Theatre judges are waiting in the wings: THEATRE takes a while to get going in January, following the frenetic pace of autumn, and last-minute decisions on State funding. This year the question mark hangs over cultural activity in our unravelling State, but there are still plenty of theatrical plans in the pipeline.

While the winners of the 2008 Irish Times Theatreawards are announced on March 1st, this year’s judges are already out and about; Sara Keating continues as a judge, and is joined by Ian Kilroy and Bernadette Madden.

Ian Kilroyis a writer, journalist and lecturer in the department of journalism at DIT. Arts editor of the Irish Examiner for four years, Kilroy has been an occasional contributor to The Irish Times, Sunday Tribuneand Magillmagazine and has written for Irish Theatre Magazine. His play The Carnival Kingwas produced by Fishamble in 2001 and toured nationally. In 1997, he completed an MA thesis on national theatres in Europe, at NUI, Galway, where he also worked in stage management and in the literary department at Druid Theatre.

Sara Keatingis a freelance theatre critic and arts writer. In 2006 she received a PhD from the Samuel Beckett Centre, Trinity College for her research on 20th-century Irish drama. She teaches contemporary Irish drama at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Dublin.

Bernadette Maddenwas born in Dublin and has worked as a painter and printmaker since graduating from NCAD. She works mainly in batik, an ancient Asian method of dyeing fabric using wax as a resist. Madden exhibits regularly in Ireland and has had solo shows throughout the world. An interest in theatre has led to her work being used on stage and in film, the largest piece being a 50m silk batik for a Gate production of Shaw’s Heartbreak House.

Cork 2005 feels the pain

Mahler and Haydn will be lost to Cork following the Arts Council’s abolition of its grant of €110,000 to Opera 2005, writes Mary Leland. Describing the company as “still reeling” from the shock, board member Dan Byrne says it is appealing the council’s decision, which has led to the cancellation of a production of La Bohèmebut also to the loss of additional funding from Cork City Council (€50,000) and Cork County Council (€25,000), as they depended on a production schedule.

The county grant has been used for Opera 2005’s educational programme, which this year was to be based on Haydn’s The Apothecary, a light-hearted opera written in 1768 for the opening of the new Esterházy opera house in Hungary. Artistic director Kevin Mallon discovered a performance had been conducted by Gustav Mahler in Vienna; the scores and parts were located and Mallon had permission to use Mahler’s own performing materials for the production. Along with the part-time opera chorus and orchestra, Mallon himself is now in a contractual limbo, although the company is not being wound up and plans a resurgence if its appeal is successful. Byrne says it has no capital, but fund-raising continues in the hope of a revival in 2010. And in the kind of musical chairs which keeps much of Cork’s cultural life going, Opera 2005’s administrator Eithne Egan has moved to fill the gap left at the Cork Midsummer Festival by festival manager Dyane Hanrahan’s maternity leave.

Things are tough all over: a 20 per cent Arts Council cut from €35,000 to €28,000 has prompted the usually stalwart Cork Orchestral Society to beseech supporters to take out annual membership to attend its beguiling programme of concerts, including a complete performance of Haydn’s The Seasonson March 21st. Over at the Everyman Palace (whose grant was cut by €40,000 to €250,000), the situation is being met with an impressive self-imposed reduction in first-night ticket prices to €15 a head. The programme includes, with unintended irony, a one-night visit by the Opera Theatre Company with Handel’s Xerxes.

“We launched a student offer back in 2006 for €7 tickets, which took off, resulting in many more students at shows, and by extending a low-price option to everyone, theatre will become more accessible,” says the Everyman’s Sarah Dee.

Children’s theatre prize

Top-notch art for children seems to attract great audiences. There’s quite a network developing here, from the Ark in Dublin and the increasing children’s festival circuits bringing top work to younger audiences, to dedicated children’s theatre companies, including Barnstorm and Irish-language puppet company Fibin. Of course quality work is pricey to produce or import and so can be pricey to bring a family to, but that’s another story. The demand for quality and the writing and producing skills needed is there.

In putting together a theatre programme at the Imaginosity children’s museum in Sandyford, Dublin, CEO Orla Kennedy was aware of a gap in theatre for children. So she and writer/director Peter Sheridan have launched a competition to encourage more writing for children’s theatre. Judges Sheridan, Kennedy, actor Victoria Smurfit, children’s writer Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick and Fishamble artistic director Jim Culleton are looking for stories that appeal to children up to 10. Sheridan says: “I am looking for imagination, humour, emotional engagement, good characterisation and writing that deals with contemporary concerns of children.”

The competition is open to over-18s, the deadline is March 13th and the winner will be announced on March 30th. The winner gets €1,000 (€300 for second and €200 for third) and while it isn’t guaranteed a production, Imaginosity will have the first option to it. Details at, e-mail: or 01-2176130.