Artistic director Garry Hynes stays centre stage

Passionate life: Garry Hynes says she don't feel any less enthusiastic about life than when she was in her 20s.
Passionate life: Garry Hynes says she don't feel any less enthusiastic about life than when she was in her 20s.

Garry Hynes co-founded Druid in the 1970s, and is not going to stop and rest on her laurels yet.

GARRY HYNES must have encountered endless painted faces over almost four decades of working in theatre, but life is too short to be applying any cosmetics to her own, she says.

Heading towards 61 in June, the grey-haired artistic director and co-founder of Druid Theatre Company seems too comfortable in her own skin to bother pausing very long in front of a mirror.

“I’ve no patience for it. Life is for doing other things. As I get older, the more I realise life is for living and don’t waste a second of it,” she says.

“I’ve been very fortunate to have good health and, apart from my body aching at times, I don’t feel any different than when I was in my 20s — except to wonder where the time went.”

Time well spent of course — if life’s a stage, then the theatrical highlight for Garry must surely be the accolade of being the first female director ever on Broadway to win a Tony award in June 1998. But she glosses over the event, as if there is still too much yet to be done. “It was an unexpected pleasure — the cherry on the cake,” she says. “It was great to receive the award and to celebrate it but life goes on after that.”

Key to her current contentment is the fact her personal and professional roles have been so entwined. It’s fairly rare in everyday life to find people whose jobs are their passion; the enthusiasm spills over 24/7 into who they are.

She says she didn’t even know as a teenager what an artistic director was — not to talk of setting her life goals in that direction. After becoming involved in drama as a student in Galway University, she founded Druid with actors Marie Mullen and the late Mick Lally. And the rest is history.

That driven young person still lives inside her 60-year-old body: “I tend not to think about ageing as such, except to notice I have grey hairs and I’m not as light on my feet, but I don’t think any differently now, or less ambitiously, than back then. I am, of course, much more aware of time passing.

“One thing I’ve learnt is that it’s easier to look back afterwards and see the crossroads, the choices made,” she says. For instance, she never made a conscious decision to remain childless. “I always thought I would have a family. I never made the choice not to have kids, it just turned out that way.”

And though she won’t be swayed to talk about romantic partners, saying it’s too personal, she admits to having had “important people in her life... and I still do”.

One of life’s blows was the loss of her much-loved brother Jerome, aged 46, when she was 52. “He wasn’t ill — he dropped dead suddenly. It was utterly shocking. It is still very hard to understand.”

Each day is now precious — Garry says she is a voracious reader, hugely values family, loves to drink wine and spirits, socialise, cook, swim, and is happy to have kicked her “addiction” to cigarettes eight months ago.

Her father was involved in many activities up to his death at 84, and her mother, 84 this year, is still embracing life to the full — both “great role models.”

It’s no surprise that Garry is supporting the Active Retirement Trade and Tourism show in Galway on April 8 as she has no notion of calling a halt herself when she reaches the official pension age.

“I’m lucky that there isn’t a date out there that determines when I retire — from directing plays, as opposed to being artistic director of Druid. I hope to continue directing as long as I can usefully do it.”

n Garry Hynes is promoting the Active Retirement Ireland Trade and Tourism Show which is a free event for older people held at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Galway, on Tuesday, April 8, from 10am-6pm. www.activeirl.ie

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