This year as part of The National Neighbourhood drama facilitator Barry Morgan worked with Scoil Chiaráin in Glasnevin on a drama project. Over a number of weeks the students took part in workshops and devised their very own theatre pieces which they presented to staff, family and friends at an end of term show. Along the way there was a trip to see a show in the Lexicon and an access all area tour of the Abbey Theatre with a very special workshop on the stage of our national theatre.
Barry took a few moments to share his experience and reflections of the journey with us…
“When I first heard about this project I was struck by these words. “The National Neighbourhood”. They instantly gave me an indication of not only the focus of the project but also the ambition. How do we create that sense of community? How do we foster long term relationships between different groups? How do we make the nation feel like a neighbourhood? Looking back now at the end of the project, it is easier to see the process – Aim big, start small, take one step at a time.
I was asked to lead a short term drama project with Scoil Chiaráin in Glasnevin. From my very first meeting with the students I knew this was going to be a lot of fun. The school were incredibly warm and welcoming, both staff and students, and by the end of our first workshop I felt like part of the furniture. It is remarkable how brave and trusting the students were. A lot of people are nervous to participate in their first drama workshop (it’s only natural, drama is kind of weird!) but they jumped right in the deep end and were swimming in no time.
We began by covering the basics of Improvisation and Character Creation and quickly came up with the idea of hosting a performance for friends and family, so we set about devising some scenes based around the theme of Family. The pressure was on but we didn’t let that get to us, we aimed big, started small and took one step at a time.
I love devising with groups. It would be much easier to take a published play that works with an audience but I feel devising gives participants a great sense of ownership over the work. They collaborate and express something that matters to them in a creative way. This has numerous benefits in terms of personal and social development as well as mental health benefits and artistic skill building.
A very exciting aspect of The National Neighbourhood is connecting groups to local cultural institutions and our group was assigned none other than The Abbey Theatre. It is a great privilege, not only to work on the stage of The Abbey, but to be there for members of the group who had never been there before. It creates a connection and gives the participants a sense of belonging. Plus, since it is The National Theatre of Ireland, this theatre is there for them. It’s theirs. It was a great moment to witness.
Before we knew it, it was show time! The students at Scoil Chiaráin are filled with talent and creativity so we organised a variety show which included, Singing, Acting, Drumming, Piano recitals and much more. To see the support from the friends and family was brilliant, but even more striking was the shock from parents at the hidden talents of their kids. After the show, one parent spoke to me about how the fearlessness of his son inspired him. The work we do isn’t about chasing these moments but they are nice when they come along.
The whole project went by in the blink of an eye but there are aspects that will last longer – The connection between the students. The connection between the students and myself. The connection between Scoil Chiaráin and The Abbey Theatre. These are small pieces of a much larger project and if the other groups had a fraction of the success we had, the nation will feel like a neighbourhood in no time.”
Drama Facilitator – The National Neighbourhood
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This project was made in collaboration with drama facilitator Barry Morgan in partnership with Dublin City Libraries and Archive, the north west area office, City Arts Office, the Abbey Theatre and the National Library of Ireland.
The National Neighbourhood is a Dublin City Council Culture Company programme. We build cultural projects in community settings. By connecting artists, groups and villages with libraries, museums and creative places, together we are creating, connecting and exploring across Dublin city.