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A week of celebrating words and creativity

Book tours are strange old things. Not that what I’ve been involved in this past week has been formally a book tour – but I have been touring around and it has all been about books.

Well, one book in particular, my version of Persians, published by Fair Acre Press, and launched with great joy on Sunday 30th September 2019 at the Mid Wales Art Centre, organised by dear friend and fellow launcher, Chris Kinsey. Poetry Party pushed Persians and Chris Kinsey’s From Rowan Ridge into the world, joined by readings from fifteen fine poets all raising their voices in a celebration of words.

The following Saturday it was the turn of Small World Theatre in Cardigan, where I led a workshop Singing the old bones about remaking ancient stories, then gave a lecture/reading in the evening. The workshop participants were an ideal mix of artists, makers, poets, dramatists, storytellers and folklorists, so a lively time was had by all. We used the beautifully light and sunny dance studio for the workshop – and I’m delighted to be returning for a further workshop in November, shared with Chris Kinsey, details below.

Kaite reading at Persians launch at Mid Wales
Arts Centre. Photo: Liz Hinkley

Writer and critic Adam Somerset attended the lecture/performance I gave that evening, reading from Persians. To my surprise, he wrote a short review of the evening (thank you, Adam!), which you can access here.

Welcoming all writers workshop at:

Cardigan’s Small World Theatre @theatrbydbychan

November 23 @ 1:00 pm – 5:30 pm

Spend a stimulating afternoon with award winning writers relishing words and honing craft in two distinct writing workshops, then finish off the evening with celebratory readings and a book launch. Chris Kinsey and Kaite O’Reilly will each lead a two-hour workshop, welcoming all writers from all forms – poetry, prose, spoken word, live performance – beginners and experienced.

Chris Kinsey – Blood from Stone

1pm – 3pm
Embodying the elemental & environmental. Writing the real using the senses and heightening impressions through metaphor and sound choices. Dig deep and mine the elemental world to write with passion and clarity. Engage with the natural world through a variety of guided prompts and shared experiences.

Kaite O’Reilly – Planting the Seeds

3.30pm – 5.30pm
Immersive writing from the senses, memory, and imagination. Writing is a process of discovery and exploration. In a series of structured exercises participants will be encouraged to investigate texture, dynamic, and the visceral when writing for the living voice, and along the way, plant the seeds for possible future work.
£30 (entry to evening performance included in the workshop fee)

My previous workshop at Small World sold out very quickly, so I’m hoping there will be even more interest with the brilliant Chris Kinsey involved. For details and booking, please press here

A final recommendation is the current free exhibition at Small World/ Theatre Byd Bychan:

Hands Up: defining 40 years of puppetry – an exhibition of Ann Shrosbree’s and Bill Hamblett’s work

From early work as Dandelion Puppets for Centre for Alternative Technology 1979, through Arts and Development work in Africa, Asia and the Middle East to the present day. Visitors will learn how the company grew into Small World Theatre in 1996 and created a near zero carbon arts space, Theatr Byd Bychan in 2008. The exhibition will continue online throughout 2019. Exhibition open times: Tuesday – Friday, 10am – 4.30pm

US premiere of ‘peeling’ opens in Seattle

I’m delighted that the US premiere of ‘peeling’ has opened with Sound Theatre in Seattle. ‘peeling’ is a play in its seventeenth year (originally commissioned, directed and designed by Jenny Sealey for Graeae Theatre Company in 2002). Suddenly it is finding more productions and viewers than ever before. Earlier this year Taking Flight Theatre Company toured the play around Wales, and it will be remounted for an Autumn tour (details here). This is of course hugely gratifying, but given its themes of war, eugenics, representation and women’s autonomy over their bodies, its relevance in 2019 is regrettable. As one of the Chorus in this meta-theatrical performance laments “Haven’t we been here, before?”

In ‘peeling’ I’ve played with the device of the Chorus in a fictionalised production of ‘The Trojan Women: Then and Now’, which carries on around – and often in spite of – the Deaf and disabled female choral performers. They suspect they’ve been cast just to be ‘the ticked box on an equal opportunities monitoring form’ and long for a time when they will be centre-stage, in an accessible environment giving them the opportunity to perform ‘properly’ – with ‘an all-signing Chorus’, perhaps. Given the descriptions of many of the inclusive productions currently rocking Edinburgh and beyond, this play was (and perhaps remains?) ahead of its time….

Sound Theatre production of ‘peeling’ by Kaite O’Reilly. Photo: Ken Holmes

In an interview with Broadway World, Teresa Thuman, Director of Sound Theatre said:

“Seattle has never seen a play like this before. The very nature of theatre is to expose and make public all that is human — in every form, every ability. For those who live on the margins, theatre is a way to bring them to the center as fully human beings.”

The full interview can be read here. What follows are images and text from the production, which runs until the end of August:

peeling weaves audio description, sign language, and theatrical spectacle into a no-holds-barred play about representation, women, reproduction, war, and eugenics.  

Sound Theatre production of ‘peeling’ by Kaite O’Reilly. Photo: Ken Holmes

With brisk wit and domestic backstage comedy, O’ Reilly’s storytelling style has earned comparisons to Beckett and Caryl Churchill. In anoverproduced, postmodern production of Euripides’ The Trojan Women, Alfa, Coral, and Beatty have been cast in bit parts to fulfill a playhouse’s misplaced diversity program; but as tokens, the trio never experiences true inclusion. Sound Theatre centers disability justice by assembling a production team and cast that brings authentic lived experiences to this groundbreaking production.

Information about the theatre company and the production can be found here

Sound Theatre production of ‘peeling’ by Kaite O’Reilly. Photo: Ken Holmes

ARTISTIC TEAM

Teresa Thuman – Director 

Monique Holt – Assistant Director and Director of Artistic Sign Language

Andrea Kovich – Dramaturg

Parmida Ziaei – Scenic Designer

Taya Pyne – Costume Designer

Adrian Kljucec– Sound Designer

Jared Norman – Projection Designer

Richard Schaefer – Lightning Designer/Technical Director

Robin MaCartney – Props Designer

Zoé Tziotis Shields – Wardrobe Crew, Sound Board Operator

Roland Carette-Meyers – Accessibility Coordinator

Francesca Betancourt – Movement Director

Image

Residency at UCC Cork – talks, readings, book launch 3-10 November 2018

‘Kaite O’Reilly has always been a rule breaker.’ Exeunt magazine

What follows is an interview with Joe Turnbull for Exeunt magazine. You can read the original feature here

With thanks to Joe and Exeunt.

 

Kaite O’Reilly has always been a rule breaker. Her 2012 play, In Water I’m Weightless set a precedent by having an all Deaf and disabled cast. She’s pioneered creative access throughout her career, informed by her longstanding affinity with Deaf culture. Plays such as The 9 Fridas, subvert traditional theatrical form and aesthetic. And even when she deliberately sets out to make mainstream work she can’t reign in her recalcitrance. She describes the Almond and the Seahorse, her 2008 play which got a five-star review in the Guardian, as her ‘Trojan Horse’: “I created what seemed to be the most commercial theatre script I’d ever written. Only it’s got subversive politics in its belly.”

Her latest work Cosy, which is set to premiere at the Wales Millennium Centre on 8 March, very much falls into the latter category. It’s ostensibly a traditional family drama encompassing three generations of women, which tackles the thorny issue of end-of-life scenarios and ageing.

“I’m deliberately taking different perspectives of a family coming together. It’s familiar – the family all get together and all these discussions and events happen in the family home. But perhaps some of the content and arguments and perspectives being presented are not the ones we would usually hear”.

It turns out O’Reilly’s dissident sensibilities are in her blood. “My family were always rebels, they were always the dissenting voice that would shout up from the back”. As O’Reilly regales me with her backstory, I’m transported to the West Midlands in the 1970s.

O’Reilly’s father, an Irish migrant is holding court amidst a bustling farmer’s market. A proper working-class Irishman, his sales patter is a performance aimed at punters as he tries to flog his sheep. Back at the O’Reilly family home, get-togethers also provide a stage, and everyone is expected to deliver, whether it’s a poem, song or a story. This is the theatre of everyday life. It clearly had quite an impact on the young Kaite.

“The performative aspect that comes culturally from being working class Irish was huge. As I get older I understand how formative that was because it was always about entertaining, engaging, challenging, provoking.”

It isn’t something that they can teach at drama school, nor is it something you can read in a book. “I think that right from the get-go, if you’re going to be a playwright it’s got to be about the living words in the mouth. You know as soon as something sounds stagey. There’s something about engaging with language in the absolute moment that you have to be able to dazzle and create and engage with words.”

But her working-class Irish heritage isn’t the only aspect of her identity that has been seminal to O’Reilly’s work:

“Identifying politically and culturally as a disabled person was essential, because it changes you. It affects everything about how you perceive the world. I think that is huge as a playwright because we’re trying to – as that old hackneyed Shakespeare quote goes – ‘to hold as ‘twere the mirror up to nature’. Well if you are actually seeing nature and the notion of normalcy as being different from what the majority culture says, then there’s some really interesting things happening”.

O’Reilly doesn’t shirk from the label, she has always embraced it, even in her work, whether that’s using integrated casts, embedding creative access or by directly addressing disability themes. As is common for many successful disabled artists, O’Reilly finds herself at times awkwardly straddling the two worlds of mainstream and disability arts. Cosy is perhaps a sign of things to come for O’Reilly as something of a middle ground between the two. Although the play doesn’t address disability political issues directly, it was inspired by her thoughts around assisted dying which is a very important topic for the disability rights movement.

“I started to think about ageing, about end-of-life scenarios, our relationship to the medical profession and how industrialised care has become. What are the family dynamics in end-of-life scenarios? So basically, Cosy is quite a dark but sophisticated comedy looking at whether we truly own ourselves.”

O’Reilly is eager to acknowledge that her perception of language and working process as a theatre maker have been massively influenced by her work with Deaf collaborators, such as performer and director of visual language, Jean St Clair. “Seeing what language can be through the prism of Deaf culture and experience has been really important; the form, the means, the aesthetic and the possibilities were broadened as I began to learn sign language”.

“I’m notorious for my bad signing,” she tells me, wryly. “Jean teases me all the time about it. Whenever I threaten to go and learn BSL she says ‘no don’t because I actually like what you’re doing, because it makes me think differently’”.

Due to budgetary restrictions, not to mention the changes in Access to Work benefits, O’Reilly regrets that Cosy won’t be the “all-singing, all dancing, all-signing access-fest” as previous works such as In Water I’m Weightless. The play will be captioned, and they are also trialling an app which encompasses different languages and possibly audio description. In spite of the restraints and her past successes, O’Reilly is still not taking anything for granted, displaying the enthusiasm and passion of a young upstart. “Every day I wake up smiling and thankful that we’ve got this opportunity from Unlimited, it’s an incredible gift”.

Perhaps it’s fitting for these austere times that Cosy sees O’Reilly going back to basics in more ways than one. “Cosy isn’t breaking new ground in terms of form or aesthetic but I think it’s interesting that we have reached the point of maturity, where we can have a big growling play with these different perspectives all mashed up and arguing together.”

But it just wouldn’t be an O’Reilly play if it wasn’t pushing the boundaries in some way. Cosy has an integrated all-female cast of disabled and non-disabled actors with ages ranging from 16 to 76, “how gorgeous and delicious is that?” she enthuses. Even more significantly, the roles with the most power in Cosy are predominantly staffed by people who identify culturally and politically as disabled, including the director (Phillip Zarrilli) and assistant producer (Tom Wentworth) in addition to O’Reilly herself as the writer.

“I think it’s interesting that the powerbase is coming from a very open identification as disabled. Often they’re the ones who are non-disabled and the people that are being cast are disabled. I wonder if that’s a shift that has come from Unlimited and their legacy, that we’re now becoming more and more in the position of the powerbase.”

In concert with the launch of Cosy, O’Reilly also has a book entitled Atypical Plays for Atypical actors being published by Oberon Books. It will feature a selection of five plays and performance texts spanning nearly 15 years of work, each of which is informed by disability politics. Clearly, there’s no chance of this rebel being assimilated by her mainstream success.

And like all true revolutionaries, O’Reilly isn’t content being the sole dissenting voice in what can at times be a very homogenised profession. Instead she’s looking to use her profile as a vanguard for others. “There are things that I’m trying to do through my practice and engagement that I hope is going to help shift things and provide opportunities for other people as well. For me it’s very important that we have people in leadership and positions of power who are not only disabled and Deaf, but who identify culturally and politically as so.”

Cosy is on at Cardiff Millennium Centre from 8-12th March. Tickets and info here

 

Welcome to AtDAC, our new blog

AtDAC

Des Tree

Hello!
It is my great pleasure as Patron of DAC to initiate this new feature on the weekly newsletter – a short personal note from a member of the team, giving you an insight into our weekly activities. Apart from introducing you to the staff, we want to feature some of the talented artists and writers involved in our many creative projects, now and in the past. DAC have advised, supported, trained, and showcased the work of hundreds of disabled and Deaf artists, dancers, writers, musicians, composers and performers over the years and we’re keen to share your stories. If you would like to be featured, please get in touch at post@dacymru.com
As usual, DAC’s office is like a hive, buzzing with preparations for forthcoming projects. As a writer and playwright, I’m particularly excited by their inaugural poetry competition – a response in words to DAC’s current visual art exhibition…

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Vital Disabled Student Support to be Cut. Save DSA!

Please support this campaign against these cuts and read the post reblogged here.

The Hardest Hit

Cross-posted from Sarah Campbell, Rolling with the Punches
Spread the word. Tell your MP. Write blogs. Let people know what is happening. We must try to stop this.

You can write to your MP online here.
Please also sign the e-petition here.
Share and Retweet this #ProtectDSA.

After becoming disabled as a teenager, I went to university, obtained a first class degree, then completed a PhD.  While I worked extremely hard, none of this would have been possible without the support of Disabled Student Allowance (DSA), which covers the extra costs for equipment and assistance disabled students may require in order to study at university.

This is why I was aghast to learn that the government has just announced plans to cut DSA.
Couched under the language of “modernisation”, “targeting funds at those who need it most”, “fairness”, is hidden the reality of an estimated 60 to 70% cut in…

View original post 830 more words

Grace, fluency, and facility… Poet Chris Kinsey on writing and re-writing.

Writers are notoriously curious about how everybody else does it. Apart from the endless fascination with other peoples’ process, we also know there are wonderful lessons to be learned, tips to gather, knowledge to be shared. A few weeks ago the poet Chris Kinsey shared a document with me which she had written for her students about writing and re-writing. I’m delighted she gave me permission to reproduce that here.

 

Chris Kinsey: A personal view of writing and re-writing.

 

I write mainly out of excitement with experiences and from a desire to re-enact and re-live them.

I want to record the physicality and sensations of certain experiences. (Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes and Gerard Manley Hopkins were the first to make me want to pay attention and write.)

I write in order to find out what it is I want to write. Many writers prefer to have a plan but I’ve never liked to fit into the Procrustian bed of a plan. I need to make discoveries to maintain my motivation. Good ideas mostly fail because they’re good and there’s nothing to work out. It can feel like drudgery to record them.

First drafts are like finding a load of fireworks – full of excitement at experimenting with voices and viewpoints and coining words and images with the most exact visual or aural effects. This stage can be intoxicating. I chase a stream of consciousness, memory and sensation as fast as I can and as close as I can to any event which excites me to write.

Re-writing is best done a day or two after the ‘first thoughts, best thoughts’ rush.

Sometimes it’s as painful and humiliating as a hangover – everything grates or clunks or seems hackneyed, clichéd, laborious, repetitive, monotonous, vague, waffling, tongue-twisterly, O.T.T……. Sometimes it only feels this way. Our feelings are not always the best guide to the quality of our work; especially if they’ve just been hurt by discovering that a first draft doesn’t represent total satisfaction or perfection. Usually there are plenty of nuggets to harvest and frequently this leads to the true or vivid aspects of the subject declaring themselves and a theme or shape emerges. Voice or tone stabilises and distillation begins.

Crop peripheral ideas and images, focus the main ones.

Strive for the most exact, apt images and nouns. Tone up verbs. Tweak and play with word orders (save every change – you may want to revert to an earlier form). Try your piece out on the ear. Cut clichés, repetitions, catch phrases, etc. Etc. Rest. Let it lie.

Return later  – this is the hard part – make sure you haven’t cut some crucial part. And this is the really hard part – make sure you haven’t stifled the life of your piece by over determining it.

Hope for grace, fluency, and facility. Try your work out on someone whose feedback you trust and respect. Someone who will tell you where the work made them stumble is valuable.

Good, spontaneous-sounding, ‘natural’, pleasure-to-read work, often takes between 15 and 30 drafts.

 

*

With thanks to Chris.

Copyright of the above remains with Chris Kinsey 16/2/14.