Grace Dyas: 'Do nothing until you know exactly what to do'

Theatre maker Grace Dyas talks to Kathy Sheridan about speaking out, even when it scares you

Grace Dyas also talks about her theatre productions which tackle the thorniest of subjects. Photograph: Alan Betson

Grace Dyas also talks about her theatre productions which tackle the thorniest of subjects. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

“I am constantly afraid. I think I suffer with fear more than other people,” says Grace Dyas.

Last October the theatre maker and activist initiated a storm in the theatre world when she accused the former director of The Gate, Michael Colgan, of inappropriate behaviour in a post to her blog.

On the latest episode of the Women’s Podcast, she tells Kathy Sheridan she didn’t take the decision to go public with her story lightly.

“My thing was to do nothing until you know exactly what to do,” she says.

Dyas spoke to a mentor who told her to write down everything about her experience with Michael Colgan. She did and it came to 8,500 words.

She then sought advice from outside her theatre peer group, eventually speaking to a lawyer who condensed it to 3,500 words, which she then published on her blog.

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Dyas says she knew there would be legal ramifications for any newspaper publishing her account, but that as an individual she had less to lose.

“Me on my own, I didn’t have those risks. I don’t own anything and I also felt, I’ll just do this and hopefully it will start something that will mean that the risk would be less for other people if they want to write about it going forward.”

After Dyas published her blog, her email inbox became “a vehicle for mass disclosure” and more women came forward with their own allegations.

The Gate Theatre has set up an internal inquiry, headed by Gaye Cunningham of the Workplace Relations Commission, examining the allegations made against Mr Colgan.

However Dyas, one of more than 70 women working in theatre who have expressed their concern with the inquiry in an open letter, says the report must be made public if there is to be real accountability.

“It would mean that the new director [Selina Cartmell] would have some weight to be able to say, ‘ok, we’re going to implement these changes’, and hopefully it would restore trust in the institution with the public. That’s a really important thing for me. I want The Gate to survive this. I care about The Gate and I care about the people who work there now,” she says.

Also on the podcast, Dyas talks about her theatre productions, which tackle the thorniest of subjects.

Her first piece, Heroin, debuted in the Dublin Fringe Festival in 2010 and her most recent work, Not At Home, puts voice to the stories of women travelling for abortions. Next month, her new show about the Magdalene laundries, We Don’t Know What’s Buried Here, will premiere at the Civic Theatre in Tallaght.

You can find all our podcasts on www.irishtimes.com/podcasts

Subscribe to the twice weekly Women’s Podcast: iTunes, Android and Soundcloud.

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