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Keeping the theatre light shining

Living

GET CREATIVE Why not use these housebound days to write a story, monologue or poem for the Westport Town Hall Theatre’s virtual stage?

Westport Town Hall Theatre’s new initiative Solas Sessions is open to budding writers

Anton McNulty

Superstitions are engrained into the life of theatre and a series of rituals are very much part and parcel of the industry - and not to be ignored! Everyone in the industry knows that saying ‘Good Luck’ to someone before they go on stage will put the kibosh on their performance before they begin. Hence the phrase, ‘Break a Leg’ is used instead.
Another well-known superstition is that all theatres are haunted and at least one light is left on at all times over the stage to ensure the space is never left in complete darkness to appease their particular ghosts.
Since March 12, the ghosts have had the run of theatres the length and breath of Ireland after they were all closed to the public to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Westport Town Hall Theatre may only be open five years but like all theatres it has its ghosts, and not wanting to upset them, they have come up with a novel initiative of ‘keeping on the light’ while keeping some theatre activities available to the community.
Unable to put on any shows in this Covid-19 era, Westport Town Hall teamed up with writer and drama facilitator from the Gaiety School of Acting, Donal Courtney, to create ‘Solas Sessions’.  Budding playwrights and artists are asked to come up with a monologue, poem or piece of drama in the hope of having it performed on the virtual stage.
“It is a way of keeping us connected with our community, our audiences, our patrons and our artists, to keep the light on – hence the name Solas Sessions,” Rosaleen Heraty, Manager of Westport Town Hall told The Mayo News.
“We wanted a platform where our artists can produce work by means of writing a short monologue, a bit of poetry, some prose. I brought Donal Courtney on board due to his expertise in drama and theatre, and performing, and we both said ‘let’s put out the feelers’. Solas Sessions is for anyone who already has experience writing or wants to try their hand at writing. We will take the piece and work with them [writer] and ultimately the piece will be performed on a virtual stage through Westport Town Hall Theatre’s online platform.”

Westport regular
Actor Courtney, who hails from Killarney, is a professional actor who has performed his critically-acclaimed one-man show ‘God has no Country’ in Westport on three occasions. A recording of the show is currently being shown on the Westport Town Hall website each evening at 8pm until this Friday, May 15.
Donal has trained and mentored many well-known actors including his fellow Killarney native, Hollywood actor Michael Fassbender, and will be on hand to guide and advise participants throughout the process. Rosaleen explained that they have had a good initial response from the public and hope that Solas Sessions will unearth some hidden talent.
“We have got a great response, we have pieces of writing coming in from professionals and amateurs and people who have never written a piece before in their life and want to give it a go. I have had phone-calls from people who have never done anything like this before but they have had a lot of time lately and they have come up with a little piece and asked if they can submit it. Stuff like that is brilliant and gets people thinking outside the box just like we are in the town hall.
“With the Solas Sessions someone might like to write a short piece first and then maybe add to it and down the line when we open we will have a good few proper shows. Artists can get their name out there and come out of this with a show under their belt and ready to perform.”

Word count
It is envisioned that any written piece to be performed should be no more than 1,000 words in length and Rosaleen hopes that Solas Sessions will help revive the era of the Seanchaí with stories to inspire and entertain.
Rosaleen explained that Solas Sessions will also be an opportunity for local actors to perform the finished product which will be performed in the town hall. The virtual performance will be free to view on the town hall website but Rosaleen said donations would be gratefully received to support the town hall and the artists.
With theatres unlikely to open until August at the earliest and with a limited capacity to adhere to social distancing, Rosaleen says the artistic community have to remain positive and hopes the Solas Sessions will help with that positivity.
“It is going to be very hard for theatres, cinemas, pubs ... any performance venues where you will have a lot of people in one room. We will be the last places to get back on our feet. But at the moment we are trying to keep the future bright. We are keeping hopeful and positive with things like the Solas Sessions and we are keeping in touch with our artists and community. That is really helping us have hope for what will come down the line.”

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Anyone interested in submitting a piece for Solas Sessions should contact the theatre via email: info@westporttheatre.com or call Rosaleen directly on 085 8779796 for further details. More information also available on the theatre website www.westporttheatre.com.