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June 7, 2012

Dispatch from Dublin on Easter

UMS
By UMS

Editor’s Note: Mary Roeder works in Education & Community Engagement at UMS and is also our resident jet-setter and theater expert. We’ll occasionally feature some of her adventures here on the Lobby.

[Note from Mary: I started writing the blog post in April, after making a promise in March that I would do it. I ignored it for much of May and here it is now June. It’s a good thing I don’t rely on getting paid for my thoughts—a penny or otherwise, else I’d be homeless by July.]

The month of April flew by (pardon the pun, even though I’m the only one who gets that this is a pun at this point). Maybe it had something to do with crossing time zones a few too many times, spending a bit too much time above 30,000 feet, and definitely waaay too much time in JFK’s Terminal 2. I’m not complaining though. I had a whirlwind month of travel that took me to, among other places, Dublin, New York, Montreal and Austin, Texas. Would you like to hear a little bit about what I did and what I saw? Rhetorical questions are so much fun!

Easter in Dublin!

I have been trying to get to Ireland for awhile. To say I have romanticized the heck out of this place is an understatement. Well, I finally made it, and I really couldn’t have picked a better time. Thanks to the alcohol ban during the Easter weekend, I got to see what the city looks like underneath all of the clichéd debauchery I’ve been programmed to assume is ever-present. It’s definitely risen to the top of my list of favorite places…you know, the ones where you just breathe a little easier and sort of resonate at the same frequency (the Oregonian Portland reigns supreme on this one). Add in the fact that I had my own personal tour guide, a local who also has a penchant for the theater/re, and it was a pretty fantastic weekend all around.

I landed early Good Friday, hopped aboard the Airlink express bus and made my way into the city where, thanks to a mercifully early check-in, I promptly fell into a deep jetlag coma until 1pm local time. That night I saw Pan Pan’s production of A Doll House (note the lack of the ‘s after Doll is intentional). Pan Pan is a Dublin-based company that, according to co-founder Gavin Quinn “is interested in…[making] theatre like the French model of theatre art, as opposed to the craft of making theatre.”

I first saw Pan Pan this past November when our pals down in Columbus at the Wexner Center presented their show, The Rehearsal, Playing the Dane (note that I’ve checked the OSU/U-M rivalry at the door. The arts build bridges, people). The cool thing I remember about seeing that show at Wex (other than the fact that there was an actual Great Dane onstage) was that it was littered with references to Beckett’s Endgame which UMS had just presented a couple weeks prior—and thank goodness, because I certainly wouldn’t have gotten it otherwise (note that there was another pun there. The stage in the second half of the Pan Pan show was covered with trash cans. Littered. Anyone?).

Ok, back to A Doll House. I saw this show in the Smock Alley Theatre, which, from what I understand, is the oldest officially sanctioned theater in Dublin. There’s a fascinating history to the building spanning centuries. The theater as it currently exists is brand new—A Doll House was actually the first show housed in the new space, so needless to say, I feel really lucky to have been there.

I would return to Smock Alley the following evening to see a performance by a young theatre collective called Collapsing Horse. Their puppet/comedy/musical production of Monster/Clock had a charming handmade feel, and featured Jack Gleeson of HBO’s Game of Thrones fame where he plays the role of a seriously annoying young prince.

The third production I saw was Alice in Funderland, produced by THISISPOPBABY at the Abbey Theatre. Oh, my…where to start on this one. Alice in Funderland was the first musical to be produced at the Abbey in 20 years. Those of you who know me are likely well aware of my complete and total aversion to most musical theater. Most. There are a few select asterisked members of the genre for which I have great affinity, and I loved this one more than I care to admit. I can actually still hum the main thematic tune, and could even sing a few words if pressed (please don’t ask though). As the title suggests, it’s a take on Alice in Wonderland, this version’s heroine a girl from Cork who visits an unhinged version of Dublin inspired by contemporary Irish life. I have to say, a fair bit of the most laugh-inducing moments escaped me, references to parts of the Irish experience I as an American couldn’t truly understand, but it didn’t matter. It had me at its disco ball/club beat-infused entr’acte, and if I could be a bit further convinced that its message could stand more universally outside of Ireland , I’d be first in line to bring it stateside if ever the opportunity arose. Check out this video interview here with its creators and some choice excerpts featuring my favorite character (I think he was everyone’s favorite character, actually).

Montreal and New York and Austin are going to have to wait. My hands are cramping.

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