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.
Fishamble: The New Play Company is supported by