2018 to Date
Further down is a detailed biography from the 1980s up to 2017. Some of those projects continue. This account begins, however, with a number of more recent awards and commissions, post 2018.
- Bursary 2018-2019
- 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”.
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. Included writing and directing a play for family audiences; community workshops and a large-scale street arts event celebrating the work of noted photographer JJ Clarke. For a detailed narrative and images see County Monaghan Residency 2018-19
Public Art Commission: Fingal 2019-21
- Commissioned under the Fingal County Council ‘Infrastructure 2’ Public Art Scheme Co-Productions Strand. The initial proposal was to create a series of performances in 3 coastal places. This evolved into “The Green Belt Initiative”, working for 12 months during Covid on Zoom with 16 volunteers from the communities of Lusk and Rush, moving offline in July-August 2021 to culminate in a large outdoor festival “Momentum 2021” with over 100 participants presenting theatrical work at 25 sites in the East Fingal region. See Infrastructure II: Fingal Trilogy 2019-21
I am a native of County Monaghan, now living in Fingal, who entered the theatre profession during the 1980s when I was in my mid-20s.
Since 2010, I have been freelance, having worked prior to this within a range of arts organisations. I was Artistic Director of Upstate, Drogheda from 1997 to 2010. Key work as writer/director there included The Border Chronicles Trilogy 1997-2007 (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 Elizabeth 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 projects 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.
Before all that, 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).
As a freelance practitioner (2010 to date) I have written and performed a one-man show The Dubliners Dilemma, based on ‘Dubliners’ by James Joyce, directed by Gerard Lee. This show premiered in 2012, and has toured extensively in Ireland and overseas and is still occasionally performed at festivals. ln 2016, I wrote and directed The Big Fellow, based on Frank O’Connor’s biography of Michael Collins, which premiered at the Drogheda Arts Festival that year and also toured extensively in Ireland and to India.
In 2018, I presented a work-in-progress at Draíocht, Blanchardstown, “Epiphany”, (later re-titled “Falling through the Universe”) a solo piece based on James Joyce’s “The Dead”. The full show was due to premiere in June 2020 but deferred as a result of COVID 19. “Falling through the Universe” will now premiere at Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin, on January 6th 2022. When the original dates were cancelled, I was pleased to receive a commission instead from the Bloomsday Festival to create a home-made documentary about my Joyce work which was hosted by the festival online and widely viewed.
In the “Collaborations” category, I directed a solo play, Bronte, a Portrait of Charlotte, performed by Sharon McArdle in 2017. I have subsequently collaborated with Sharon on a long-term programme of performance-based research into the life and works of Dundalk-born writer and revolutionary Dorothy Macardle: full details here. Other freelance work has included writing and facilitating 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, (Monaghan County Council 2012) 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. During Covid lockdown I facilitated and directed with Aisteoirí Muinchille (Cootelhill Players), creating a collective Zoom Drama called The Pilgrims of Slieve, broadcast online in March 2021.
In the Education sphere, I have taught at the National University of Ireland Galway (2010-11) and with New York University (Biennial Graduate Study Abroad Program 2006 to date). I have also taught at Dundalk Institute of Technology. In 2018, I was appointed to the panel of Creative Associates under the Arts Council’s Creative Schools programme. I am an approved instructor on the Teacher Artist Partnership programme (Dept of Education) and have worked as artist-in-residence in a number of primary and secondary schools.
I have sat on a number of boards, working groups, committees and panels for diverse arts organisations including chairing the Abbey Theatre Outreach Education Working Group, and board membership of Garter Lane Arts Centre and Grapevine Arts Centre Ltd. (City Arts). In 2021, I stepped down after seven years from membership (including 2 years as Acting Chair) of Draíocht in Blanchardstown. I am also co-director with Joe O’Byrne of Co-Motion Media, a recent “reincarnation” 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 and on RTE Digital in 2016. 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 October 2021
One thought on “Biography”
Welcome to the web Declan – about time too 🙂