting challenge was brought to light while reading A Play for Ireland submissions. Because these submission were open to anyone living in Ireland, whether a citizen or not, we had a few submissions sent in that were clearly from other students living abroad; these submissions sometimes encountered the problem that the office staff referred to as “rose-colored glasses,” meaning that they viewed Ireland with an excessive level of optimism, which often kept them from seeing the very real problems that the country is facing. I find myself walking a thin line with this kind of thinking. While I do acknowledge that Ireland has its share of problems, I want to allow myself to hold on to some of the magic and mystery in a country that I have grown to love.
Tess is studying English and Publishing at the University of Iowa.
To celebrate 30 years of Fishamble, we are publishing a series of blog posts focusing on a week in the life of our staff, colleagues and collaborators. We begin our series with a post by Fishamble's Artistic Director Jim Culleton, the week that Storm Emma sweeps across the country.
The day started by filming an interview for a tribute to Sebastian Barry that Sean Rocks from RTE's Arena is making. We plan to revive our production of Sebastian's play ON BLUEBERRY HILL in 2019 in New York so I was in touch with 59E59 and 1st Irish about this. Our General Manager and Producer Eva and I also discussed plans for Irish touring, following the off-Broadway run.
We recently called for submissions for Fishamble's A PLAY FOR IRELAND (APFI), so I finished reading the hundreds of submissions today and met with Gavin (our Literary Manager) and Tess (our Literary Intern) for an initial discussion about them, and the next phase in the decision making process.
I recently attended APAM, an Australian conference to network and promote work, as part of a Culture Ireland delegation of colleagues and fellow promoters of Irish culture internationally. I followed up on many meetings by sending further information on Fishamble's productions to presenters and promoters I met there.
Fishamble has been working on RUNNING OUT OF ROAD, a short piece by Rosaleen McDonagh, which I am directing as part of a day celebrating Traveller Ethnicity. This was scheduled to take place on Thursday 1st March at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham (RHK) but, due to extreme weather conditions the event is postponed for a couple of weeks. Rosaleen and I exchanged some thoughts on the final script for this, and I was in touch with the actors to see who is available for the new date.
We had further discussions on A PLAY FOR IRELAND, and our methods for processing of the submissions.
As part of Fishamble's theatre company-in-association status at UCD, I'm on a panel for their Ad Astra scholarship programme, and also meet their MA playwriting students and provide support to their directing students, so I caught up with Kellie Hughes, Eamonn Jordan and Finola Cronin in UCD about this work.
Gavin and I have been alternating attending meetings of a working group on gender equality in theatre. We discussed recent developments, and feedback from our board on Fishamble's policy, which has been developed over recent months, prior to Gavin attending today's working group meeting in the Lir.
Eva and I finalised our revised budget and plans for 2018, following consultation with the board in recent weeks, and we submitted these to the Arts Council. We also finalised an application to Culture Ireland which is due in tomorrow.
There is such strong interest from venues and audiences in Fishamble's recent production of HAUGHEY|GREGORY by Colin Murphy, Eva and I had a meeting to discuss possible future life for it. The programme for 2018 is already full, so we will plan to revive this as part of our 2019 plans.
Fishamble's TRILOGY by Pat Kinevane will run in repertory at the Odyssey Theatre in Los Angeles from next week, so Eva, Chandrika (our Marketing & Fundraising Executive) and I met to discuss final preparations for this and I followed up with Beth Hogan and her colleagues at the Odyssey. I got in touch with our associate producer in LA, Georganne Aldrich Heller, and finalised details with her for the run too.
Eva and I met Neil Murray and Jen Coppinger from the Abbey recently to discuss our coproduction of Deirdre Kinahan's new play RATHMINES ROAD. Gavin, Deirdre and I discussed the play's development and organised a reading to inform this process. We have been in touch with Toryn Glavin from the Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI), and look forward to receiving this organisation’s support and advice in relation to the representation of a trans woman character in the play.
Today was meant to be spent in the RHK, so I used the unexpected time to read a couple of unsolicited scripts which Gavin has recommended to me.
Pat Kinevane, Denis Clohessy and I have been working over the past few months on the development of Pat’s new play BEFORE. Denis sent me the beautiful music he has composed for the production so far, so I listened to that, and chatted with him and Pat about it.
Eva and I finalised budgets and other details for our upcoming 11-venue revival of MAZ & BRICKS by Eva O'Connor. We had a meeting recently with our Production Manager, Eoin Kilkenny, so plans are at an advanced stage for this tour, funded by the Arts Council.
Chandrika and I worked on a proposal to a potential sponsor for one of our projects. We also discussed a planned new play conference, as part of our New Play Clinic activities, to mark our 30th year in 2018, with Eva and Gavin.
The process of shortlisting A PLAY FOR IRELAND submissions, and processing the partner venues’ preferences, continued.
Gavin and I discussed the applications for this year’s SHOW IN A BAG, which the Irish Theatre Institute and Dublin Fringe Festival run with Fishamble.
I caught up on emails, including: answering queries about Fishamble's development initiatives; sharing advice with previous mentees from those initiatives; promoting our work to international presenters and to Irish diplomats, whom I met recently at a networking event for arts organisations, organised by the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Next week will be very different again, as Fishamble's programme of work develops, and the snow melts too! There is great satisfaction in the variety of the job, but I hope this diary gives an idea at least of a (reasonably) typical - and cold - week!
On Tuesday 24th October, Fishamble was invited to Mountjoy Prison to perform On Blueberry Hill for prisoners. Director Jim Culleton shares his thoughts after the performance.
At Fishamble, we are always keen to tour our productions to audiences that we hope will connect with the plays, and are committed to creating access to our work for everyone. We love working with venues around the country, and are visiting approximately 60 venues this year, so our productions reach as wide an audience as possible. So, when we were chatting with June Edwards and Anne Costelloe in the education centre at Mountjoy prison, about our current production of On Blueberry Hill by Sebastian Barry, which is set in Mountjoy, we were delighted when they suggested a possible performance in the prison itself.
Some audience members who had seen the production at the Pavilion during the Dublin Theatre Festival, had served time in prison and had been deeply moved by the honesty and humanity of the play. So we were very enthusiastic to present it in Mountjoy, and see what the prisoners there made of it. Thankfully, the Governor was also enthusiastic about it, and we planned to present it on Monday last week. Then Hurricane Ophelia struck and the performance was rescheduled for today, so we went into the prison at 9.30am to stage the play in the school there. We were warned that the performance might be stopped or interrupted if the business of the prison required it but, in the end, we ran straight through with no interruptions.
We had a fascinating experience, performing for an audience of staff, Gardai, and about 40 prisoners, who were ‘the experts’ on Mountjoy, as Sebastian commented in a brief introduction. There were ripples of acknowledgment at many points and a breath-holding silence for many of the emotional sections about the experience of the characters in Mountjoy. Niall Buggy and David Ganly performed the play with a perfectly judged tone, that acknowledged we were all in Mountjoy together, and that the audience was very familiar with many aspects of the play. You could feel the lines about the prison officers, trials in the Four Courts, and the details of prison life connecting differently in prison, than they had with previous audiences. One man sat close to the door this morning, as he felt he may need to leave during the play, but remained until the end and told us he was glad he had stayed. At the end of the performance, some of the students in the audience sang along with the actors during the song, a man whistled along beautifully, someone shouted ‘C’mon Christy’ and there was a great cheer as the lights went down. It was a privilege to present the play there, thanks to everyone for helping to make it happen, and to our audience for welcoming our version of Mountjoy into the prison school.
Hugh Linehan from the Irish Times joined us on the day and wrote a fantastic article about the experience. Click HERE to read it.