I'm very excited to announce that a project I've been working on will premiere in Dublin, Ireland, January 14-17, 2016, as part of the First Fortnight Festival. The work is a solo performance written and performed by my colleague and friend, Jenny Macdonald, a Canadian by birth who's lived and worked in Ireland for the last several years as an artist and arts facilitator.
Jenny's piece, called Enthroned, tells the story of a young woman's quest to discover her path in life, and it uses the language and imagery of folk and fairy tales to construct a metaphor for this very personal journey. Jenny asked me to work with her as a director and dramaturg on the development of the piece, and it's been a powerful learning experience for me. Mostly because I've had the privilege of watching an artist who I respect dig deeply into a personal story without becoming indulgent or precious about her work.
Before we started working on this performance project, Jenny and I knew each other for about six years through our work together on an NYU study away program. We had never collaborated in this capacity, but Jenny had an instinct to ask and I had an instinct to accept. We spent two weeks together in a rehearsal room in New York City in July, working through the first half of the play. Then we reconvened in Dublin in November for five days of workshopping the second half. Now, we're Skypeing, Whatsapping, and texting our way to her premiere on January 14.
Jenny and I will be joined in Dublin in January by Troy Hourie, a Toronto-based scenographer and installation artist who is helping us to create a visual performance world that includes artifacts from Jenny's journey. All of this comes together on the campus of St. Patrick's Hospital, Ireland's largest independent, not-for-profit, health service. Jenny will perform in a former chapel, now gym facility, that we'll transform into a performance space. It's site-specific literally and site-specific therapeutically, as the First Fortnight Festival features work that explores the intersection of art and mental health.
A few months before Jenny approached me about working with her on this project, I'd made a decision to stop directing and focus on my own writing. But something about the project intrigued me, I think primarily because I sensed that Jenny would approach the solo performance differently, and she has done just that. I've learned a lot from Jenny and from our work together, and I'm thrilled to collaborate with the team of artists she's assembled on both sides of the Atlantic. Good lesson for me. It's fine to hone in on what I want to accomplish, but not at the expense of blindly turning away from opportunities that provide space to grow. That's not always easy to know in advance, but listening to my gut seems to help.
Follow the First Fortnight Festival on Twitter @firstfortnight and stay turned for updates from Dublin in 2016!