This time last year I was fairly panicking. ‘Judgement day’ on a project I had been working on for months was just a week away and coming straight for me. Was I ready? Well, no. Was I prepared? Eh, getting there. Was I calm and in control of the situation? Mmmmm… Excited? HELL YEAH!
The funny thing is, it’s times like these, when I’ve taken way too much on and am trying to keep all the plates spinning, that I really feel alive. I do moan about not getting enough sleep and being exhausted but secretly I love it. I feel I’m doing something that simply won’t happen if I don’t give it all I have and the stranger the job, the better. If I find myself asking, “How on earth did I get roped into this?” I know I’m doing something right.
This particular job had taken over my life for a good chunk of the year so far and had a lot of different aspects to it. The project was conceived at a Sliabh Beagh Arts meeting where, jacked up on tea and buns, we decided it would be great idea to put on a shadow puppet play. With an original story. And music. For an audience. IN A WOODS.
We all had jobs to do. Sinead Connolly had to arrange the music and get a band together as well as teach some of the songs in schools and to a choir. Patrick Mc Cabe would build a stage and shadow theatre in the woods. Lisa Mc Cabe would hold pottery workshops and build an army of ‘ugly jugs’ to hide round and haunt the woods with and Donna Bannon, God love her had to co-ordinate the entire thing and keep it all together. It was a big undertaking for us all but we felt alive!
I had a few hats to wear as the project crossed over into another job I was doing – the power-hose murals. We decided the murals I created that year would illustrate scenes from the story. Ok, fine and well only for the small matter of not actually having a story yet! I realised there was a lot of figuring out to be done before I could really start anything solid.
We all met up again to come up with ideas for the characters and once we had them I wrote the story, all the time thinking of how I could make it work in the play and illustrate it in the murals. Designing the look of the characters and scenery was very difficult as each puppet had to be versatile enough to work in more than one scene, same goes for the backgrounds. It took a lot of head scratching and procrastination but eventually I had all the scenes storyboarded and was ready to make the puppets. At this stage I was then able to do the power-hose murals and was very lucky to be given one particularly long wall to work on. I thought I’d be missing a trick if I didn’t tell the entire story on this one wall so I designed the image to flow through the scenes in one swoop from “Once upon a time” to “they all lived happily ever after.”
With all that done and the puppets and scenery made I then had to rehearse. Patrick recorded himself reading the story so I could time my movements and decide how to lay out my puppet booth with easy access to everything. It became obvious I couldn’t do it alone so my partner in crime, Jolene Phair ‘volunteered’ to be a puppeteer along with me.
The time came, the week of the performance. We had two full rehearsals on location with music, lights, narration and puppets and came out ecstatic and a bit overwhelmed at what we had achieved together. Still one thing left to worry about – the weather. If it rained it would all be for nothing. Friday morning, overcast but holding out came and we spent the whole day in the woods getting it ready for people to arrive. Nerves competed with midges for our energy and as evening rolled around people arrived. In their droves. We couldn’t believe it, all our work had been worth it. We had a magical night in a forest with music, laughter and a cautionary tale of good and evil to enchant the young and remind the old that every voice is important. “Lily’s Song” came alive. Even the rain held off. We had created something more than the sum of it’s parts.
This time last year, eh? I wonder what I’ll be doing this time next year…
Photo by Kieran Dolan at KD Imaging