As the ‘unofficial’ American representative (Assistant Director) for Fishamble’s Tiny Plays for Ireland and America, I had the thrilling task of exploring stories told by Irish playwrights (for an Irish audience) several years after their first production. Touting a word count double that of War & Peace, Fishamble has narrowed the submitted tiny plays down to a published 50 (25 presented in 2012 and 25 presented in 2013). 20 are being taken to America as part of Ireland100. Fishamble’s initial 50 are immediate, relevant, and captivating; the company’s voice is clear in the massive editing process this work has undergone since the original call for Irish plays in 2011.
The 20 plays selected for the U.S. production address common themes: governmental intervention, dysfunctional relationships, and father-child dynamics. In these brief plays is a fundamental distrust of the system and a need to embrace happenstance between friends and strangers. There is a tragic comedy in the irony of life being ‘ …all about family’ (Commiserations). A drunkard’s new-found friendship to an elderly man left to die on a hospital bed is a locus for political commentary and laughter. The injured drunk sings the man to death after falling over the stage, reminding us, ‘I didn’t ask for this grief’ (The Caring). Private grief—especially for aged characters—is given primacy in these stories.
Having assisted Fishamble’s Inside the GPO, I understood Jim Culleton’s vision for communicating politics and questioning society; the original mission of Tiny Plays for Ireland is articulated as an embrace of contemporary issues “In order to reflect on the country’s current situation . . .” (Culleton, 11). I see Fishamble asking the great question of the Modernists: whose stories do we tell—“It’s precious but it’s not worth anything” (The Night Feed)—?
The most striking issue that arises in a production like this is the negotiation of Hiberno-English for an American audience; just how much does an Irish production affect its speech? The practical and theoretical implications of this question of—again—editing is one I find fascinating. There are, too, issues in Ireland that may seem distant to the American, particularly emigration.
Within the first 50 tiny plays, three stand out as having outright LGBT themes: Rainout, Ground Meat,
and Light At The End Of The Tunnel
. With the recent success of Ireland’s marriage referendum, it is interesting to see such voices remain in the past of the initial production. Equally interesting to an American eye is the approach to feminism and women’s rights. I am curious as to how an American audience will react to Ireland’s abortion conversation (in Thorny Island
) in relation to the ongoing discourse happening within the States.
These Irish plays voice many frustrations with which a modern, American audience will immediately connect: drug abuse, overwhelming medical expense, bank corruption, the uncertainties of media/technology, etc. I am excited to hear how the show goes and give my best to Jim, the actors, and all involved in Ireland100!
Chris Andrae Assistant Director, Tiny Plays for Ireland and America
– May 2016
Chris Andrae is an MA student at Uversity
Culleton, Jim, comp. Tiny Plays for Ireland. Dublin: New Island, 2013. Print.