Q&A With The Dream Team: Sarah Ahern (Graphic Designer)

Who are you/what is your creative background?

I’m Sarah Ahern and I’m the graphic designer for How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Gardaí. I studied Visual Communications at the National College of Art and Design (NCAD), before taking some time to work as a freelance in design, film/TV and theatre. Last year I began studying at the Gaiety School of Acting (GSA), which I love.

How did you meet Lili/what was your first impression?

I first met Lili while we were volunteering at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival (JDIFF) together. The best way I can describe my first impression of her is as a warm, bubbly and intelligent person. I also noticed that she often doesn’t comment unless she has something to say. Which I like.

How did you get involved with Lili’s play?

After JDIFF I set up a writer’s group with a bunch of the other volunteers. Lili was a steadfast regular, always with great ideas and generous feedback. It’s nice to know that I was one of the first people to read Lili’s idea. I know how important the story is to her and it’s been amazing to watch it transform and grow from a room in a café to a Broadway show. You realise the amount of time and dedication that goes into nurturing a show. Like a paper baby.

Did/do you connect with Lili’s plight? Have you any personal experience with immigration laws/the Gardai either directly or indirectly?

I have lived abroad, in Canada, but I didn’t experience any immigration difficulties. I can identity with how living in a new country is a challenge in itself, you are removed from the people you know, your comforts are jolted. It’s exciting and difficult at the same time, your mind and body are adjusting to a new world. I can imagine how isolating it must’ve been for Lili standing in the airport, as far as she knew, about to be deported: removed from old and new familiarities, standing in an unfamiliar airport room. It’s a cold scene. In a single moment one person decided to exert their control and mark Lili’s profile.

Authority, in my experience, is intimidating. There’s an automatic guilt. I don’t know whether the person in the airport took advantage of their authority or if they were just following their training. But I worry about how rules and regulations are created and enforced. The tolerance to it is concerning.

Ultimately, this show is important to me because I am Lili’s friend. I can see how her experience has altered her stay in Ireland. This play is unlike another news report or an article, it’s a personal experience. I hope that when you see Lili on stage you will identity with the individual and her journey.

What was your initial response to the play as performed as a work-in-progress in Collaborations?

Excitement. It’s wonderful to see something grow.

How did you feel when finding out the play was going to be on Broadway?

At first the idea felt very distant! Suddenly the whole project became bigger although the idea hadn’t changed. It’s been fun to be a part of a show that will experience a different audience on the other side of the world. I’m thrilled for Lili, Amy and Malu and all the hard work they have put into making it happen.

Has it been difficult arranging everything from a distance?

I think I got off easy on this one. My concerns are all digital. The ladies have done a stellar job of the logistical difficulties of the show.

Tell us about the Indiegogo campaign and how that idea came about.

Crowd-funding is so popular now, it seemed like a smart idea. I really like the idea of it: you promote your target and people you know, friends-of-friends or complete strangers can choose how much they want donate. They might get a little prize back from the campaign, but there’s a nice pay-it-forward mindset to it.

Any other ideas for fundraising/promotion to come in the future?

There are posters and flyers and an active social media campaign. I know the girls will be working hard once they arrive in NYC, spreading the word on the ground. We also came up with an idea for some hashtag badges which will be given out: “#FreeLili” and “#StandWithLili.” I am all for Lili trending on Twitter.

What else are you working on creatively?

I’ve just finished some branding work for Ofegus Theatre Company. At the moment I’m working on a solo piece as actor/writer with director Amy Fox, and with thanks to the Dublin Fringe team. I’m also in the middle of roles for new shorts The Lost Art of Charm and Revolution, and am part of an ensemble working on a devised piece at the GSA with director Dan Colley.

By George, we’ve done it!

Thanks to all of you, our wonderful supporters, the first show of How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Gardai is now completely SOLD OUT!!

We are beyond grateful and SO excited to have a second date to show New York what we’re made of. The second date is October the 28th at 7.30 pm. If you haven’t yet bought a ticket to see the show, do it now! If you have and want to see it again, feel free! Otherwise, tell your friends, your enemies, strangers you meet in the street – let’s kick this ball as far as it will go!

http://unitedsolo.org/us/2013-howilearned-oct-28/

 

Q&A With The Dream Team: Amy Fox (Director)

Who are you/what is your creative background?

Hi there. I’m Amy Fox and I’m the Director of this play. My creative background is that I’ve been involved in theatre, dance and singing since I was very young. I went on to study Performing Arts and Theatre studies in Swansea Met. University and completed my Masters in Theatre Production last November with The Gaiety School of Acting and National University of Ireland, Maynooth. This Autumn I take up a Directing Mentorship with Fishamble – The New Play Company and The Pavilion Theatre in Dún Laoghaire.  My key areas of interest lie in work that is visually interesting. I’ve had a long time love affair with dance of all types and I love seeing how the text can be married with movement on stage. I like well written text, devised pieces, interesting musical scores, stage design that invites the audience in, site-specific work; the list goes on! Needless to say theatre is my real passion in life.

How did you meet Lili/what was your first impression?

I met Lili in late in November 2012. Lili’s play had been chosen to be part of the ‘Collaborations Festival’ produced by The Jack Burdell Experience at Smock Alley Theatre in Dublin the following March. I had been involved with the festival the previous year and had applied to get involved again as a Director. So our mutual friend Emily Elphinstone contacted me to meet with Lili to see if we could ‘collaborate’ on her show for the festival! I saw a first rough draft of the script over Christmas and had decided to come on board as Director once we both felt that we could work on the show as we had a similar understanding of where the story was going.

My first impression of Lili and her story was that I was pretty taken aback by her treatment by the Immigration officers and that I was pretty intrigued by the unfortunate sequence of events – I knew that her story was unique and that we could bring that to life through an interesting theatrical re-telling. I thought it was also pretty exciting to get involved with this play and the festival as a platform for our joint collaborative work.

Did/do you connect with Lili’s plight? Have you any personal experience with immigration laws/the Gardai either directly or indirectly?

Yes I did connect with Lili’s situation on a universal level. It’s never a pleasant experience to feel that your life or free will is being threatened by forces out of your control.  I should explain that I’m Irish (for the readers out there!) I was born and raised in Dublin and have been lucky to travel to many countries over the years and live abroad. However I’ve never directly experienced any immigration issues like in Lili’s case. I’ve been fortunate over the years to always have had good experiences with the Gardaí here in Ireland. So I was very curious to do more research into a department of my police force that in reality I’ve never dealt with. Even more curious to know more about it from a native’s point of view and if in doing the play and this research, help Lili and the audience understand why Immigration is such a difficult thing to go through.

What was your initial response to the play as performed as a work-in-progress in Collaborations?

Good question! It’s hard to gain a clear objective response as we worked on it so closely and for about two and a half months on and off before the performance dates. That might seem a huge amount of time to spend on putting together only 25 minutes worth of material for a ‘Work in Progress’ showing. However we were both working on other projects too during that time so our rehearsal and production time was quite broken up. I think also it allowed us the time to get to know each other as people which is quite important when collaborating on a personal story. I was happy that we got the story to where it needed to be for that showing in March. I was very proud to have our work shown and get good & constructive feedback which has helped us grow as theatre makers.  Now I can appreciate how far we’ve come as friends, collaborators and how time is a very important factor in the story too.

How did you feel when you found out the play was going to be part of the United Solo Festival in NYC?

In a daze! Slightly overwhelmed and thrilled – I’d just returned from a holiday in Spain and Lili sent me a very exited message saying to meet up. The turn around was incredibly quick – once we found out, we had to make some snap decisions and return paper work etc to the festival. I think in total we got the invite to participate and then the ‘official green light’ that we had been accepted to the United Solo Festival programme in about 6 days! Seemed like a very crazy week. Lili then returned to the States for a family event so we couldn’t fully ‘reunite’ for our first production meeting for the show for a little while…which meant I was very slow to actually tell anyone at home! It might seem crazy but it’s taken ages for the reality to sink in. I think by mid-August I’d let my friends and family know. They are all very excited and supportive for me and the play.

Has it been difficult arranging everything from a distance?

Again another tough question! I guess that we knew it was going to be hard in relation to the distance from the United Solo Festival venue and festival Team being based at Theatre Row in NYC. Like most things really when you’re starting something totally new you try your best with the resources you have. We’ve a wonderful team comprised of Liliana, myself, Malu Bremer & Sarah Ahern. Between the four of us we’ve been able to use our own individual skills, contacts and friends to get the ‘show on the road’.  The power of social media, email and the sense of ‘connectivity’ online is a thing of wonder! It is possibly much easier than ever before for us to communicate queries to the festival through email as ringing them isn’t essential.  The only odd thing is of course trying to remember about time zone differences and having fun trying to calculate accurate times to contact people.

Malu in collaboration with Lili and myself, has been the catalyst behind the dramaturgy of the script into its current state. Malu’s ideas added new flavour to the existing script from March but catapulted it into a now fuller theatrical experience. The storytelling aspect is very important and we hope that there’s some interesting surprises in there for the audience.

Sarah is a very talented photographer and graphic designer and has helped with designing all aspects of the show’s promotional material. Again having people on board who have amazing ideas that bring things in a new direction really help challenge your own limitations and open up your creative thinking.

Tell us about the Indiegogo campaign and how that idea came about.

At the early planning stages myself and Lili chatted about doing a crowdfunding campaign to help with the production costs that would enable us to get the play to NYC without having to sell our organs on the black market! We looked into the various options for FundIt based here in Ireland then the other U.S. based platforms Kickstarter and Indiegogo. In the end the best option after we’d weighed up all the pros and cons of each version was to go with Indiegogo and thankfully it seems like it was the best option. We’re thrilled that even with a few days to go that people are still being so generous and funding the campaign. We have reached our target and I can’t say how thankful we are to be in this wonderful and fortunate position.

Any other ideas for fundraising/promotion to come in the future?

Yes there are promotional posters and postcards being sent to the printers very soon. We’ll do more photos, some vlogs and blog more…generally try and keep people up to date as the rehearsals intensify and the time draws closer to leaving for NYC and the show going up.

What else are you working on creatively?

As I mentioned, in September I take up a Directing Mentorship with Fishamble – The New Play Company with The Pavilion Theatre in Dún Laoghaire which is my local theatre. Fishamble are a great theatre company who focus on new writing. Their Director Jim Culleton is someone I admire creatively and the company’s long running reputation as an award winning production company is something to aspire to personally. I have a few projects that I’d like to work on myself and perhaps try writing a new play for Collaborations for March 2014. I think that I may also form my own collective/ theatre making company going into the New Year. I’m hopeful that there’s still many many projects and great people to collaborate with in the near future like my experience has been with this show and meeting the ladies through this project.