- 17 Jan 19
Combining her acting flair with her musical talent, Kate Stanley Brennan's first play Walk For Me is a coming-of-age drama set against a rock 'n' roll edge, running at the Project Arts Centre from the 17-26th January.
Following a young woman's string of sexual encounters as she attempts to gain a foothold on independence, the play centers on Mary Jane who finds herself lured into the underworld of the New York club scene whilst on a J1 after she drops out of college. With original music from MissKate (Ms Brennan herself), MathMan and Bobofunk, Walk for Me promises sex, decks and more besides.
We caught up with Kate to hear more about her experience writing and working on the play:
Walk for Me is a play that blends so many elements, from theatre, music to motion graphics – was it difficult to bring all of those components together on stage?
It’s definitely exciting to see it all coming together but it’s such a tech-heavy show so that definitely added a bit of pressure! We have my brother doing visuals and motion graphics that go along with all the music, we’ve got handsome Paddy on stage DJ-ing, dropping beats throughout the whole show, and original music from MathMan. Ninety percent is original music and the other ten percent is there for nostalgia purposes. We have a Wesley section that I couldn’t have without including stuff from the 2000s but otherwise, all the songs and the beats are original. I wanted it to be more of a cross between a gig and a play and hopefully that will come across. We’re releasing an EP of the soundtrack too with six songs on it, which will be released on Thursday when we open.
You’ve acted in a range of productions but this is your first written piece to be put on stage - what are the challenges involved when moving from acting to writing and performing?
When you’re acting you’re in the safety of (usually) some geniuses’ words. I’ve spent my career saying other people’s words – people who can say things much better than I can! But I got to a point where I really wanted to take back control. When you’re acting you’re trying to pursue the director’s ideas so it is collaborative, but ultimately it’s their vision. Naturally, taking back control came with a huge amount of nerves, self-analyzing and self-loathing. I went on a constant hamster wheel of feeling deadly about it and then feeling shit. You ask yourself ‘why am I doing this, I’m terrible at writing!’. But I am really proud of what I’ve achieved here and I do feel good about it.
When did you begin writing the play?
I was in London doing a play in the Globe called The White Devil. The actors in London don’t really go out as much so suddenly I found myself with all this free time! I already had this idea germinating that mixed music and theatre. I have so many stories but this story - about going to New York in my twenties - was such an influential year in my life. So I started with that. Then as I wrote it all spewed out of me in three days. I started with the truth initially because that’s all I knew how to write. Then as I started to redraft it the character became a bit more removed from myself. I started to go into her history and that’s the part of it is that is most different to mine because I didn’t want to expose my family. I can tell my own story but I didn’t want to tell other people’s. Then it became every girl’s story, for the first half of it anyway. There’s some stuff that’s complete truth and there’s other stuff that’s either condensed or stories I collected along the way. But everything in it comes from a place of truth.
Was it difficult towing that line between the universal and the personal?
I’m quite a private person so that’s another reason why I fictionalized it. I did find that bit hard. Art has always been my catharsis for anything I’ve been through. But I chose not to relate exactly, word for word because it’s a safer way to tell a story.
Your sister, Sarah, is directing the play - what was it like working with family on a project like this?
My sister taught me as a kid at the drama school we went to so I’m used to her directing me. But that wasn’t the only reason I asked her to do it. She used to have a theatre company and the stuff they did was just amazing. She’s a phenomenal director. It’s also such a personal project so the fact she knows me so well really helped. Johnny my brother is working on it too and we’re all really good mates. We’ve had a few 'sibling moments' because we just have that shorthand that brothers and sisters do. You get to a hundred so much quicker! But it’s been so special to work with them and I’ll treasure it.
The themes Walk for Me explores are very relevant at this particular moment in time. Do you think art has a responsibility to address contemporary and political concerns?
I think it’s down to the artist, and it’s their prerogative whether they want to address those things or not. But of course, down through the centuries art has been a fantastic way to express and reflect what’s going on in a society in a particular time. So when it does that’s a really incredible thing.
Walk For Me deals with many themes, among them, coming to terms with one’s own self worth and dealing with rejection. How do you deal with those things as an artist?
I’ve been dealing with rejection since I began acting as a kid, so I had to learn not to take it personally. It’s easier said than done and obviously when there are certain things you want it’s worse when you don’t get them. But you do have to brush it off, because if you don’t that’s the death of you in this business. You’ll end up unhappy and unfulfilled. I always say if you want to survive in the business you have to have a thick skin. You can’t compare yourself to anyone else and you can’t see someone else’s success as something that has been taken away from you. You have to realize everyone has their own path and focus on your own journey. You could come out of drama school and one guy could have a lead in a film the very next day whereas it might take you a year to get your first job, but that doesn’t mean he’s better than you. It’s something you’re constantly struggling with, but I think everyone goes through stages of feeling better about yourself and then feeling shit about yourself. Focusing on what you have and being grateful for it is the key to happiness.
If there was one thing audiences come away with after seeing Walk For Me would that be it?
I’m not out to preach to anyone, but the song I leave everyone with at the end basically says ‘just be whoever you want to be’. Don’t give in to outside judgment. This all sounds cheesy and clichéd but it’s true! You always have to follow your own path.
Walk for Me runs at the Project Arts Centre from the 17-26 January with tickets priced from €14 – €18 available here: https://projectartscentre.ie/event/walk-for-me/
The EP soundtrack is out now on Itunes: http://itunes.apple.com/album/id1447387976?ls=1&app=itunes