The Road to Ballyshannon
And the Ballyshannon results are in…

Rambling thoughts with Martin Maguire

On Friday night, Martin Maguire will take to the stage as adjudicator of the All-Ireland One Act Finals 2014. During the week, Martin was kind enough to share some of his thoughts about his involvement in the amateur drama movement and what is was that lit his path towards Ballyshannon. Enjoy.

Maybe the fact we enjoy it so much is the final proof we’re wanting in some way. The rest of the world can comfortably get by without all the fuss. I could understand a waiter or a doctor being a bit jealous that we don’t applaud her at the end of her day. Even a priest must feel a little empty when his final blessing is greeted with a shuffling towards the exit. Actors want more. Sometimes an encore isn’t enough, we’re not happy until everyone in the house is standing and cheering. Apparently the ovations of our friends and neighbours don’t quite cut it either. For fear they’re just being kind, we need to test our worth on an epic scale.

For weeks on end we ignore the needs of our families and bosses. We neglect sleep and self respect and get bounced around in the backs of vans for hundreds of miles in the dark completely missing the sunshine of wonderful spring or autumn weekends. We choose to destroy our clothes and knock lumps out of our shins and thumbs to set out our stall on foreign territory. The unstinting admiration of their masses doesn’t suffice however. We need to throw ourselves on the tender mercies of some jumped up philistine with a dickie bow and a pen. He’ll curry favour with our hosts by riding on our coat-tails before trampling us underfoot. Then we get trapped in a room in a room with him where we have to sit through balloonfulls of got air listening and sifting for the nugget of praise that will make it all meaningful. After this the sandwiches of our exile. Then the hunt for the craic. Most often everyone is gone home but we still hope there’s a little coven somewhere, keeping her lit. There we can sing for another scrap of approval before we drunkenly fall off the face of Danny Boy and get dragged away to sleep it off in the van as it trundles to another opening of another show.

Maybe I’m being harsh. There is another truth we can all identify with. The sheer romance of the greasepaint and the smell of the crowd are powerful attractions. Watching my housemate Maggie Tierney and fellow actor and teacher Derek Reid win one act festivals in the early eighties, or driving Seán Murphy down to Athlone to collect best actor for Othello in 1984 lit up I path I was dying to follow. Hearing that Pat Burke was heading off to adjudicate in exotic locations like Tubercurry I yearned for the opportunity to be part of such a world. I had to jump ship to do so. My apprenticeship was served with the Dublin Shakespeare Society but they didn’t do festivals. I can’t be too hard on them. As consolation they did furnish me a wife. I was her Florizel, she my princess Perdita and how many others have likewise found the romance of the stage follow them into the real world. We moonlighted with Club Players and I was in a show that came third in the all Ireland one act finals in 1985.

About fifteen years later I was thrilled to hear that Ballaly Players were taking my play “Under The Stars” onto the circuit. I sneaked into the Skerries festival to watch with one eye closed and duly sent them some notes. How chuffed I was to hear they not only reached the finals but also came third!   

This year almost fifteen years later thanks to the generosity of mentors in Rush and Tubbercurry and here in Ballyshannon I feel I’ve finally come first at the third time of asking. What a job! To be asked to watch, given the right to speak first, to reward my favourite performances, these are all privileges I relish. I can’t explain my passion for theatre but it’s a joy to share it with talented and committed and hardworking actors, directors, crews and audiences of all ages from all over the country.

I suspect the drama movement in this country is the child of a range of grandparents. We can see the hand of the church in shifting social interaction out of the pubs during Lent. We can trace the inspirational influence of individual priests and teachers and community leaders who saw the value of theatre in developing people and communities. There’s a pure strain of theatrically talented geniuses who just had to be involved to make their lives meaningful. Most importantly we are all descended from that large slice of humanity, and particularly Irish humanity that loves the telling of stories big and small. May we continue to warm hearts and hearths as we come together as actors and audiences to tell and to listen.

Martin Maguire 
The Guild of Irish Adjudicators


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All-Ireland One Act Drama Finals 2014
Ballyshannon Drama Festival
5, 6 & 7 December 2014
Adjudicating: Martin Maguire

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