Rathfarnham Theatre Group (RTG) has not allowed the current pandemic to curb its enthusiasm!
We have taken lockdowns and restrictions in our stride and simply moved online. This new virtual drama world has presented us with many challenges. We grappled with the basics of downloading the Zoom App, joining a Zoom meeting, turning on and off our videos, and muting our sound. Once we were comfortable with this and had overcome our initial ‘screen fright’ we started reading monologues and two-handers, which were ideal for Zoom. As we got more confident, we started experimenting with virtual backgrounds and discovered they were a lot easier and cheaper to put up than our usual sets!
We had ‘Wildcard Nights’ when anyone who wanted to perform could do a piece of their choosing - a poem, a monologue, a song, a reading. Some performers really got into character and got very creative using whatever they had to hand at home to assemble some very imaginative costumes. A white hairband and black blouse was transformed into a nun’s veil; a black pillowcase became a headpiece for one of the witches in Macbeth; a scarf was ingeniously twisted into a hat for Richard III; and we even had a barrister’s wig crocheted complete with curlers wrapped in wool for the sides! The beauty of Zoom is of course that you only need half a costume - so the three witches in Macbeth could happily wear their leggings and runners in the knowledge that they wouldn’t be seen by the virtual audience!
Our next venture was a Writers’ Workshop facilitated by Gavin Kostick, from Fishamble Theatre Company. Gavin outlined the basics of how to go about writing a script and participants were asked to write a short play of no more than 600 words and submit it to be critiqued at the second workshop. This proved hugely successful, with twelve of our members putting pen to paper and submitting a play. These tiny plays provided us with fantastic material to work with. We read a few of the plays each week, giving other members an opportunity to act them out, and we had a discussion about the play afterwards. We are now embarking on another venture to give members a chance to develop their directing skills. Carmel Cullen, who has been directing plays for RTG for many years, will be facilitating a Directing Workshop for the group this month. We are hoping that this will give some of our budding directors the courage to try their hand at directing some of our tiny plays with a view to rehearsing and performing them in the new year. Watch this space ....
In November we did a rehearsed reading of The West Clare Railway -v- William Percy French. The reading was performed by kind permission of Tish Dunleavy, founder of Leitrim Percy French Society, who wrote the play to commemorate the centenary of the death of Percy French. The performance was directed by our very own Phil Fitzpatrick and we were delighted that Tish was able to join us on Zoom for the rehearsed reading. We thoroughly enjoyed performing this very entertaining piece and hope that we brought Tish’s writing to life with our interpretation of her very lively court setting!
In December we performed The Excise Man, a three act comedy by one of our stalwart members, Cass Guinan and directed by Carl Lusby. Great fun was had both in rehearsal (all on Zoom) and on the night, with the ducking and diving of the men in the Ferris family, trying to escape detection by the Excise Man, on the lookout for illegal poteen stills.
In 2021, apart from continuing with our readings and workshops, we are also planning two special productions. Maria Burke King is directing Eden by Eugene O’Brien and Anne O’Connell is directing The Approach by Mark O’Rowe. These are two wonderful plays by two very talented Irish playwrights. We have performed Eden via YouTube on 24 March and will present The Approach for an invited audience, virtually or otherwise, in Autumn 2021, depending on public health advice.
While the virtual world of Zoom has kept us going through these strange times, there is really nothing to replace live performance. Like all drama groups across the country, we can’t wait to get back on stage to perform for live audiences. But, in the meantime, we’re using our time to learn new skills, keep drama alive, and most importantly, to connect with all our members.
Rathfarnham Theatre Group