As the first university student theatre company in the world to be invited, Old Dominion’s The Starving Artists will perform in Ireland at the 11th International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival.
Starting May 4, the annual two-week festival celebrates the contribution of gay people to theatre with an emphasis on new or recent international and Irish works with a broadly gay theme or relevance.
Over 200 theatre companies applied to participate. Only 50 were selected. TSA is one of two American companies to be invited.
TSA will perform their first original show, “My Dorian,” based on “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde, for whom the festival was founded in 2004 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the author’s birth.
“It’s a really huge honor,” Norton said. “It’s been a really great experience, as far as coming back from our dormancy, putting together an original show and then getting accepted into such a big festival and being able to represent ODU.”
Norton said his biggest hope is for the university to gain recognition for something not typically associated with ODU “because a lot people don’t think of ODU with an arts affiliation, so we think that will be a great connection to ODU that people don’t normally see or think about.”
Four cast members, two technicians and the stage manager will attend the festival where they will perform at Trinity College, Wilde’s Alma Mater. They are rigorously rehearsing to ensure cohesiveness and to make it as “bare bones” as possible, but things won’t stop being hectic until the festival is over.
“It’s a mad dash,” Norton said. “There are four shows in each space a day. They’re literally back-to-back. As soon as the show closes, you have to tear down that set, tear down those lights and refocus and reset all the new lights, set, props, everything in about half an hour before the next show is up.”
Fortunately, TSA is the last to perform, so the crew will have time to catch their breath when the curtains close. Although, they still face the challenge of training the festival technicians on where to hang and focus lights, how queues need to be called and making the show more simple to accommodate the allotted time.
“We’ve never had this experience before,” Norton said. “We’ve always been in a space that we can have full reign of and have people that understand and can work with us. It’s a completely, no pun intended, foreign experience.”
All this is a cakewalk compared to the difficulties the organization faced with simply getting to the festival. Because TSA is in it’s first year, the organization only received a $480 budget, a sum by no means capable of affording a two-week stay in Ireland.
Overwhelming support from the faculty and administration resulted in $7,900 of donations to TSA for the trip. The group also requested and received $5,000 from the Student Government Association contingency funds. Each member will split the difference, about $400 each, out of pocket.
Festival organizers are nearly as excited to have TSA perform as TSA is to be attending.
Founding Artistic Director Brian Merriman said the “open, generous and inspirational” support from ODU made TSA’s application impossible to ignore.
“I salute the vision and inclusiveness of this distinguished institution in supporting, in a real way, it’s students to find and celebrate their voice through theatre as an art form,” Merriman said.
“These essential ingredients assured me that this group would not only make a contribution to the celebration of the positive LGBT identity through theatre, but hopefully they too would benefit from being part of this unique network of new and courageous artistic voices that gather in Dublin annually to inform, entertain and educate.”
By Derek Page