as Mirror on Ourselves
Irish playwright Deirdre Kinahan
often creates plays that explore trauma and life-altering emotional
events. She favors characters that are seemingly ordinary,
but who encounter and navigate extraordinary situations, often
dealing with violence and abuse.
Kinahan's play Moment will
be produced by Smith theatre in February 2012. Meanwhile, Kinahan
will visit campus next week, on Tuesday, Sept. 13, to give
a lecture, "Trauma and Tea Cakes: Surviving Social Breakdown,"
at 4:30 p.m. in Seelye 106.
advantages does theater offer over other art forms in exploring
Deirdre Kinahan: Theatre
is a very safe place to explore trauma. Theatre to
me is like a mirror where we can look at our most base and
most beautiful instincts as human beings. As
a society we can embrace every aspect of ourselves through
the acting out, the story. Theatre, unlike other
art forms, is a live, dynamic and inclusive art; it simply
does not exist without an audience because that audience
totally informs the performance through their empathy, their
emotion and their reaction to what is put before them. In
theatre, the artist and audience enter a shared space, a
complicity, and together they watch a story unfold. Both
artist and audience enter into the emotion and psychological
impact of that story; literally stepping into the shoes of
another person, another universe and therefore challenge presumptions,
challenge prejudice and reach a new understanding.
did you discover your preference for playwriting as a form
of artistic expression?
DK: My mother
brought me to the theatre when I was about 8 years old
and I was hooked. She brought me to everything,
from the classics in small basement amateur theatres in Dublin
to the Abbey and the startling new Irish plays being performed
at Dublin’s Project Arts Centre. I began
acting myself around the same time and continued to do so
until having children. I simply think in terms
of theatre. I love going to plays, I love reading plays,
I love talking plays…I just think it is a magical art
form so a story, a character, a theme or a notion always
enters my head theatrically. I then live with it for
a long time before ever putting pen to paper.
relations often play an important part in your plays. Can you
describe the dynamics of your family, and how your family experience
enters into your works?
for a woman who writes a lot about dysfunction, I come
from a very stable, happy, middle-of-the-road Irish family.
My Mam and Dad also come from good strong families…families
that knew a lot of love. I suppose the strength of
that base always gave me great confidence and surety in terms
of my own emotional understanding and therefore allowed me
to enter into the maelstrom of other people’s experience.
As I said, I started out with a strong passion for acting,
so I wear my heart of my sleeve, I cry at sad films, mortify
my children by crying at school concerts, etc. I just
enter into the emotion of other people’s lives and
allow myself to feel what they feel, or more importantly,
imagine what they must feel. I’ve always
watched people. I am what you would call in Ireland a "Gawker."
My jaw is often open and my eyes glued to people. I
can’t help it; I see a couple or a family and watch
the interaction, watch what is unspoken and start to frame
a scenario and a history for them.
is, among many things, about empowering women. Some of your
plays also address the empowerment of women, through their
survival and revelation. From your perspective, what makes
Smith an apropos place for your upcoming presentation and the
production of your play, Moment?
DK: I was totally
thrilled to be invited to Smith. I read a little about the
school's history and think it an incredibly progressive and
important institution. My plays are essentially
about people, male and female, very ordinary people trying
to make sense of their lives. Life is precious
and life is beautiful, the greatest joy to my mind can be found
in the simplest things: a good pint of Guinness, a good dinner,
laughter or the sight of the sea. But sometimes life can turn
on us and we can get lost in a maelstrom of grief or violence
or anxiety. My plays try to examine that; try
to understand how as people we can lose our way; how
we can become victims, become perpetrators because nothing
is black and white, none of us are perfect, we are all capable
of great generosity and great cruelty, circumstance will
push our buttons but an emotional understanding can help
us break through and survive.
In terms of women, I certainly started out in theatre with the conviction that
the woman’s perspective was sadly missing. Historically, most
of our great playwrights are men, because women rarely worked in theatre, or
wrote for theatre or got produced. It is therefore a male view of
the world that dominates and a male experience that is most often presented.
I still believe it is vitally important to redress that. It is important
to present plays by women and plays about women. I suppose it’s about
truth, really; equality and empowerment can only take place if we present the
entire truth of human experience.