High drama on the festival circuit

Groups from Dunmore and Glenamaddy are taking part in his year’s Amateur Drama Festival Circuit, competing for a place in next month’s finals. Festivals are being held across the island, with events in Claregalway and Glenamaddy up next. BERNIE Ní FHLATHARTA learns about the huge commitment involved in amateur drama and how local theatre groups benefit their communities.

Telling stories through the medium of performers onstage has been around since 700BC when the Greeks did it with poetry and then later used masks to depict cast members. As they say, the rest is history.

Ireland too has a strong tradition of theatre and Galway is no exception.

The city boasts the country’s oldest Irish language, An Taibhdhearc, which celebrates its 96th anniversary this year.

Meanwhile, many parishes across the county and city have their own drama groups, with many working on productions since last Autumn – some to stage their plays in local halls and others to go on ‘the circuit’, taking part in prestigious drama festivals across the island. Run by the Amateur Drama Council of Ireland (ADCI), these take place between February and April.

Going on the circuit is a huge commitment. Producing a show will take over the lives of cast and crew between November and April as groups aim to reach the All-Ireland finals.

There are two categories on the circuit, Confined and Open. The Open finals, sponsored by RTÉ, are held in Athlone every May, while this year’s Confined Finals will take place in Mountmellick, County Laois, in April.

Groups performing on the circuit have their performances marked by professional adjudicators at each festival they participate in.

There are 37 ADCI-approved festivals across Ireland and for the past few weeks, these nine-night events have been drawing drama groups from the four provinces to entertain local audiences.

Galway has two festivals. Claregalway opens this Thursday, March 14, and runs until Friday, March 22. Meanwhile, Glenamaddy Drama Festival, which will open on Friday, March 22, celebrates its 60th anniversary this year.

The Dunmore Amateur Drama Society [DADS] and Glenamaddy Players are the only two Galway groups on the circuit this year.

Both are seasoned participants and are aiming to be among the top nine groups in their category, from which an overall winner will be produced.

They’re competing in the Confined section of the competition, a category for smaller groups — the Open section is for bigger groups with bigger budgets from sponsorship.

The winner of the confined Category will get to perform, but not compete, in the Open All-Ireland in Athlone.

Pictured: From left; Actors Martin Silke, Eleanor Sheridan and Ollie Turner of DADS, who are currently on the road with Brian Friel’s Faith Healer.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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