Participation and access are central to the ethos of both ANU and CoisCéim as companies. Through CoisCéim BROADREACH and ANU ENRICHMENT, people are invited to engage directly with the work and artform itself in meaningful, substantial and rewarding ways. Projects and initiatives are coherently connected to the performance programme, allowing participants to permeate the subject and confidently define their own creative response.
As part of THESE ROOMS in 2016, under the overall direction of Philippa Donnellan, CoisCéim BROADREACH and ANU Enrichment designed and delivered 38 WOMEN, which included multiple opportunities for people to engage including a class and performance participation project for all ages and a special Archive Box workshop series at the National Museum of Ireland, Collins Barracks.
‘We live by the stories we have about our lives; they shape our lives.’ (Bearing Witness; Katherine Ley, 2010)
Your turn, your move – your word. What experiences have shaped your life? How have they changed you? 38 WOMEN was a class and performance project that drew upon the powerful themes of THESE ROOMS. Involving over thirty women of different ages from across Dublin and beyond. The participants took part in dance classes and exploratory movement sessions. Guided by the choreographer, the participants collaborated to invent new narratives and varied physical imagery in a process drawing from personal experience and utilising text, sound, and visual material. 38 WOMEN culminated in three performances by the participants on 3 and 4 December 2016 at National Museum of Ireland, Collins Barracks.
This element of 38 WOMEN considered the aspect of Collins Barracks as the repository of nations’ stories through the archives it holds within its walls and explored the importance of objects in history.
The first part of this project was led by Brenda Malone, curator in the National Museum. She selected three boxes of historical objects from the museum. The first box contained objects donated by Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington documenting the life of her husband Francis Sheehy-Skeffington. The second box contained objects belonging to Hannah donated by her family after her death. And the final box was a selection of wartime propaganda donated by members of Cumman na mBan following the Easter Rising. The objects in each box represented the different ways they chose how they wanted to be remembered in history.
In preparation for the second part of the Archive Box Project, the participants of 38 Women were asked to choose one object each to represent how they would like to be remembered in 100 years time. This workshop, facilitated by Leanna Cuttle, then explored the memories and importance that each women associated with their chosen object. Building on the movement created from these memories, and using official archive boxes the participants of 38 Women developed a physical response to the space, objects and memory. This movement sequence was then incorporated into their final performance at the end of the project.
On 12 November 2016, acclaimed artist Amanda Coogan joined the cast of THESE ROOMS tor two Irish Sign Language performances of the work.
BIOGRAPHY | Amanda Coogan
Amanda is an internationally recognised and critically acclaimed artist working across the medias of live art, performance, photography and video. She is one of the most dynamic and exciting contemporary visual artist’s practicing in the arena of performance. Her 2015 exhibition in the Dublin’s Royal Hibernian Academy, I’ll sing you a song from around the Town, was described by Artforum as ‘performance art at its best’.
Her extraordinary work is challenging, provocative and always visually stimulating. In 2010 the Irish Times said, ‘Coogan, whose work usually entails ritual, endurance and cultural iconography, is the leading practitioner of performance in the country’. Her expertise lies in her ability to condense an idea to its very essence and communicate it through her body. Using gesture and context she makes allegorical and poetic works that challenge expected contexts.
38 WOMEN was led by Philippa Donnellan in collaboration with the participants, with additional creative assistance from theatre/dance artists Aoife Moore.
Participants: Marie Bonals, Lucia Bonazzelli, Fiona Browne, Tara Brown, Kate Connaughton, Derbhla Connaughton, Karine Dalsin, Laura Diaz de Cerio, Marie Doyle, Carmel Ennis, Anne Farrell, Rita Garland, Stella Godmet, Lisa Harding, Lorraine Horgan, Samantha Mc Caffrey, Moran Been-noon, Caoimhe Mulcahy, Cliona O’Connell, Anne O’Connor, Bernie O’Connor, Mary Ann O’Donovan, Hannah O’Reilly, Diana Perez-Garcia, Valentina Patrini, Niamh Rafter, Claire Rouquette, Diana Szakal, Cliona Saidlear, Tracy Ryan, Danielle Vierling, Orla Kingston, Deeksha Sarin, Lea Weber
Costume Design: Mary Sheehan
Lighting Design and Technician: Gearóid Ó hAllmhuráin
Photographer: Anthony Griffin
Videographer: Dylan Burgess Grant
Front of House Manager: Emma Gleeson
Lighting & Sound installation Assistant: Jared Nadin
Audience Assistants: Chloe Goulding, Josie Riggs, Dean Andrews
We would like to extend our thanks to National Museum of Ireland Curator Lar Joye and all the reception staff for their support throughout the project. A special thanks also to National Museum of Ireland Curator Brenda Malone, ANU Artistic Directors Louise Lowe & Owen Boss, CoisCéim Artistic Director David Bolger, and ANU Producer/Actor Leanna Cuttle
AND MANY THANKS TO: The Lir Costume Department; Aileen Tierney; Noelle Brown; Charlotte Donovan; Declan Sweeney; Ciaran Connaughton; Ruth Lehane, Carl Kennedy, Sarah Latty, Maeve Hegarty, Clare Creely, Lina Andonovska, Adam Fitzsimons, Matt Smyth, Lynnette Moran, Bridget Webster.
“In September we met for the first time. Thirty four women signed up to take part. Some people knew other well, a few are related – mother and daughter and sisters. It is a diverse group – half the people are Irish whilst others are from different countries and cultures world-wide. We are aged from 20 to 70 or thereabouts and speak many languages.”
Over the Autumn we begin to get to know each other. Together we talk, play, laugh, improvise – and dance. We recount themes we have in common and memories that are uniquely individual, and share experiences we have witnessed as women. Some of the practice sessions take place at the National Museum of Ireland, Collins Barracks. With such a history of purpose and as an archive and repository of the nation’s stories, it is so fitting that this is the setting for so much of 38 WOMEN.
Slowly we begin to find ways to tell our stories through movement; to embody them and give them life. New stories emerge, choreography is created, and the work begins to take shape.
All too soon the performances are upon us. Simple costumes are selected, lights and sound equipment are set up to illuminate the spaces, and still we continue to practice and explore ideas. The process isn’t over….
On Saturday 3 and Sunday 4 December we hold three performances of 38 WOMEN in Collins Barracks. Open to everyone they are free of charge.
The audience moves slowly from room to room as they witness one story after another, unfold. As they squeeze through small rooms, pause in corridors or perch in a stairwell, the tales reveal lived experiences which speak of loss, injustice, resilience, celebration, sadness, abuse, determination, joy and more.
There is a wonderfully enthusiastic and positive reaction from the audience (we are delighted – and just a little relieved). Afterward there is much animated conversation between audience and performers.
I feel immensely proud of what everyone has achieved in a relatively short space of time. Our differences became our strength, shaping and defining who we were as a powerful and vibrant collective of individual women.
When I set out on this project – or journey, I felt it might be the start of something – certainly for me and who knows, perhaps for others as well. Now we continue to record and document our experiences as a legacy to the project 38 WOMEN. We also seek to invite other women to join us, and to find ways to continue to tell our stories…whatever shape, form or volume they might take
I would like to extend a huge and heartfelt thanks to all the women who took part – for their creativity, generosity, energy, bold initiative and spirit – who contributed to making this such a challenging, interesting and vibrant project.
Philippa Donnellan, December 2016.
A number of podcasts and writings by the participants were made as a permanent legacy of 38 WOMEN.
These audio interviews were undertaken during 38 WOMEN project October – December 2016, by Philippa Donnellan with participants who wished to record their stories. Personal and subjective, they cover a range of issues and ideas, relationships and experiences that remain close to the women who speak.
Speaks about… her close connection to her sister, and her sister’s violent relationship with her husband and how she came close to losing her.
Recounts a short story about how an event in a girl’s life effected personal change.
Speaks about… grandmother, her independent spirit and lifelong resistance to being controlled, and how she was a powerful role model.
Speaks about… her grandmother and their changing relationship, told in the form of a short story.
Speaks about… caring for her sister and witnessing her debilitating illness, and the impact this experience has had on her own life.
Speaks about… her mother’s adoption, about there being shadow stories, and what remains untold in the past, still lingers today.
Speaks about… three women of different generations within her family, their legacy, inspiration and relevance to her own life and sense of identity.
Speaks about… a period in her life as a young women and of meeting a very special women, about the value of this relationship and having a powerful role model.
Speaks about… the 38 women of 100 years ago and how their voices live on, personal health and the vulnerability of the body, and the desire to leave a mark.
Speaks about… the close bond she had with her mother, the importance of family, and her mother’s gift for storytelling (Recorded by Mary Ann at the family home) Eithne Donovan recounts one of her stories surrounded by family.
She knew she could never feel at home in this house.
She remembered how they told her “make yourself comfortable, make yourself at home” when she rst arrived. But somehow she could not.
She had been there for too long now. She had to go. But how and when?
She could leave at night without saying anything to them.
She would just have to be careful on her way out not to meet anybody – particularly on the stairs.
You could always meet someone you did not expect on your way down and up the stairs, even at night.
Or worse, family.
She would disappear into the night.
Gone. Missing. The Search. Torches.
She could already see the torches.
She walked into the bathroom
She wanted a quiet place to cry
To compose herself
Sometimes when a woman looks in a mirror
She is critical
Always the site of the ght
As she looked
She wanted more
She stripped of the old self
Climbed into the bath
Sprinkling fern lled bath salts
Listening to the echoes of the sounds in and outside herself Drifting back
To that young girl
To the women who came before
Then she saw it
The strength in their eyes
There it was/ is…the strength in their eyes
Handed down through the blood and the pain and the joy and the laughter
There it was
I want to live.
She entered the open door, and saw that the party had started without her.
She didn’t feel up for joining in just yet, (their circle seemed so tight and oblivious to her).
So she just stood by the wall and observed them awhile in their manic chatter and moves.
Still she felt some longing for the ease of belonging displayed among these women.
She edged closer, tentatively seeking to be a part of their carefree fun. Nobody noticed her.
Suddenly determined, she gave it another try, stepping into their circle and copying their actions. It felt awkward and the other women stepped away as if to prove it.
She didn’t give up.
Without thinking, she moved beyond her own resistance and faced these women, looking them in the eye and reaching out to win their acceptance.
No matter, their blank, unseeing eyes swept past her,leaving her out of place.
So, she stood in her own space, until she felt the simple comfort of being herself, and surrendered to her own defiance.
She runs to the parlour door and pushes it open as hard as she can with her left hand. She brings dandelions in her right hand: as bright and yellow as the sun. She wants to show them her flowers and tell them that nana said that a weed is a flower nobody wants but they don’t see her. They are standing facing each other in the middle of the room, their noses almost touching they are so close but no words passing between them. They are so close they could kiss and she wishes they would but instead they are like the sticks on the fence in the garden: brittle and straight, ready to crack. And she wants to open her mouth to say, “Look I got flowers” but they don’t see her; they don’t see that she can see dad pushing mum down and mum picking one of the good cups and smashing it against the floor making shards fly. They don’t see her as she runs to their legs to stop them, to bring together or prise them apart. And it is so that she becomes one with their screams and their kicks, closing her eyes to imagine that she is running into her nana’s soft tummy, dropping the dandelions in her lap.