STAYING busy is often a problem for people involved in drama. It’s not something that’s bothering Mountshannon playwright and actor Siobhán Donnellan these days.
Her latest play, Made to Measure, has just been chosen as one of four in the inaugural Scripts Ireland Festival.
Short plays were submitted from across the country for the Scripts Ireland Festival and four were chosen by renowned playwright and screenwriter Eugene O’Brien, who was behind critically-acclaimed TV shows Eden and Pure Mule.
Siobhán is also acting in Mephisto Theatre’s production of Eclipsed, a play about the Magdalene Laundries, which is running at Galway’s Town Hall Theatre until the end of August.
From Mountshannon, she said a Clare woman is behind Eclipsed.
“It’s about the Magdalene Laundries so it’s very topical. It’s by a Clare native, Patricia Burke Brogan. She moved to Galway and she was studying to become a nun in a Magdalene Laundry and saw what was happening, so she decided to leave.
“She wrote a play about it and the first time it was produced was in the 1990s. It’s been translated into more than 50 languages since then and it has won a number of awards and been all over the world.”
She plays one of four ‘penitent women’ in it and says there’s a level of humour that belies the misery of the subject. “While the theme is quite dark, there is an awful lot of humour in it as well. It’s a very entertaining play.”
Regarding the Scripts Ireland Festival she said, “It’s a new festival that’s going to be based in Birr Arts Theatre in Offaly. It’s called Scripts Ireland and they were looking for 10 to 15-minute scripts on the theme of home. I just had an idea and wrote my play, which is called Made to Measure.
“It’s about a tailor and a female undertaker. It’s really an unlikely love story. They’re both kind of odd in their own ways and through the death of his mother, they meet each other and I suppose it’s really about their love story.”
The four plays selected were taken from almost 60 entries.
Siobhán, who went to secondary school in Scariff before going on to study in Galway, has been writing for a few years.
“The first play was one I co-wrote for the New York Fringe back in 2010. That was my first venture into playwriting and it was called For The Birds. I was primarily acting up until that point and I thought it would be great to try and generate work for myself.
“After that, I suppose I had the confidence to break out on my own, so I wrote a follow-up one-act for the Cork Arts Theatre writers week awards. It was called Chasing Butterflies and it was shortlisted. I produced it and performed in it and it won three production awards down at the Cork Writers Week in 2011.
“I wrote one other one called The Mire, which I was commissioned to write by Birr Arts Theatre and Jasango Theatre. They wanted a play with an environmental theme and they had seen Chasing Butterflies and In The Garden and asked me would I be interested in writing a play for an environmental festival in September of last year. I wrote one around the theme of the bogs of Ireland.”
Two of her works, In The Garden and Chasing Butterflies, have since become radio plays.
The Scripts Ireland Festival will run from September 8 to 15. She said the four plays selected will be tweaked for a few days before a public reading.
“They’re having a playwriting workshop with Eugene O’Brien for three days and actors and directors will be brought in. The playwrights won’t be involved in the acting or directing process, we can stay objective from that. We’ll sit back, watch it being read and watch the development process and go home every evening and redraft based on notes from Eugene and each other and from what we’ve discovered throughout the day.
“There’ll be a public reading then on the Saturday night. It’s the first time that I’ve written something that I won’t be performing myself. That’ll be a strange departure for me but I’m really looking forward to it too.”
Procrastination is a problem for many writers. Siobhán freely admits she needs a deadline to get motivated.
“If it was left up to myself and I didn’t have a target, I don’t know how productive I’d be. When I heard about Scripts Ireland and knew when it had to be submitted, I started working towards that. That’s what I’ve done all along. I find that deadline inspirational.”
She lets ideas float around in her head before she really gets down to work.
“A lot of my writing happens in my head first. I could be going around with an idea and trying to piece it together for a couple of months before I put it on paper but hopefully when I do sit down to do it, a lot of it will come out together.
“It’d be great to be disciplined enough to sit down and be at it and at it but I’ve to let my subconscious do a certain amount of the work before it’ll actually happen for me on paper.”
Obviously, writing drama and acting are very different. She has a slight preference for the latter.
“They offer different things. I love acting, love performing, that’s what I get the biggest reward from. But performance is one of these things that happens and when it’s over, it’s over but your writing sustains.
“It can be picked up at any point in years to come. They both offer different things but I do love the buzz of performing,” Siobhán concluded.