Talking to Four (Female) Irish Playwrights

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09/18/2009 1:00 PM |

M. Burke Walker, formerly the artistic director of the now-defunct Empty Space Theatre in Seattle, directed all five. I spoke to four of them a few hours before their opening:

Belinda McKeown, author of Fugue, lives in New York and contributes to the Irish Times. She has short hair, an engaging, determined tone.

Rosalind Haslett, author of Gin in a Teacup, has a blond ponytail, a strong Northern accent—she’s from Derry—and a quiet wit. She has completed her dissertation—which looks at play development methods—and will defend it in October (when she will also turn 30).

Lucy Caldwell, from Belfast in the North, has long straight hair. Her voice is breathy and soft, playing in counterpoint to the clarity of her statements. Her play is titled The Luthier.

Geraldine Arons, at fifty-something a bit older than the others, who are mostly in their thirties, has an elegant blonde bob and accent that sounds Londonish—it’s where she now lives. Her play is titled Miracle Conway.

Unfortunately, Rosemary Jenkins, author of The Lemon Tree, could not make it to New York.

Throughout, the playwrights supported one another with “hmm” and “ah,” nodded, laughed, and leaped off one another’s comments.

The L Magazine: Are you excited, nervous, elated?
Rosalind: I’m excited. One of the reasons I was really keen on was that it was all female playwrights from Ireland, which is an unusual thing and a really positive one as well.

Geraldine: I’m very excited. I sound like Facebook.

Lucy: Having five different writers spreads the pressure.

Geraldine: Absolutely. I’ve never been more relaxed.

Lucy: It’s really hard to see your own work, at this stage, if it’s just your play it’s really hard to be objective. You sort of oscillate between thinking it’s terrible, and thinking it’s abysmal. The other plays are like sister plays… we all had the same brief, the same length, the same set.

Belinda: Sometimes a prompt can be limiting, but this one actually allowed me to do something with a piece I’d been carrying around for the last three years.

The finished play… I hope it’s finished… departed quite a lot from that piece but it was the story of an Irish man in New York whose building had burned down. I literally had cut it out and I’d emailed my editor about it, I write for the Irish Times, and I emailed my editor pitching it as a possible story and nothing really came of that… it was just sort of in my head all the time. When George suggested this idea it kind of clicked into place.