Amy Fox is studying  for an M.A. in Theatre with the Gaiety School of Acting and the National University of Ireland, Maynooth

Applications for the MA in Theatre are open until June 2012. Please see our website for more information http://www.gaietyschool.com/courses/masters/

Where to begin? After a break of a few years between travel and work I decided to jump back into study to further my love & understanding of Theatre. To do things that utterly scares the bejaysus out of myself and to try and stretch my imagination. This course seemed like a good match – a mix of practical & theoretical classes that would allow me to learn & explore new ideas and to allow me to make new theatre.

This M.A. in Theatre is a brand new course – I’ve been a willing guinea pig since October 2011, which has been pretty interesting…we are very small group. Four people (including myself) that became three, in January, so it’s been a fairly intense experience up to this point! As to be expected there have been some teething issue but I have found most, if not all the teaching staff very approachable when it came to any problems that cropped up.

I’ll try and summarize the first two semesters to give you an idea of what we’ve been up to so far:

From October – December 2011 the MA group had 2 practical classes at GSA every Monday & Wednesday with a theoretical seminar every Friday in Maynooth. We had Patrick Sutton for Theatre Craft/Practice every Monday and Antoinette Duffy for Theatre Performance every Wednesday. With our first semester of History of Theatre Production with Prof. Chris Morash head of English, Media & Theatre Studies. The theory classes were used as a way to link the big ideas in theatre theory, to engage us in thinking critically about work we have seen, what type of work we’d like to make and to look at some of the main theatre practitioners that have shaped contemporary theatre.

The work that we generated in the first semester with Patrick & Antoinette – writing monologues for ourselves & each other, directing each other, devising physical theatre in an ensemble began to take shape for the Showcase in December. Like all good shows there’s always a bit of drama! The showcase was postponed due to an unforeseen medical problem as I ended up in Vincent’s hospital to have my appendix out the week of the showcase!

After Christmas we lost one of the original members of the course due to personal circumstances. Thankfully we had the wonderful ex-GSA alumnus Dave Farrell to step into the roles left vacant after the departure of our classmate whilst we re-rehearsed the pieces.

After the Christmas break and having time to heal, I was looking forward to jumping back into the next semester. From January – April 2012 we had the same timetable of 2 practical classes at GSA, every Monday & Wednesday with a theoretical seminar every Friday in Maynooth. It was good to have the two days in between to work on writing scenes, essay work or reading for class.

We had the comic genius that is Raymond Keane for Theatre Practice 2, ‘Clown’ sessions every Monday and a lovely mixture of tutors for Theatre Performance every Wednesday. We had Michael McCabe for Commedia dell ‘Arte, Regan O’ Brien for Movement/Physical Score work, Liam Halligan for Stanislavski work and finally the fantastic Jim Culleton from Fishamble Theatre Company for directing tutorials. Our semester 2 tutorials in Maynooth in Contemporary Theatre Theory with Lynne Kinlon were also very engaging.

Overall I’ve really learned so much from working with all of the above named tutors who have each brought something different into the classes/seminars.

The combined showcase of semester 1 & 2 took place on April 20th 2012 at The Boys School Theatre at Smock Alley for an invited audience & the tutors. This was received well and I thought that having managed to produce 14 very different pieces of theatre & perform in many of them was a real challenge which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Attendance/ continual assessment in the form of a Learning Journal accompanies each practical module from semester 1 & 2 as well as 2 separate academic essays for the two NUI Maynooth modules. Lynne also asked us to produce a learning journal and a lexicon of theatre terms that would help tie in the practical & theory work from semester 2.

For this final term we are asked to create a piece of theatre work (can be original or text based) between 35 – 45mins long, to be performed in the first week of July in the Boys School at Smock Alley. We also keep a learning journal/ notes of the process and a final dissertation looking at some aspects or questions posed by the work we created in a critical/academic essay. I’ve created a blog that will help record the progress of this project – please do have a look at http://littlestartheatre.blogspot.com/ and post any comments/feedback you may have

The opportunity to produce and direct a solo project is very exciting at this early stage and there is a sense of endless possibilities. We’ve presented 3 very different 30 minute proposals back in March and it will be very rewarding to see all the different types of work that will be created for the performance week in July.

In reality I can’t quite believe that it’s May now and just how much we, as a small group have experienced and managed to achieve in the past few months. There have been ups and downs, we’ve had tough days and injuries but it seems now that the final semester is here that the time has flown by. The course has opened doors to new ways of thinking and making theatre. Along the way I’ve managed to help out at the Collaborations Festival with the Jack Burdell Experience, attend performances by the current Gaiety students, watch many new plays, workshop with THEATREclub and be one of the first people to see inside the Brand New (old) Smock Alley Theatre.

The overriding feeling as I enter this final stage of the course is that Theatre and creating art is very much alive and well here in Ireland. It gives me a great sense of hope that things in the theatre community are continuing to thrive despite the economic climate. There seems to be a great ‘Can Do’ attitude out there which is really encouraging as I begin to wonder what I’ll embark on come September?

Where there is a desire to create theatre and for an audience to receive it then theatre will continue to be made and challenge our way of thinking. I relish the adventure I’m just beginning as a theatre maker and director with the support of my classmates, GSA, NUI Maynooth and all the actors/ theatre makers I’ve met in the last eight months!!

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