Friday 21 July 2017

My cultural life: Annie Ryan

Annie Ryan
Annie Ryan
Otto Dix
Diane Arbus
Bette Davis

Annie Ryan is originally from Chicago and graduated from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, and became a member of Chicago's Commedia dell'Arte company New Crime Productions.

She founded The Corn Exchange in 1995, and many of the company's works were created in collaboration with her husband, writer Michael West, including Freefall, Man of Valour, Dubliners and most recently, Chekhov's The Seagull. Annie adapted Eimear McBride's debut novel A Girl is a Half-formed Thing for stage. She is delighted to be bringing The Corn Exchange's much-loved production Dublin by Lamplight to its natural home in Ireland's national theatre. It opened yesterday in the Abbey and runs until April 1.

Painter: Otto Dix

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Otto Dix
 

When I started training in the Commedia style in the late 1980s, I found the paintings of Otto Dix (above), German expressionist of the early 20th century, an inspiration. His characters depict a grotesque realism that helped me understand how to make a more heightened and theatricalised naturalism through make-up and physicality.

Book: Ulysses

Ulysses and Dubliners by James Joyce are my favourites, and inspiration for Dublin by Lamplight. Ulysses gave us both the framing of a day in Dublin in 1904 and the depth of detail and play of the present moment. Dubliners inspired much of the detail in the piece. Michael took the title of the play from the Protestant laundry for fallen women in Ballsbridge from the story Clay.

Photographer: Diane Arbus

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Diane Arbus
 

As a young actor in my teens, I was fascinated by the stunning intimacy and vulnerability of the photography of Diane Arbus (above). I think what drew me towards the Commedia style was a freedom to explore characters who were marginalised with extremity and humanity.

Play: Street of Crocodiles

Street of Crocodiles by Theatre de Complicite was true ensemble theatre of the 1990s. This strange and magical piece wove the writings and life of Bruno Schultz, a Polish writer who was executed by the Nazis. Michael and I saw it on a matinee during Dublin Theatre Festival 1995, and after weeping over pints, decided to stay for the evening show.

Film: All about Eve

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Bette Davis
 

All About Eve is probably the greatest movie that is set in the theatre world. It's about an ageing diva usurped by a young fan. My mother insisted I watched it when I was about 12, and I think it's made a permanent mark on me. Good old Bette Davis (above). Who can beat the line: "Fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy night"? Or this: "I'll admit I may have seen better days, but I'm still not to be had for the price of a cocktail like a salted peanut"?

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