Grow your own drama initiative

The Theatre Development Centre’s new three-week residencies provide the time and space for test runs of new work in Cork City, says Colette Sheridan

Grow your own drama initiative

THE expansion of the Theatre Development Centre (TDC) is a boon to theatre in Cork City. Established at Triskel by Corcadorca Theatre Company in 2011, the TDC is offering three-week residencies to theatre companies, in addition to the week-long residencies that are a fixture on the city’s cultural calendar and that culminate in public readings of plays-in-development on Friday evenings.

Artistic director of Corcadorca, Pat Kiernan, says: “When there’s an audience coming in to the TDC on Fridays at 6pm, there’s a mindset to show something. By Wednesday, the Friday performance is quite imminent. We’re giving companies a little bit longer if they need more time to work with their material.”

The three-week residencies will be available in March, August and December. Submissions will be assessed by the steering committee of the TDC.

The TDC is available all year round to the local theatre community. Prior to its establishment, theatre practitioners “never had a sense of a base in the city,” says Kiernan. “It’s timely. I very much believe that theatre activity is cyclical. There’s a burst of energy now, in terms of theatre, and the TDC is tying in with that. Since we set it up, there have been readings most weeks. I was aware of that level of activity in the city, but it was very fractured.

“Everybody seemed to be compartmentalised in terms of what they were doing, including ourselves. It took a bit of time to get the TDC going. I’m interested in working in a way where you have time to develop material. Now, there’s a place where people can be creative.

“Before, you had to move your stuff and be out of venues by 5pm. The TDC makes people feel that they are working artists and have control over the space. Work is shown to your peers, so that creates a community.”

In the past, Kiernan says, companies staged productions and only at the end of it would have known if it was worth doing or not. Economically, the low running cost of the TDC means it is viable to work on material before committing to a full-scale production.

The public reading encourages feedback from the audience. “The discussion afterwards is interesting for both the theatre-makers and the audience. A lot of the time, the audience is made up of theatre practitioners. That’s not set in stone and nor is it a criticism. But for every particular residency, certain people will go to the reading and won’t necessarily go to others,” he says.

A number of productions have arisen out of the TDC, including Life in the Venue, presented by Clinic Media in association with the Everyman, the touring Voices from the Cailleach, by Theatre Makers, Fred and Alice, at the Half Moon Theatre, and Lords of Strut, which will be touring in Australia this year. Corcadorca benefits from the TDC as it uses the space to develop work. “We’ve probably spent more time there than anyone else. Some of the early parts of our rehearsals are done in the TDC,” Kiernan says.

Advantageous as that may be, Kiernan says that as a funded company in the city, Corcadorca also has a responsibility. (Graffiti Theatre Company is the only other Arts Council-funded company in Cork).

“I want to know what’s going on in theatre in the city and to be a little more aware of who the actors and writers are,” he says. It’s about being connected and conscious of what talent is on the ground.

Last week, Kiernan learned that Corcadorca is to receive standstill funding of €160,000 from the Arts Council this year. “In the current climate, and given that there’s a 4% cut in the arts budget this year, that has to be seen as a vote of confidence. Obviously, it allows us to work again this year. We would have liked a bit more funding. But we’ll work with what’s possible.”

The company is hoping to produce Pat McCabe’s Stars of Bellair, which was work-shopped at the TDC last year.

Corcadorca is also considering staging a site-specific work.

Partnerships are important, says Kiernan. Last year, and in 2011, Corcadorca co-produced two Shakespeare plays (The Winter’s Tale and Romeo and Juliet) with the Cork Opera House. “We’re going to continue that relationship. In the current climate, it’s kind of necessary,” he says.

Further plans for this year include a showcase of work by companies and artists resident in Cork.

Scheduled for November, this initiative is intended to increase opportunities for practitioners and to serve as a platform for the wide range of work being created in the TDC.

“We’ll be trying to get programmers, and people from festivals and venues, to come and see what’s happening in Cork. Sometimes, it’s hard to get people from outside to come here, but if we can put on the work of, maybe, five different companies over a weekend, it would be like a repertory season. It will depend on what companies are interested in doing that. Even though there’s a lot of work in development, it’s still difficult for companies to go to full production,” Kiernan says.

Corcadorca has confirmed a diverse programme of workshops, which will run at the TDC during the year.

Tony Award-winning playwright, Enda Walsh (who started his career with Corcadorca), will work with a small group of aspiring writers, reading from his own work and discussing the writing process. He will set exercises for the select group, who will meet on May 25.

UCC drama lecturer, Marie Kelly, who was the casting director at the Abbey Theatre for six years, will lead a workshop on casting for theatre on Apr 27.

A workshop entitled ‘Playing for Your Audience’ will be facilitated by Louis Lovett, joint artistic director of Theatre Lovett, on Jul 27. There will be a two-day workshop on the ‘Theatre of Clown’, facilitated by Raymond Keane, artistic director of Barabbas Theatre Company, on Feb 2 and 3.

Also, there will be a one-day workshop for aspiring producers and companies/artists who want to learn more about working with a producer. Everything from budgeting to touring and networking will be covered. This workshop will be facilitated by Julie Kelleher and Kath Gorman.

The TDC has also formed a new partnership with the drama and theatre studies (DTS) department in UCC, and is hosting a series of talks on theatre by national and international practitioners.

Corcadorca is collaborating with UCC on the launch of a new platform for the creative arts and industries. The Creative Arts and Industries Platform (CAIP) will be launched on Jan 25 at the TDC. It will bring together a panel of guest speakers, representing a range of professions that require arts degree skills. During the day and throughout the evening, the event will feature the work of theatre practitioners, musicians, filmmakers and curators, many of whom are graduates of UCC.

Clearly, Corcadorca is engaging with the city in an imaginative and far-seeing fashion. Since the recession, the company has suffered funding cuts of €80,000. But it is looking ahead, both creatively and practically, in challenging times.

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