The fifth and final day of my Dublin Theatre Festival trip was Saturday, October 7th. This was the busiest day of the trip with some of the most important events so this is going to be a long blog post.
I had breakfast in the Garden Room at the hotel and then stayed in my room until 11:00 a.m. when it was time for the first event of the day. As far as I am concerned, this was the highlight of the trip and what really sold me on the trip. It was the prospect of lunch with Marina Carr at The Dean that was an opportunity I could not pass up. I think Marina Carr is the Shakespeare of her day and culture. She can write a mean tragedy and that is extremely rare in this day and age. A sense of human agency has become so inflated that nobody can entertain a tragic sensibility. An awareness of greater forces that determine our fate is essential for the tragic sensibility. I’m not quire sure what greater forces Marina Carr sees at play in the human condition, but she is definitely a great writer and a genius. She has won many rewards and is considered a renowned playwright, yet many people have never heard of her. This is a testament to how marginal theater has become. Unfortunately, I don’t think anyone involved in the theater realizes how marginalized the art form has become. But there is plenty of evidence. For example, on Amazon none of Marina Carr’s published plays has a single review.
Although I was expecting the lunch to be held at Sophie’s Rooftop Restaurant, it was instead held in the Blue Room, a far less fancy place. Not that I’m complaining. It was less intimidating. Marina Carr was introduced by Nicola Murphy. Many of the opening remarks by Marina Carr where things I had heard before, so she has a script, but that is to be expected. You would not want to be too spontaneous when you are required to give countless interviews. She took a few questions from the group. I regret that I did not ask a question. I never spoke a word with her. Maybe that was for the best. I might have spoiled things by stuttering or speaking too softly. However, she did briefly sit at my table and I took in everything she said. Being one of the few people who absolutely adores playwrights I have to be careful not seem too adoring as playwrights don’t expect that. Fortunately this lunch did not become awkward. One interesting thing I learned is that the Irish government is actually providing some funding to the Irish Repertory Theater of New York City.
After lunch we headed straight to the Gate Theatre to see the play The Loved Ones by Erica Murray.
This play provided another example of an American tourist being the comic foil. The American was a loud, brash bird lover who accidentally reveals something to another character which sets most of the drama in motion. The set design was impressive and gave the impression of an actual lived in space. It even had rain falling on the window panes. I love realistic set designs. I would rather see that than a bare stage.
The play itself was a serious drama with plenty of comedy to lighten things at times. Although the pregnant girl was black, race was never an issue which makes me think the playwright did not have a black girl in mind. It made no difference in the play, but it would have caused some tension in real life. The plot of the play was a girl got pregnant by her teacher. She goes to a remote cottage to stay with his mother. The father of the baby, that is to say the teacher, died unexpectedly although it is never made clear how he died. Certainly that is a weakness in the play. The wife of the dead teacher shows up and eventually learns that her husband cheated on her and got his student knocked up. It is not a very original story but it does not have to be. The situation was suitably dramatic without becoming too heavy. During the intermission I bought a program for 6 Euros because they were not handing them out for free.
After the play was over we gathered in the lobby and were eventually lead to another room for a chat with Loughlin Deegan, current Director of The Lir Academy at Trinity College Dublin, and former Artistic Director and Chief Executive of the Dublin Theater Festival. Nicola Murphy did most of the chatting with him and I would assume she was responsible for arranging the chat. She knows a lot of people at the Lir Academy. As I recall, he talked a bit about Micheál MacLiammóir, one of the founders of the Gate Theater. He also talked about the Dublin Theater Festival. He think he took over the festival the year after the period covered in the book I read on the Dublin Theater Festival.
After the chat was over some of us walked to a nearby pub for dinner, Murray’s Public House. I ordered Fish and Chips and a pint of Guinness which is exactly what I had for dinner the previous day. It was great to drink a pint of Guinness in an actual pub in Dublin.
After dinner we took a cab to the final performance of the trip, the History Play at the Bank at Digital Hub. The Bank is a performance space. The Digital Hub is an incubator for startups and tech companies. Since I work in Information Technology this was of great interest to me and I had it in my notes. This proved fortunate since the cab did not drop us off at the Bank and nobody knew in which direction to go. I did show my fellow theater enthusiasts a photo of the building we were looking for. In fact, we quickly found the place because the others were more than willing to ask anyone around for help.
The History Play was the most experimental performance that I saw. I had my doubts but this proved to be an excellent choice. The performance began with one of the performers vacuuming the performance space. I could not tell if this was part the performance or just last minute preparations. It proved to be part of the show. The audience sat in school room desks as if we were attending a class. We were supposed to write two paragraphs of our personal history in a notebook but I neglected to do that. I handed in a blank notebook. The show really began as four actors dressed like Napoleon slowly walked back and forth while intoning their lines rather dispassionately. They wore platform shoes to give them more statue. I’m not sure if they were supposed to be Napoleon but they wore some sort of uniform. It could have been the uniforms of the English in the distant past. Most of the history they were musing on was Irish history. Fortunately I knew a little of Irish history from reading my travel guides. Various props were used. They moved vertical florescent light poles from place to place. There was a lot of that. Then a Roomba robot vacuum went across the floor. A little later several remote controlled rat drones were sent scurrying around the floor. This was not referenced in the dialogue of the actors. They always moved very slowly and spoke in a detached manner. Towards the end a large piece of black plastic was unwrapped and laid on the floor. I’m not sure what that was about. The entire performance was a little surreal without seeming too pretentious. I could get to like this sort of experimental theater but it would have to try less hard at being profound.
I took a cab back to the hotel with some other people and that was pretty much the end of my trip. I was extremely sad that this adventure was over. This was the most access I have ever had to the world of theater. I almost felt treated like an equal given that I could attend private events and after show drinks with the creative teams. But I didn’t really participate much or offer any feedback. I do think I asserted myself a little bit because I had done years of research for a trip to Dublin I was going to do on my own. So I knew a lot and tried to point some things out when I feared they would be overlooked. I certainly indicated that I was into drama as a literary art form because I bought many books.
Although this was a near perfect experience for me it still seemed a little impersonal and I did not connect with the theater people as well as I would have liked. This has got me to do a little scheming. I’m thinking of ways I could involve myself more fully in that world. There are actually many things I could do. Writing such detailed blog posts is one thing that can be done. I’m a little bit afraid someone from the Irish Repertory Theater will find my blog because at no point did I mention that I write plays or had any interest in writing plays. I was like the stealth playwright in the group. I don’t know if it would have been appropriate to claim to be a playwright. In any event it never came up. Something else I can do is tag all my photos on Flickr. I have uploaded every photo I took during my trip to Flickr. If I take the time to tag all my photos they will be more discoverable. The third thing I can do is write some reviews on Amazon. I have read a lot of books and plays which do not have a single review. This is actually pretty significant. That means that nobody has anything to say about these published plays. My intention is to write some very thoughtful and well considered reviews to reveal my deep understanding and appreciation for serious drama.