The cast traveled to Tullmore, Wexford and Kerry to attend weekly theater rehearsals in Dublin. On other days, the group met via Zoom.
“Some travelers don’t have a wide range of experiences because they haven’t been given the opportunity to practice or engage in the arts,” said producer Mary McDonagh, explaining the novelty of an artistic project that took place in Dublin this week. came up with a performance. Carmelite Center.
McDonagh has a background in community development and is an advocate for travellers, and is a traveler himself. Through an Arts Council grant, the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown local launched acting and development workshops, exposing commuters to the performing arts.
Nine weeks of acting workshops culminated in a performance on Thursday evening attended by industry representatives from the Abbey Theatre, Moonfish Theater and Movie Extra.
McDonagh points to the number of plays and films that cast non-Travelers in Traveler roles as inspiration for his workshops.
“We are here. We just need to look and listen,” he said.
Sarah McDonagh (no relation to me) from Rathfarnham modeled at a young age but had never acted before. With Mary’s encouragement, he decides to try it and finds it delightful.
Although nervous about last Thursday night’s performance, Sarah hopes it will give her and others opportunities. “It’s a great group of people that I’ve been with and they’re absolutely brilliant. The talent that we have between us is amazing.”
By connecting Traveler artists with professionals, Mary McDonagh hopes future productions will include Travelers as talent and behind the scenes.
“It’s kind of sad that there’s not enough funding and opportunities for people like us in the traveler community and other communities. I mean people who don’t have the opportunity or don’t get a foot in the door like everybody else,” Sarah said. said
Practicing on Zoom was not ideal. Often there were synchronization problems or one actor would step over someone else’s lines. One woman had never used this technology before and found it frustrating. Ultimately though, Zoom proved invaluable to a traveling acting group that spread across Ireland.
Ballymun native Tom McDonagh (no relation to Mary or Sarah) began his acting career last year when he was approached to play a passenger who takes his own life. Although she had no interest in acting, she accepted the part to shed light on suicide in the Traveler community.
“For me, because it was suicidal and it was a personal message, I was happy to get it out there,” Tom said. “It was a roll-off from there. Whatever comes my way I take it and let it go.
Passenger suicide rates are six times higher than the general population, accounting for about 11 percent of all passenger deaths.
Due to recent suicides in the community, some participants dropped out of the workshops. Others had work commitments that prevented them from continuing. The reduced cast decided to do three short scenes to best showcase their talents.
Amy Murphy from Co Offaly is the only non-traveler in the group. Driving his girlfriend Kayleigh to and from rehearsals, he was soon invited to join.
“I had no experience and no interest in acting, but then I came across Mary and from then on I was very interested,” Murphy said. “I can’t wait to get on stage and give it everything I’ve got.”
Apart from developing acting skills, the workshops have helped build confidence and given participants a chance to have some fun.
Rather than stressing the process, Mary says, “It’s more important to laugh, be yourself and be comfortable with others who share the same interests as you.”
Martin Mahon, from Co Kerry, had a background in theatre, although he admitted it had been a long time since he had performed on stage.
“It was an opportunity to work with Mary because she is doing so much that is going to make a big difference to the community for years to come,” he said. “We’re hitting it at the right time and we’re going to meet a lot of interesting people. This group was an amazing opportunity for me and everyone to build their reputation and find out if they’re meant to be in the acting game. Or not.
To teach an acting workshop, Mary brought in Thomas Connors from Wexford. Connor, an accomplished actor who has appeared in films in Ireland and America, is directing a play in Galway as well as producing a short film that will run from September 28 to October 3. But after several actors dropped out, he agreed to fill in as an actor.
“Mary helps everyone in the community, so I’m happy to do this,” Connors said. “There’s nothing like it for commuters in Wexford.”
Despite the success of the workshops, Mary wants something more permanent, so she’s starting a traveler-led arts group called Triple-T “The Traveler Theater.”
“Because it’s a traveling theatre, I’m hoping to bring it all over the country. But I’d also like to have a central location for rehearsals and workshops,” she says.
She is looking for funding and other theater groups to partner in the production. She adds: “Every now and then someone is doing a project and asking travelers to come in, but I want it to be a permanent fixture so it’s an everyday thing.”