Dalkey Players – Newsletter #2 2020

Lockdown Issue

Greetings to all members and friends. Sadly, we can’t get together for an end of season celebration owing to the Covid-19 situation. This newsletter will give us a chance to look back on a tumultuous season during 2019-2020. Lots of people have contributed to the content, well done all.

On behalf of the committee, thanks for your input, support and participation during the past season. Have a great summer and keep your creative and dramatic juices flowing for what will hopefully be an equally interesting season starting next September. C Ó’B.

Luke Treacy, Director, Looks Back on Our One Act Play

Having only recently joined the Dalkey Players I was thrilled to have my one-act play proposal of ‘The Proposal’ accepted by the artistic committee. I thought it said a lot about the openness of the group giving a new upstart member and directing novice like me a chance

I have come to view the Dalkey Players as a well-oiled production machine. The support rallied around me immediately and was there throughout.

Maria Jackson deserves a special mention as the stage manager supremo! She was the backbone of the production advising on the process, from start to finish. Lua, who produced the play, gave great support and insights also. From the set design to dramatic timing I learned a lot from one of the masters. I remember her suggesting a dramatic pause in act one, which really added to the scene and got a laugh on the night. ‘I’ve come to ask you (LONG PAUSE) ….to hear me out!’ Will he ever propose!

Aileen, who thankfully brought me into the Players, was also there supporting at rehearsals despite directing a play of her own concurrently. She was a great help when blocking the tricky final scene of the play. A special mention also goes to Julia who managed the sound effects and music, where timing is everything. (when he lifts the pipe, ring the bell!)

I would also like to thank Emma-Jane who gave good advice in the run up to the performances, even showing up for the lighting checks in Bray!

So, to the cast! As Harry Redknapp said about football management, it is easy when you have got good players.

Simon, our artist, singer, poet, and playwright in residence, who I cannot believe has never acted before joining the group, was fantastic. From palpitations and flickers to roaring and fainting I could not have asked for more from the character.

Donal, who I harassed and harangued to take the part was commanding as the father with the right blend of anger and humour at all the right times. One audience member in Bray said to me after the show her highlight was the pipe scene as ‘my father used to smoke a pipe like that, he would sit just like that in his socks!’ (clearly the right call to go with the socks despite the adjudicators comments)

And what can I say about Claudia, wo brought energy, enthusiasm, and ideas to every rehearsal. Nominated for best actress in Bray, Claudia played a blinder and was robbed not to win it! With the most complex character to play, hit it out of the park from the first audition.

It all seems a long time ago now. I hope to do it all again if you will have me!

A Letter from Mary Rigney

My Dear Friends,

I would like to take the opportunity to thank my friends in Dalkey Players for all the help and support I have received recently.

As you know my beloved Paddy departed this world on Marth 11th last. Although not unexpected it was nonetheless a great shock to me.

In view of the Government restrictions which had just been introduced I greatly appreciated Emma Jane’s attendance at the Funeral Home as a representative of Dalkey Players. In the circumstances there was an amazing turnout of members at the funeral. Unfortunately, I did not get to speak to all of you, but I did see you there. Thank you those who attended in person or in spirit. To the many who sent cards and letters of condolence, call and texts, it is all very comforting.

Although I was cocooned immediately following the funeral, due to the tremendous support and affection I received, and continue to receive from all of you, I never felt alone.

Paddy was an ardent supporter of Dalkey Players for over 40 years. He gave assistance in any way possible. When working of the design for the Heritage Centre, he ensured that the Town Hall drama facilities were upgraded as part of the project. He attended every production over the years and drove to many of the festivals.

I look forward to meeting up with all of you later in the year when I can thank you personally. In the meantime, take care and stay safe, you are all very precious to me.

Kind regards, Mary

Director Gerry Clabby reflects on our November 2019 Show

The Shadow of a Gunman is one of Sean O’Casey’s great Dublin plays, set during the time of the War of Independence. Although the play is based on historical events and set in a particular time and place – Dublin in 1920 – the themes are universal and are as relevant today as they were in 1923 when the play was first staged at the Abbey. Unfortunately, the early 21st century is a time of war and strife in too many parts of our world.

When we gathered in September last to begin the rehearsal process I had a feeling that the key to the play lay in O’Casey abiding humanity and his deep concern for the struggles of ordinary people. O’Casey’s characters may be larger than life and lots of fun, but their dilemmas are real and the choices they are confronted with are very difficult to resolve.

Rehearsal is at its best a process of collaboration and discovery between director and actors. During the process we all discovered the play’s beautiful use of language and many new and often surprising aspects of the characters as we worked through the action of the play. It was very exciting to work with several actors who were new to the group and a joy to work again with several old hands, all coming together in a wonderful ensemble to bring the play to life.

As always the rehearsal period seemed to fly by and soon we were in November and opening night beckoned. A beautifully simple and evocative set and wonderful costuming brought us right back to 1920 and on Tuesday 19th November The Shadow of a Gunman came to life on the Town Hall stage and a week of theatre began. The Shadow of a Gunman was dedicated to the memory of our dear friend Shay Linehan, our own playwright and stalwart supporter of Dalkey Players.

(Photo of Alan Nuzum and Kevin Lyons on the boards of the Dalkey Town Hall)

Life During Zoomtime

To promote and maintain communication with our members an invite was issued inviting members to a Zoom reading group on Thursday nights. This was met with a good response and since mid May we have been Zooming left / right and center with great success.

We started with works penned by some of our very own creative writers.

Empty Stage by Dermot Byrne,

The Bottom Line by Lua Mcllraith

Seven Percent- Dream on by Conall O’Beoláin

These entertained us no end with everyone getting a chance to read the different parts. Writers also appreciated the various critics and suggestions (I think!)

For the next week we were given our homework by Múinteoir Dermot !: Write a 2 minute conversation beginning and ending with a given sentence. For me and others this was going to be a daunting experience as I have never written this type of work before. But each piece presented and read on the night was met with enthusiasm, support and praise.

Zoom Thursdays are entertaining and focus on maintaining contact with the creative members of Dalkey players. Suggestions are welcome from everyone on the format of the Evenings. If you would like to join in, drop me a line at info@dalkeyplayers.ie

Maria Jackson

Eurydice, a lookback.

Siobhán Caskie, Production Manager, encapsulates Our Journey

It starts with the director picking a play…. Eurydice – how to pronounce it? A new notebook is bought for all the many ideas. Before you know it the roles are cast and rehearsals begin. A Whatsapp set up – jokes, photos and schedules are swapped. Ah the circuit schedule, everyone wonders where are we going and when? 8 festivals confirmed which include Castleblayney, Ballinamore, Roscommon, Mountmellick….finishing in Cavan. Poster photo is picked. Rehearsals continue where the hard work is done – lines learnt, movement, tone. Costumes and sets are coming together … a seesaw, buckets, string, dreads, birds, plus fours, spray paint of course! It comes quickly – Dalkey town hall – the home crowd. All hands on deck in setting the stage. Curtain ups. A live audience – great to get the response.

The home run is finished, load up the van – we’re on the road! Accommodation booked, who’s travelling with who? Circuit time! Castleblayney up first – so welcoming, a great space. All the while learning and tweaking, evolving. Ballinamore up next but taking place in Carrigallen – a lovely stage. Water, water everywhere.

Wonderful reactions – cast and crew have a spring in their step. EJ presents a picture on behalf of DP for their future re-opening. Staying over in Ballinamore – in Hamills – where else? Then on to Roscommon – everything at hand, nothing was too much trouble, a great set up. Wonderful performance – goes down a storm. Later on the guitar comes out and the singing begins. Then it’s back to Dublin, start planning for Mountmellick. Covid. The news becomes serious. We land in Mountmellick, it’s refurb is gorgeous but there’s an uneasy feeling, the Taoiseach speaks to the nation. A matinee goes ahead with no audience – for closure. All is suspended but cast and crew hope that this magical production will perform again in better times. Everything has changed.

Stay safe.

The Cocooning Diary with Lua McIlraith

According to my business diary March 6th was the day that the Corona Virus officially hit Ireland. Within a week the country was closing down and socialising was out of the question. In order to keep in touch with the group of us who had been involved in the One Acts in January, I began posting silly limericks about the day to day issues around staying at home via our “The Proposal” WhatsApp. Then Simon joined in and soon we were sharing limericks regularly.

Then I thought that the rest of the members might like a bit of a laugh so I began to send it to people and back came a few poetic replies so we asked the replying poets to join us and that was when it exploded. From a couple of verses a day the talent just took off and there was no stopping it. We got beautiful verse /poems as well as the limericks and I had a wonderful time finding the appropriate cartoons to illustrate our efforts.

Various people said to me we should print it off so we had a souvenir of all our work. Light bulb moment. Why not print it so anybody interested can have a copy. My printer has given me a price of €12 per copy for an 120 page spiral bound book. If you would like to order one please send me the cash as I will only order copies that have been prepaid.

Those of us involved in “Project Stay Sane” a.k.a “The ”Proposalers” were Aileen ,Maria (Jackson) Luke, Donal, Simon, Rachel, Conall, Dermot, Julia, Lua and for a short while Claudia. We do hope that our writings amused the members of Dalkey Players which may soon have a sub- section “The Dalkey Wacky Poets Society.”

An archive picture of Maryanne Lyons (sister of Kevin) and her cousin Jay Murphy (whose mother Shelly has been Stage Manager on DP productions in the past). Sadly, both passed away within a short period of each other in late 2019. Thanks to Lua McIlraith (their Aunt) for the photograph. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanamacha.

How to Grow Old Disgracefully – Lua McIlraith

It is said that “Laughter is the best Medicine”. This show while not promising to be a cure for anything, will definitely raise your spirits as you figure out which of the geriatric topics applies to you, family or friends. So…. let the medicine work and enjoy fun, frolics and a touch of nostalgia.

G.O.D as I like to call it started life two years ago as a response to suggestions from some friends that I create another Cabaret Show similar to the after dinner entertainments I had done in the Promenade Café a couple of years before. I thought about it and came up with the idea of a show based on the problems of ageing. I had asked friends for suggestion for topics to be covered and arrived in Spain with a host of ideas. Two weeks later I had an hour-long show ready for work. Aileen Byrne had been midwife to the birth of the lyrics on our Spanish holiday so I asked her to be my production Manager/Director and then set about arranging an accompanist. Pauline Lennon came on board and suddenly there was a show and nowhere to go.

Dalkey Players were not doing the 3 Act circuit that year so I thought as we need funds for 2019 why not do G.O.D as a fundraiser so we started in the Lexicon with a sell-out performance which was very well received. I thought the show warranted doing again, so our second outing was to the new Whale Theatre in Greystones. It too was a resounding success and had obviously had great appeal to my own generation and their families. It also raised €1,500 for Dalkey Players.

Since then G.O.D has played in numerous theatres including Athlone Little Theatre in the 2019 Drama Finals Fringe Festival with a return visit in September last. It played in the Arts Centre in Newry and the Mill Theatre in Dundrum and other smaller venues. It is an easy show to produce and so lends itself to fundraising purposes and altogether in its two years of performance has raised approximately €5,000 for various charitable causes.

Covid 19 called a halt to its gallop but hopefully next January will see it rise again for a performance on January 8th 2021 in the John Field Room in the National Concert Hall. I will have that Poster changed to the 2021 date for next week.

Aileen Byrne – Back to Basics

The new year 2020 started full of optimism for Dalkey Players. Eurydice was on the road and a call went out to those not involved, to get together to plan activities for Spring 2020.

We first got together for Back2Basics on Tuesday 3rd March and the turnout was fantastic. An eclectic mix of members arrived, both long standing and new. Talented writers, actors, directors and more. All enthusiastic and looking forward to getting ‘stuck in’.

They brought with them an abundance of material to look at, both published plays and original writing. We had great fun that night reading a broad spectrum of the material. We talked about where this could go and looked at doing a collection of mini plays “Authors in search of an Audience” or maybe a ” Sketchathon”.

We agreed to meet again on Tuesday 10th, and another great night was had. But at that stage the impact of Covid-19 was becoming apparent and we feared that it would be our last night. This turned out to be the case and B2B Spring/Summer 2020 was put to bed.

However, it brought to light the wonderful talent we have for writing in the group and this is now being explored in our Thursday night zoom readings – Who knows where all this will go ???????

Thank You to Tom Mac Mahon

Tom Mac Mahon has been part of the Dalkey Players group for several years, supporting us in the background by procuring and maintaining sound equipment, and preparing sound effects. His work, sometimes late at night in the final days before production, has helped create those moments of magic that help light up productions and heighten emotion and drama.

This season Tom handed over his role as sound engineer/guru, but only after taking a number of members through a helpful tutorial on sound equipment and sound effects. He selected a new mixing desk to meet our needs, presented us with an apple macbook, and made sure we were well set up before he signed off. We presented Tom with a token of appreciation after the November run of Shadow of a Gunman.

Tom and his wife Máire will continue to attend our shows, and be warned, he likes to hear every word of every line. So actors, listen up: when you are doing your sound checks, think of Tom sitting two thirds of the way down the hall, and get the volume right!

Shay Linehan Remembered

Lorcan McEneaney’s trip Down Memory Lane with Shay

Dalkey Players lost an excellent friend, an innovative director, a charming actor and a world class playwright on 20 June 2019. Shay directed, acted and presented a wide range of plays during the fifteen years he spent with Dalkey Players. Our many members will recall working with him on new and innovative plays which Shay presented in those many happy years.

Shay first appeared as a “furniture remover” in Juno and the Paycock directed by Margaret Dunne. I had the good fortune to tread the boards with Shay. Although a very small part I can say the role grew as time went on. Making his presence felt before arriving on the stage was always fun and, in my eyes, was the highlight of the play. No doubt John Walsh will remember looking for his tailor’s tape prop which went “missing” on Holy Cross stage. Shay had turned it into a dog lead and we had a little fun – I presume I was the dog and Shay the master. This is how one survives the quiet periods as we waited for the main production of the evening – our play on the three act festival circuit. Unfortunately John noticed it missing and brought in the “powers that be” to restore law and order.

Just to jog the memories of our present and past members I will recall a few of the many wonderful events over those great fifteen years:

The Light in the Fridge for the Bray Festival – stirred the festival committee with some reason – John, Cork (as I called him) – the lead, Emma Jane Nulty, Michael Heavey – a fridge, Aileen Byrne – a cooker, John Walsh – a grandfather clock, myself – a television (with an antenna by the way! with Dr Phil on the airwaves). The question frequently asked was “what was the play about”? Shay promised the answer after the production at the reception in Ardmore Film Studios. His great response delivered with authority was “About 35 minutes”!

Shay directed Troubled Hearts by Maeve Binchy in the Town Hall. The public heard about the great night’s entertainment and filled the Town Hall to overflowing – with theatre goers being turned away. Maeve sent a magnum of champagne for our final night and attended an earlier night. Her great comment to the cast (assembled on stage as she sat in the second row) was “I never realised I thought so much about sex when I was a young playwright” – we must have done something right that night!

The Hostage saw Shay cast as a drunken Russian soldier – Ena May directed and, understanding the creativity of the cast she was dealing with, said “ Let your colleague know, in advance, if you are going to add to your role on stage tonight”. Shay, as the drunken soldier, might just decide to stand with his back to the audience and the hat turned front! as we lined up under John Walsh’s command. Geraldine and Shay tried to steal the show on a number of nights on stage right!

Under Margaret Dunne’s direction Shay was cast in the role of Father Jack in Dancing at Lughnasa in 2005- his time in Africa, where he worked for 25 years, influenced the portrayal of Fr Jack. Shay and Teresa emigrated to Africa where they spent 25 years of their early professional careers. He worked in Zambia teaching English where he set up innovative literacy programmes which were later adopted as policy by the government there. While in Africa, Shay and Teresa had two treasured daughters Naomi and Laura.

The many productions Shay presented included:

R uby Tuesday: Geraldine, Paul, Philip and Shay (as the mother – putting on the tights was the fun event for this production)

Kerry Plates: John Walsh (and Laura on the tin whistle)

Fed Ex Man: Paul Dignam

Shopping in Chains: Geraldine Mc Grath – (eventually to become Alice Devine)

Onions: Alan Nuzum

The Lotto: Emer Casey

Alice Devine: Brenda Mc Sweeney (Brenda I know you performed another monologue – the name I forget!)

How could we forget the early gestation period of The Cant when Emer Casey and others presented the gem of the idea in Dalkey Players at Shay’s request and under his direction.

Shay’s big playwriting break came in 2010 when he won the inaugural McGuire Prize in America for The Cant, a play about four members of an Irish traveller family. The play was produced by the Irish Classical Theatre Company, Buffalo, in September/October 2010, for an extended run, to great critical acclaim. Shay, his family – Teresa, Naomi, Laura – John Walsh, Margaret Dunne, and of course, Shay’s great buddy, Frank Allen and myself had the privilege to see a masterful production of the play in Buffalo, in upstate New York. The play was a lead production of a great theatre festival. I can recall the early rise the next morning to see what the theatre critics had to say about the production. It got a great reception.

No doubt Laura and Naomi will recall how, having made a quick trip across the border into Canada to visit the Niagara Falls, we were refused permission to return into the States. With the great Irish charm of Shay and Teresa’s very precious daughters the situation was recovered and we headed for a major festival dinner where there were, of the order of, 500 people. We arrived just in time having abandoned public transport – never a dull moment! Shay spent a period as Writer-in-Residence with The Irish Classical Theatre Company, thereafter.

These are just some of the many treasured memories I have of Shay, an incredibly generous friend and a wonderful family man. His two great words were:

Grand: when we agreed our weekly rendezvous in The King’s Inn for catch up on things theatrical and

Great: when he discussed any matter – his positivity was immense.

Shay was the essence of what amateur drama was about – generous to the core, fun and great craic!

Ní bheidh a leithéid ann arís!

Turning the Lights Back On – Emma Jane Nulty

So, we experienced it in Mountmellick. It felt like the rug had been pulled out from under our feet. We knew it was coming but thought we might get to Kiltyclogher and then have some results in. As Alan said as we boarded the van at 6:30am that morning ‘it feels like a war…… ‘.

As we stood together on the Mountmellick stage, cast, crew, and Festival Committee, listening to Leo’s announcement, which was then the beginning of events that have since unfolded, I felt vulnerable, responsible, disappointed, and determined all mixed up together.

Of course, the darkening of our theatres pale into perspective now as we understand the enormity of the Pandemic and sadly how many lives have been so affected by loss, by illness and by struggle.

Reflecting back, I can see how vital that friendship and camaraderie was. It was so present that day in Mountmellick. Differences of opinions were voiced, People had many different concerns and reactions. I stood in the middle of a band of people who had given their hearts and minds to a process to bring ‘Eurydice’ to the stage. And we had no choice but to walk away.

As I now represent Dalkey Players as a Board Member of the Drama League of Ireland, I am hearing first hand of the devastation of both local festivals and local community art and theatre venues across the country. Events cannot currently go ahead for all the right reasons. The damage is done, financially, socially, and emotionally.

However, people are safe. There wasn’t a choice. ‘The show must go on’ rings slightly hollow. It’s all about priorities.

Now though, we start looking and planning for the future. Zoom meet ups and skype rehearsals are now the rhythm of many groups; our own included.

New writing is coming to the fore. It’s exciting to see what we can do. It’s exciting to see so many members of both our Group and Groups across the country having an outlet for people to explore their creativity.

The planning has begun to look at the ways theatre can begin again. It helps enormously that our President names the sector as a core aspect of our society and that we need the Arts to connect, breathe, dream and hope.

Social distancing theatre view style will be a tremendous struggle for our theatre spaces to uphold. In order to stay viable, theatre spaces are looking now to be available to other options such as facilitating corporate meetings in their theatre space, 2m apart. This at least gives some financial income. Outdoor spaces might work with a drive-in type audience. We need to consider how we block movement on stage – monologues will no doubt, thrive.

The Circuit is special. It brings together a group of people to create. We depend on each other. We are exposed together. We learn and develop together. I can safely say I have made some of my most dearest friends from these times spent together. Memories of cold, dingy halls, sitting in suspense as the Adjudicator begins their deliberations, to the giggles, laugh out loud laughs, to the pressure cooker moments all mingle. Highs and lows. Hard graft and the sense of achievement that brings.

The One Act Circuit 2020 is now cancelled. This again, is the right decision. As we look to the future with hope for the time when we can mix and mingle without fear, all eyes our now on the 2021 Full Length Circuit. Time will tell. It is critical though, if it is safe to perform that we do. The maze of theatres and community halls that have given so much joy to Community Theatre over the years now needs us to be there.

Otherwise, we may well be looking at a time the lights are not just dark, but switched off for forever

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