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A new dimension
This year’s Dublin Theatre Festival is specifically geared towards enriching the wider artistic community.
Joe Jackson, 12 Oct 2005
Don Shipley, Artistic Director of the Dublin Theatre Festival, has initiated a wonderful 'ancillary item' to this year’s Festival which not only deserves full public support but will, one hopes, become an increasingly important feature of the Festival in years to come. It’s called ‘Theatre Olympics’ and serves as a compliment to the main stage productions and is designed to offer a diverse programme of special events, performances, cabarets, forums, exhibitions and workshops. At least, that’s how it’s sold in the Dublin Theatre Festival programme itself. Shipley himself explains that he has a very specific reason for adding this dimension to the Festival which, incidentally, is now nearly 50 years old.
“This reflects a philosophy I have about theatre festivals," he explains, "and that is that at the underbelly of every festival it needs to have such an ancillary programme, not just to complement the main stage programme, but more importantly that, when the caravan leaves town, you leave some kind of living legacy to the local artistic community which will enrich that community on some way. So, as opposed to just bringing in shows from around the world, you have something else at the heart of the festival and no other festival does this. At least not to this degree."
Shipley stresses that it is the artistic community of Dublin that actually participates in many of these events.
“For example we have The Producers' Workshop and it sold out almost immediately and has producers from Druid and so on, a fairly senior delegation of about 25,” he says. “But on the panel we have Broadway producer David Richental (I Am My Own Wife), Glynis Henderson (Stomp), and Matthew Bryam Shaw (Don Carlos) and it will be chaired by our own Pat Moylan. And it should be beneficial to all concerned because, as a producer, you want to know is it viable to commercially produce? What if I did an international co-production with another company is that fraught with danger? How do you cut the pie financially and so on?”
Shipley is similarly excited by the workshop Courageous Leadership, which he describes as “a real coup” and whose creative consultant and theatre director is Richard Olivier, son of none other than Laurence Olivier.
“He does this wonderful thing whereby he uses Shakespeare as a metaphor and, with the business community, teaches leadership.” Don explains. “Sometimes, for example, he’ll use Henry IV on the eve of the battle but it’s mostly designed to help middle management in terms of leadership. And the Theatre Forum and Business2Arts got really excited about the combination of all those forces.”
That said, two events which particularly excited me are the Special Events Women In Shorts which it now transpires has been altered slightly, and Madly Off In All Directions. In the former 12 of Ireland’s foremost female actors were meant to be showcased in a mini-festival but some became unavailable so now that is being staged instead – a change not included in the Theatre Festival programme incidentally – is a female version of Glengarry Glen Ross on October 5th with actors such as Ingrid Cragie, Jane Brennan and Catherine Walsh. The latter, however, involves six writers and six directors and will involve all getting the early morning train to Galway, with the assignment of completing a five minute play by nightfall based upon the people they see during their journey and which will be staged that night at the Sugar Club. See why I describe Don Shipley’s innovations this year as wonderful?
“Madly Off In All Directions should be excellent though who knows what we will end up with and maybe that’s why Irish Rail are a little nervous!” he says. "But they got behind this all the way, as a sponsor, and provided the tickets to Galway and back again and Mark Lambert, the actor, is very much part of this and even got great people such as Marie Jones, who, of course did Stones In His Pocket, as one of the writers. So they all assemble on that morning at Euston Station and head off with their laptops or whatever they write with and when they get their they are assigned, by lottery, directors who, then, take the train ride back with them in order to embellish the scenario a little further. Then, by the time they get back to town, they’ll be met by 25 actors, musicians, choreographers etc and have five hours to produce a play! That, too, certainly is one I’m looking forward to!”
For full details of Theatre Olympics see www.dublintheatrefestival.com