In 2010 I left my position as Artistic Director of Upstate Theatre Project after 13 immensely happy years, and embarked upon the uncertain life of a freelance theatre maker. At times between 2010 and 2015, I wondered if I had made a dreadful mistake, as the work tended to be sporadic and exhausting, and investment was not forthcoming during a time of austerity and political indifference. In 2017, I formalised my increasingly diverse practice under the umbrella of Declan Gorman Arts & Events, distinguishing between my own self-generated projects (mainly compact works for touring) and collaborations (covering public art, education partnerships and select work with fellow artists). In an improved economic and cultural environment, and with luck and a little tenacity and strategy, things have improved. This account begins with recent awards and commissions, and then a look-back overview:
AWARDS AND COMMISSIONS 2018 – present
Theatre Residency: County Monaghan 2018-19
- Appointed Theatre Artist in Residence, County Monaghan, jointly hosted by Monaghan County Council, Garage Theatre and Íontas Arts Centre – funded by The Arts Council (additional supports from Creative Ireland). Duration 16 months. For a detailed narrative and images see County Monaghan Residency 2018-19
Public Art Commission: Fingal
- Commissioned under the Fingal County Council ‘Infrastructure 2’ Public Art Scheme 2018-2025 – ‘Fagrland: A Fingal Trilogy’: 3 performance projects in collaboration with communities from Skerries, Rush & Lusk and Balbriggan, deferred from 2019 – commenced Spring 2020. This project has continued online during the period of COVID 19. See Infrastructure II: Fingal Trilogy 2019-21
- Awarded Arts Council Theatre Bursary and Fingal County Council Artist Bursary to develop new solo performance projects including Falling Through the Universe, based on James Joyce’s “The Dead”.
Other key work in the 2010 – 2020 decade has included writing and performing a one-man show The Dubliners Dilemma, based on ‘Dubliners’ by James Joyce, directed by Gerard Lee, premiered in 2012, widely toured in Ireland and overseas and still occasionally performed at festivals. Then, in 2016, I directed my own new play, The Big Fellow, based on Frank O’Connor’s biography of Michael Collins, which premiered at the Drogheda Arts Festival that year and has also toured extensively in Ireland and to India. In 2018, I presented “Epiphany”, (later re-titled “Falling through the Universe”) a follow up solo work-in-progress based on James Joyce’s “The Dead”. That was due to premiere in June 2020 but deferred as a result of COVID 19. Instead, working with my 17-year old daughter Mona Gorman on a domestic cine camera, I created a 50-minute Lockdown documentary about my Joyce work which was hosted on YouTube and Facebook for two weeks by the 2020 Bloomsday Festival and widely viewed.
In the “Collaborations” category, I directed a solo play, Bronte, a Portrait of Charlotte, performed by Sharon McArdle in 2017. In January 2018, with Sharon, and at the invitation of artist Constance Short, I collaborated on a staged reading for 8 actors of Ann Kavanagh at the Dorothy Macardle Society’s “Unrepentant Propagandist” event in Dundalk Old Gaol. Arising from this, working alongside actor Sharon McArdle, I began a long-term programme of performance-based research into the life and works of Dundalk-born writer and revolutionary Dorothy Macardle. (Full details here.) Previous freelance work has included writing and facilitating a number of large scale public art and drama projects, including The Road to the Battle (Creative Spark Dundalk 2013), The Common People (Iontas Arts Centre, Castleblayney 2012) and I Love Mullaghmatt, (FRC/Monaghan County Council) as well as directing the European premiere of The Hijabi Monologues, (2014) a co-production of Axis Arts Centre, Dublin; The British Council and The Immigrant Council of Ireland.
In the “Arts-in-Education” sphere, I was appointed in 2018 to the panel of Creative Associates under the Arts Council’s Creative Schools programme. I also undertook training and was appointed instructor on the annual Teacher Artist Partnership programme (Dept of Education). Since 2006, I have led a biennial masterclass with New York University in ‘Devising and Writing for Theatre’. I have also taught at the National University of Ireland Galway (Applied Film, Writing and Performance) and Dundalk Institute of Technology. More info on my work in the Arts in Education sector is here.
As noted above, I was previously Artistic Director of Upstate, Drogheda from 1997 to 2010. Key work as writer/director there included The Border Chronicles 1997-2007- a Trilogy (Hades – 1998; Epic – 2001 & At Peace – 2007); my adaptation of Patrick Kavanagh’s The Green Fool and a translation of Gerhardt Hauptmann’s The Weavers. Other directing included Liz Kuti’s adaptation of Paul Smith’s The Countrywoman, John McArdle’s play for children Two Houses and Shakespeare’s Macbeth. During that 13 year period, I worked closely with colleague Declan Mallon, developing policy and methods in the area of community-engaged theatre and was co-facilitator on several of Upstate’s regional programmes including The Crossover Project, a ten-year cross border arts initiative, and later the Louth International Theatre Project – involving residents of County Louth drawn from 15 countries.
In earlier career phases, I was Co-ordinator of The Arts Council’s Review of Theatre in Ireland 1995-96; Theatre Programmer at Dublin’s City Arts Centre (1990-95) and a co-founder and performer with Co-Motion Theatre Company, Dublin (1985-90). In the late ’80s – early ’90s, I was also active in a voluntary role for 2 years with Parade of Innocence, a series of large scale public theatre and protest events in Dublin and globally on human rights and miscarriage of justice cases.
I have sat on a number of boards, working groups and committees for diverse arts organisations and movements, including chairing the Abbey Theatre Outreach Education Working Group, and board membership of Garter Lane Arts Centre. I am currently Acting Chair of Draíocht Arts Centre in Blanchardstown. I am also co-director with Joe O’Byrne of Co-Motion Media, a new incarnation of the 1980s Co-Motion Theatre Company, and in 2018 produced the 25th anniversary tour of the company’s Frank Pig Says Hello, written by Pat McCabe and directed by Joe O’Byrne.
For anyone interested in a more colourful account, detailing the highs and the lows of a life in the independent theatre, you might enjoy a blog published on this site in 2016 and subsequently re-published on RTE Digital. It was written at a time when the effects of the recession were still quite immediate. I am pleased that the note of optimism struck at the end of the essay has been borne out by events! Behind the Biography: Careering through the Arts.
Updated Dec 30th 2020.