'Every day is full of drama'
Mary Moynihan teaching one of her drama classes at the Conservatory of Music and Drama at DIT in Rathmines
MONDAYIn the heart of Rathmines village, just next the library, people from age three to PhD gather each day to perform and create. It’s the Conservatory Music and Drama at Dublin Institute of Technology, the largest provider of music and drama education in Ireland. It’s where I work. As I walk through the corridors on Monday morning I can hear music, singing or the spoken word coming from every corner of the building.This morning I am lecturing first-year BA drama students. Actor training is at the core of the programme, but rigorous academic demands, including scholarly research and written analyses, underpin the work. Many of our graduates go directly into working in theatre, film and television including work with the Abbey Theatre, RTÉ, London’s West End, the Royal Shakespeare Company and Smashing Times Theatre Company.
On Mondays I teach three modules in acting, movement and drama facilitation based on the work of Stanislavski, Michael Chekhov, Yoshi Oida and Anne Bogart, among others.
Working physically in an empty space with 19 students for three hours is intense but exciting. The students are encouraged to take responsibility for their own creativity and to learn how to connect and work with their own instincts and impulses as they develop their body, voice and imagination. The focus is on developing actors that are open, free, not disturbed by anything, very vulnerable, can communicate freely, and create real human spirits in the playing space with a profound sense of depth and truth that touches the audience emotionally.
I am directing the final-year graduating drama production, which is Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. The show runs at the Samuel Beckett Theatre in Trinity College from February 27th to March 2nd. It’s often described as the western world’s greatest love story. It is also a play about the failure of adults to create a civic society that respects difference and tolerance and refuses to allow our lives to be ruled by hatred and prejudice. The story of the feuding Montague and Capulet families is as fresh and relevant today as when Shakespeare created it. Today we have a 12-hour rehearsal. We begin by doing warm-ups to prepare the body and voice and then work on character development.
Shakespeare’s characters are compelling, showing humanity in all its virtues and vices. Acting is about creating truthful responses to fictitious stimuli and connecting on an emotional and visceral level as we create the life of the human spirit on stage. Shakespeare was writing for a sophisticated audience drawn from all classes of society. His plays were the rock concerts of their day and audiences expected entertainment and to be emotionally engaged. That is also our objective today.
I am artistic director of Smashing Times Theatre Company. Its work is underpinned by a rights-based approach and a commitment to social engagement. I start the day with a call with Freda Manweiler and we discuss the Memory Project, which uses drama and theatre to promote peace and reconciliation.
First year drama students from DIT recently took part in a Smashing Times project called Artists for Civic Action in partnership with five other countries. The students were involved in a theatre procession on Grafton Street as part of the UN Day for the Eradication of Poverty. They have also taken part in Smashing Times projects in the area of positive mental health and suicide prevention.