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Getting in on the act: a career in theatre



Date Published: {J}

Screen legend Katharine Hepburn once described acting as “the perfect idiot’s profession”.

Given her own remarkable achievements on screen, Hepburn’s apparent cynicism about being a thespian could be taken with a pinch of salt.

But it does take a certain type of person, someone with drive and commitment to succeed in this difficult and highly competitive career.

Core Theatre College was set up in Galway two years ago by three of Galway’s best-known theatre practitioners to provide training for such people. The college offers a 10-week foundation course, aimed at adults who want to become professional actors. Participants in this year’s course will be in Druid Theatre on Sunday, showcasing some of the skills they have acquired during their studies.

“It’s a course that’s performance and production focused and gives people a taste of drama school,” says Judith Wolf, one of the three founders of Core, along with Max Hafler and Judith Higgins. The second Judith is missing from this interview, due to children commitments.

The three, who come from a variety of theatrical backgrounds, have a wealth of experience between them.

Englishman Max trained at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts (LAMDA) and worked in theatre and television for 17 years, moving to Ireland in the mid 1990s. He is a tutor on the BA and MA theatre programmes at NUIG and worked for many years with Galway Youth Theatre.

Max also runs his own professional theatre company, Theatrecorp, which has produced several classics, including Dr Faustus, Waiting for Godot, Blood Wedding and The Maids, in conjunction with the Town Hall Theatre.

Galway born Judith Higgins has worked as a performer, dancer, musician and director in various countries over the past 30 years, since starting as a child with the Renmore Pantomime.

She trained at the Samuel Beckett Centre, Trinity College, Dublin, the Central School of Speech and Drama, London and Ecole Jacques Lecoq, Paris, and specialises in physical drama.

Locally Judith has worked with Galway Youth Theatre, Branar Drámaíochta and An Taibhdhearc, as well as with companies in London, Paris and Madrid.

The third member of Core Judith Wolf, who is from Holland, did a diploma in theatre, film and television in Amsterdam, followed by a four-year specialisation in theatre history and design. She received a Masters from the University of Amsterdam in 2000, and moved to Galway shortly afterwards.

Since then, Judith has worked with various emerging and establishing theatre companies, including Macnas. She helped co-ordinate Trad on the Prom, one of the most successful Irish music and dance shows of the last five years, and is currently working as an assistant manager in Mabinog, Tommy Tiernan’s management company.

The three Core College founders offer training in everything from voice to movement and different acting techniques at their base on Sea Road in the city, where they share a space with the Blue Teapot Theatre Company.

The course also has a theoretical aspect involving theatre history, but it’s done in a very practical way, says Max.

People who apply must audition to be accepted, but there is no academic requirement, he explains. “The requirement is commitment and that people have some degree of potential.”

The 10-week course is for people who want to go on and do a full-time course in drama over two or three years, or for actors who want to improve their skills and then create work here in Galway, says Max.

They accept 10 students on the course and the numbers are kept low deliberately.

“We can give students individual attention that people wouldn’t get in big groups and so people get more out of it,” says Judith. Max agrees, saying that a subject like voice projection cannot be taught effectively in large classes.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Galway have lot to ponder in poor show



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013




GALWAY’S first serious examination of the 2013 season rather disturbingly ended with a rating well below the 40% pass mark at the idyllic, if rather Siberian, seaside setting of Enniscrone on Sunday last.

The defeat cost Galway a place in the FBD League Final against Leitrim and also put a fair dent on their confidence shield for the bigger tests that lie ahead in February.

There was no fluke element in this success by an understrength Sligo side and by the time Leitrim referee, Frank Flynn, sounded the final whistle, there wasn’t a perished soul in the crowd of about 500 who could question the justice of the outcome.

It is only pre-season and last Sunday’s blast of dry polar winds did remind everyone that this is far from summer football, but make no mistake about it, the match did lay down some very worrying markers for Galway following a couple of victories over below par third level college teams.

Galway did start the game quite positively, leading by four points at the end of a first quarter when they missed as much more, but when Sligo stepped up the tempo of the game in the 10 minutes before half-time, the maroon resistance crumbled with frightening rapidity.

Some of the statistics of the match make for grim perusal. Over the course of the hour, Galway only scored two points from play and they went through a 52 minute period of the match, without raising a white flag – admittedly a late rally did bring them close to a draw but that would have been very rough justice on Sligo.

Sligo were backable at 9/4 coming into this match, the odds being stretched with the ‘missing list’ on Kevin Walsh’s team sheet – Adrian Marren, Stephen Coen, Tony Taylor, Ross Donovan, David Kelly, David Maye, Johnny Davey and Eamon O’Hara, were all marked absent for a variety of reasons.

Walsh has his Sligo side well schooled in the high intensity, close quarters type of football, and the harder Galway tried to go through the short game channels, the more the home side bottled them up.

Galway badly needed to find some variety in their attacking strategy and maybe there is a lot to be said for the traditional Meath style of giving long, quick ball to a full forward line with a big target man on the edge of the square – given Paul Conroy’s prowess close to goal last season, maybe it is time to ‘settle’ on a few basics.

Defensively, Galway were reasonably solid with Gary Sice at centre back probably their best player – he was one of the few men in maroon to deliver decent long ball deep into the attacking zone – while Finian Hanley, Conor Costello and Gary O’Donnell also kept things tight.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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