Interview With Breda Healy and Cork Writers Week, first published in The Evening Echo 2014-2-17

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The Cork Arts Theatre’s Writers Week, which helps both new and established playwrights, runs from 18 to 22 February. The manager of the event, Breda Healy, spoke with Ronan Leonard and explained it’s importance, “we believe very strongly in supporting new and advanced playwrights and reserve a large portion of each year for original works.”

Breda explained the year of planning that goes into the event; “an open call was put out for submissions last February with the deadline at the end of June. In total we had 38 entries from around the world but mostly nationally. A panel of experienced readers shortlisted 6 plays for production, 3 in each the established and new category. An open call was then put out for directors/actors in October, and after the panto season all involved were ready to begin rehearsals.”

She pointed out that Writers Week doesn’t just involve 6 writers “between cast, crew and staff there are over 50 people involved in the six shows, all the productions are performed on a voluntary basis, I can’t wait to finally see the fruits of their labour up on stage.”

Mark Evans, the writer of ‘The Light Keepers’, has been a wordsmith for many years, “once I learned the basics of writing I just kept penning the ideas that pop into my head – from essays in school to a novel, ‘Mrs God’, I published last year. I wrote my first play back in 1998 with an idea I had during a creative writing course.”

His contribution is a commentary on contemporary society, “my play was borne out of concerns that we are giving technology too much power over our lives. Everywhere you look, there’s a teenager transfixed by a smartphone or an adult glued to social media. Experts fear we are getting dumber because we leave thinking to computers. We’ve put all our knowledge eggs in the Wikipedia basket and why waste time thinking when you can simply Google everything? My two characters represent the old-fashioned way and the new-fangled way – the clash of cultures.”

Mark firmly considers Writers Week the reason he ever wrote for theatre, “without this competition I would never have written a play in the first place. It offers a chance for anyone to see their plays come to life, and even if they don’t get shortlisted for production the judges give brilliant advice on each and every entry.”

Dorothy Ahern, the writer of ‘Tomato Ice-Cream’, also showed her appreciation for the opportunity to take part, “it definitely helps, the fact that they take care of the whole production side of things, finding directors, actors and everything else needed to stage the play takes a huge pressure off. The judges give valuable feedback to the writers at the workshops, I think this is a wonderful generosity and it is very encouraging for anyone interested in playwriting.”

That support is felt throughout Ireland, as Ciara Cassoni, who wrote ‘Dope’, explained “I am very lucky in that I am a member of a really supportive Drama Group, Navan Theatre Group, and they have given me the opportunity to put on my work. Apart from that though, Cork Writers Week is my first foray into getting my plays seen outside of the group. My confidence has held me back in the past but I feel more validated now because I’ve been short listed for Cork Writers Week.”

Dorothy also felt that validation after her previous involvement, “I was involved just once before, I won the award for new writers last year, which was very encouraging for me. My entry this year is about a couple, Cormac and Michelle, who invite Cormac’s boss and his wife over for the evening, hoping to impress and get a prestigious promotion, it doesn’t quite go according to plan because of the presence of Michelle’s brother.”

Mike O’Dowd, the writer of ‘Apocalypse Please!’, also qualified in 2013, he described this years entry as a drama about a group of five friends who have a party on the Eve of the ‘Mayan Apocalypse’. When one of the group plays a rather nasty trick on the group, dark secrets are revealed and relationships become unravelled and rebuilt over the course of a single evening.”

While theatre isn’t his main focus, Mike values the opportunity to hone his skills, “because I’m a student of film, I would take my cues more so from screen rather than stage writing. I’m a big fan of the work of Judd Apatow, because within the mix of all that gross out humour, there’s a real raw honesty to his characters that often reflect the sort of conflicts that you would find in everyday human relationships.”

For more details go to http://www.corkartstheatre.com or call 021 4505624. You can see all 6 plays over 2 nights for only €15.

Wednesday 19 and Friday 21 February
‘Apocalypse Please!’ –  Mike O’ Dowd
‘Dope’ – Ciara Cassoni
‘Molly Malone’ – Vera Cait Walsh

Thursday 20 and Saturday 20 February
‘The Light Keepers’ – Mark Evans
‘The Death And Legacy Of The Other Pearse’ – David McGuire
‘Tomato Ice-Cream’ – Dorothy Ahern

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