My name is Clare Barrett and I am an Actor and Theatre maker. I was lucky enough to receive a residency award from Fingal County Council to attend The Tyrone Guthrie centre recently to work on a new play. I am currently writing a piece in collaboration with the wonderful composer Ellen Cranitch about a woman with Locked-in-Syndrome. We are working on completing our first draft and I wanted to come here to get some concentrated time as we move towards our next development in October.
This was my first time to attend the centre and well it was everything I hoped for and then some!
I had come from Dublin where I was workshopping a new production that’s happening later in the year so my mind was fizzing with all that that entailed and I was wondering how I would ever switch gears back into writing mode, but armed with tales from previous residents of how ‘the minute you cross the border into Monaghan everything just slows down’ and some last minute texts of ‘don’t forget your togs!’ I arrived in a bit of a flurry just before dinner. As an actor I think we’re quite used to walking into a group of strangers and having to deal with those first day of school feelings but I found I was a little nervous, however nerves quickly dissipated when I joined my fellow residents and Mary Alice brought out the dinner!
Like most people one of the things I missed most during Covid was the interaction with my peers and colleagues. As I sat at my desk at home I really felt the work I was doing was lacking something and I now realise that I was missing the stimulation and inspiration one gets from being in contact and in conversation with other artists.
I feel very lucky that on my short stay here I had both stimulation and inspiration in abundance. The group that were resident during my stay comprised of two visual artists, a poet , an architect, 3 fiction writers, one screen writer, one theatre-maker like myself and one actor who was writing a screenplay. A wonderful crew of interesting, smart and funny people. I gained much from our conversations over my stay and I found that those interactions were flavouring my writing and making it much richer. We had a sharing of our work on the last evening which filled my heart to bursting point. We are all very different people who are each on our own artistic journey. However we bonded that evening by sharing our vulnerabilities , our frustrations, our joys and the hopes we had for each of our projects . I was thrilled at this tiny peek behind the curtain at what these wizards were working on. As it is only the second piece I have written I was nervous to share my work especially at this early stage but I was so encouraged and lifted by the warm and intelligent discussions that followed each sharing that I joined in and now following that experience I feel ready to face the next phase of this project with an increased confidence and vigour.
Despite the fact that I had heard many stories of how special the centre and the people who work here are, I was still blown away by their care for each of us and how the beautiful environment outside matched the nourishment inside.
As I walked the woods, past the cottages, performance and dance spaces one can’t help but think of the wonderful work that has come from and will come from here. The seeds of which were planted or tended to on the desks of every room, in the studios, in a chair in the sun room or the library, and along those paths. I thought a lot also about friends like Maeve Ingolsby and Emma O Kane who we lost recently and how they too walked and worked here and how this place was special for them. So I leave here with all of that , all the food, the conversation, the quiet, the creativity and the lake dips that coat this precious experience like a protective varnish and I will plant these thoughts into my play and they’ll germinate as I head off to do something completely different for a while- a new Irish musical, and when I come back to my writing those green shoots will be ready for more weeding and a bit more work.
Resident Artist Contributors to The Guthrie Gazette are paid according to our Payment of the Artist Policy.