Monday 22 April 2019

Local actors prepare for 'Sligo Acts'

Jessica Farry

In 2018, the Hawk's Well Theatre ran the very first 'Sligo Acts!', a programme for local people who want to try their hand at acting on stage. It was a huge success, so much so, that they have decided to run it again this year.

Maeve McGowan, Marketing Manager at the theatre explained to The Sligo Champion: "The idea was to get people in Sligo acting, we've been running acting courses over a number of years, six week courses.

"They started off with Bob Kelly teaching them, then Jean-Marie Perinetti and now Isabel Claffey has been running the classes, since September. What happens is, people do the courses and they get in touch and say 'I really want to get on stage' so we thought we really should do something.

"Last year we put this programme together and we had 40 actors. It was a huge success, it was a fabulous night. It was a lot of work, rehearsals over six weeks were quite intensive, particularly coming up to the end. Numbers are a bit smaller this years, I think last year we had so many people who had done the courses over a few years were dying to do something."

There are 13 people from last year's programme taking part again this year, that includes Maeve herself.

"I'm in it. The reason I wasn't in it initially was because of the commitment. It's different to being in a choir where you go once a week, you do have to rehearse quite a lot. I said I wasn't going to do it this year but then somehow dropped out. But it is great fun," she said.

There are 24 local actors participating in this year's Sligo Acts under the direction of Isabel Claffey, Julie Sharkey and Niall Colleary.

The theme of this year's show is love. Isabel explained where she got her ideas from.

"When we sat down to talk about the theme and where you can go with it. It seemed like a nice idea to look at love not just from the romantic sense. I'd done lots of research of love letters and love stories and things like that and I felt like there would be stories within the group that would be any bit as interesting. I decided that it should come from the group. Everybody brought in love stories, either their own or somebody they knew, a relative or something or a place they loved.

"It was hard work, especially because the people who are involved have not really done anything like this before. I had to be really careful to not put something in that maybe they would feel ok about sharing within the group but not on the stage. We kept it relatively light. It's a bit of a celebration with a few 'feeling' bits in the midst of it."

Last year Isabel focused mainly on radio plays, so this year it has been slightly different for her.

"This year it's been a very different process. We built up trust very quickly. Getting the actors to open up on stage and physically is quite different and can be quite daunting, especially for Irish people. It comes from improvisation and trust. Almost side coaching and allowing them to try and bring it out of themselves rather than having a teacher and student approval dynamic," she said.

She added: "You notice a change in people as the weeks go on. The biggest change is seeing how they interact with each other."

She wrote her own play for the show.

"The premise is that they've all sent in entries to a valentines competition on a radio station called Notion FM and they were supposed to send in their love story and their favourite song. It turns out that through a glitch they all got an email saying they won the competition and so they're all in the airport, through the play they're all telling their love stories."

The Hawk's Well's 'Sligo Sings' programme has proven very popular, which lead to the inception of 'Sligo Acts'. Giving local people a chance to get up on stage is a vital part of what the Hawk's Well is about.

"It's something we've noticed here at the theatre. There's a real vibrant scene here . People love to be involved, they love being in stuff. There's loads for children but there's not an awful lot for adults. We've found when we do Sligo Sings, Sligo Acts, we have an orchestra as well for adults and people just love it because it's an opportunity to be creative, and to explore creativity.

"This is all about local people coming up here on stage. For the people in it, it's a bit daunting because for some of them it's their first time on stage. We have to encourage them now because there will be a lot of work done in the last few days.

"We're a touring venue so we're a venue for all the professional groups who tour around the country and we're so busy but we're very much rooted in the community and have been for a long time. These projects are really important. It's a way for younger people to get involved in drama."

Isabel added: "When we do the acting classes, on the first night, where people are on stage they love it. That sense of play and fun, who thinks that you should lose that when you're not a kid anymore."

The cast features the following: Andrea Best, Anna Durkin, Aine Cryan, Beatrice Schmid, Ben Flood, Daria Byrne, Eimear Finnegan, Elaine Doherty, Emer Regan, Helen Cantrell, June Hunter, Kate McGoldrick, Katherine Lenehan, Keith Smylie, Maeve McGowan, Marian Sullivan, Margaret Kilmartin, Mar Healy, Melinda Swann, Patricia Hegarty, Patricia Lyons, Paula Martin, Siobhan O'Farrell and Tom O'Sullivan.

Sligo Acts:Love! takes place on Sunday 24th of March at 8pm at the Hawk's Well Theatre. Sligo Acts has been partially funded by MSLETB.

Tickets are €15 & €1 renovation fee and are available from the box office on 071 9161518 or

Sligo Champion