On Friday night, Cavan native Geoff O’Keeffe will take to the stage as adjudicator of the All-Ireland One Act Finals 2013. During the week, Geoff was kind enough to share some of his thoughts about his involvement in the amateur drama movement as an actor, then director and now as an adjudicator. Enjoy.
The show was Tom Sawyer. I was playing Judge Thatcher and Bill Henry from Cavan Drama Festival was charged with the job of directing us students at St. Pat’s College in Cavan. It was my first time on stage and I can still vividly remember the adrenaline rush and the sheer enjoyment of being part of a show.
I’m sure looking back now that we weren’t all that great, but it felt right. I knew then that I would be back on stage again and apparently so did Bill. One of the nights during the run, he suggested to me that I sit in and watch the make up being applied. He said to me, “I have a feeling you will be involved in drama when you leave school”. I reminded Bill of this when I adjudicated the Cavan One Act Drama Festival last year. “Wasn’t I right?”, he said.
In one way or another I have been involved in the One Act Drama Circuit since 1997. First as an actor, then director and now as an adjudicator. The One Act circuit holds many happy memories for me, not just for the success on stage, but the many stories and incidents that it invariably throws up; such as travelling in convoy through the snow from Manorhamilton, or being stranded in floods outside Kilmuckridge, or sing songs on the bus home from Ballymahon and not forgetting putting on make up by torch light in Haulbowline following a power cut.
The One Act circuit can afford groups the opportunity to take greater risks, be more experimental and creative in their choice of plays. The costs of touring a one act are significantly lower than those of the full length circuit. Yet it also has its own particular set of demands. The design of the show has to be aesthetically pleasing and appropriate to the world of the play within the limitations of the circuit rules. With perhaps an hour and often less to tech a show and with a 10 minute set up and a 5 minute strike time, one can never afford to relax!
This year there are 55 groups in total taking part on the circuit. This is a wonderful indication of the work that it is being created in communities. Bringing your work on the circuit takes a lot of effort and perseverance, but ultimately it can only help the group develop. The circuit raises standards as groups work in pursuit of excellence. While it is lovely to hear kind words from your home audience, putting your work out there gives groups the chance to hear constructive criticism. And of course it is always useful to see what other groups are doing and how they are doing it. The one act circuit is an opportunity to reevaluate, reconsider or indeed reaffirm one’s approach to the staging of a play.
The amateur drama movement and indeed the competitive circuit empowers individuals, groups and whole communities. It brings live theatre to far flung places and in doing so it enriches the lives of so many. My involvement with it will always remain very special to me. Even though I now work professionally as a director and occasionally as an actor, my work as an adjudicator allows me to remain involved in a very important cultural institution.
And then to the All Ireland Finals – always great occasions and always full of hopes and dreams. Of course as well as the plays all eyes are on the adjudicator, for s/he alone decides who will win The All Ireland. And what a great responsibility and privilege this is. And so this year it falls to me to make the decisions at The All Ireland One Act Finals in Roscommon.
It is a huge honour to be invited and I am really looking forward to it. But as the various groups wait anxiously on the final night, just remember I stood where you stood and I walked in your shoes. I know what it’s like to hear what you have been hoping to hear but I also know what it’s like when you don’t. I know also that the result is just the opinion of one person. Every single person in the Roscommon Arts Centre will be adjudicating. It just so happens that it will be my opinion that counts.
Roscommon Drama Festival Committee in association with the DLI/ADCI have been working tirelessly to ensure a great weekend. To the groups I say, break a leg! Be wonderful, be brave, tell your stories and play.
Geoff O’Keeffe won the Adjudicator’s Award for his portrayal of William in Melody by Deirdre Kinahan which was the winning production at The All Ireland Finals in Carrickmore, 2006. In 2007, his production of Riders To The Sea by JM Synge won the All Ireland Title in Rossmore. He has been adjudicating since 2009 and is the current P.R.O. of the Association of Drama Adjudictors. He will adjudicate the All Ireland Confined Finals in Claremorris, 2014.
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