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Gorey Little Theatre: A look behind the curtain

Photo by Visit Wexford

Louise Forde has been a member of Gorey Little Theatre group since the early 1980s. Both onstage and offstage, Louise has remained an active member to this day.

One of the earliest roles Louise undertook was in the play God’s Gentry by Donagh MacDonagh. In this play, Louise played the role of Mary Ward; an itinerant. Stepping away from the limelight for some years, Louise eventually took on a position in the Gorey Little Theatre committee. She began as a regular committee member, attending meetings monthly and taking on some responsibilities in the running of shows.

As the years went on, Louise dabbled in a plethora of different jobs in the running of the theatre, such as: theatre bookings, tending the theatre shop, raffle tickets and the box office. Other than acting, Louise also became involved in lighting and sound, both crucial parts in the productions of shows. One of Louise’s most noticeable jobs in the theatre was set design.

Louise, along with a degree in accounting, gained a bachelor’s degree in Fine Art, focussing on Conceptual Art and Art Performance. Louise has lent these talents to creating award-winning sets for production during the All-Ireland Theatre competition on numerous occasions.

From 2014 to 2016, Louise undertook the role of Chairperson. Since her stepping down of the position, Louise has remained Production Manager. Another role Louise continues to this day is make-up. This was brought on by her time in Art College, after leaving a job she had in Permanent TSB. Louise said she “became more interested in anything visual” and “realised that make-up and visuals are more important in the arts than performance”.

Gorey Little Theatre has a yearly schedule that they work by every year. The year, for Gorey Little Theatre, begins at the end of April each year. The first thing that must be decided is what productions are going to be produced for the months of July and August of that summer. After the plays are decided on, the theatre advertises for directors, run auditions and cast the plays. After this, the cast begin rehearsals, the sets are created and costumes are sought after. By September, auditions begin for the annual pantomime, a huge part of the theatres yearly schedule. The pantomime is staged every January.

Another big event in the theatre calendar is the One-act Drama Festival. The festival is a three-night event, where three one-act plays are staged each night and are adjudicated. The festival takes place every November. During this time, auditions take place for the play that is entered in the All-Ireland Drama Festival in mid-February. After the All-Ireland Festival is over, the theatre hosts the South Leinster Drama Festival, which showcases nine plays from groups in the Wexford County. This lead into the end of March, when the AGM takes place and the cycle begins all over again.

The theatre space itself is availed by local schools and drama groups to showcase their own shows and events. In September of this year, the theatre ran a six-week drama workshop for beginners.
When asked what her favourite production of Gorey Little Theatre’s was, Louise said “in recent years, I really liked Michael Dunbar’s production of ‘Da’ by Hugh Leonard”. Hugh Leonard is one of Louise’s favourite playwrights. Louise says that her most favourite role she has ever played was in a production of another Leonard play, A Life. Louise played the role of “Mibs” in a production back in 2006. When asked why it was her favourite role, Louise responded simply with: “I think Mibs was me…!”

The Gorey Little Theatre group begun before the theatre itself was built. The group was created in order to host a theatre festival. The inaugural festival took place in 1954. This year will be the 61st theatre festival hosted by Gorey Little Theatre. The building of the Theatre today was once a community hall in the heart of Gorey town. The Gorey Theatre Festival has only been cancelled on two occasions: firstly; in 1956, due to the Suez Canal Crisis and secondly; in 2007, due the Foot and Mouth outbreak.

Louise believes that the theatre scene is a huge part of Gorey and Wexford County. She backed up this claim by listing all the drama groups in Gorey and the surrounding area. Louise listed off nine groups in the County of Wexford alone. When asked why drama is so popular, especially in the past ten years or so, Louise said: “I think it’s because it’s live. You can’t compare it to cinema. It’s all about breaking the forth wall”. Another aspect of theatre that Louise believes is important is the comradely between the audience and the actors.

With the increased audiences, Louise believes that this leads to more people willing to be onstage, as well as being interested in directing, light and sound. Louise went on to commend the local schools who she believes play a crucial role in exposing young people to the theatre world and helping them get interested in it. Louise says that there are even some young people who have gone on to study drama, lighting and sound engineering in college due to influences from Gorey Little Theatre.

Currently, Louise is producing a festival play that will be staged next year. Alongside that, Louise is also organising a memorial party for a recently deceased, former member of Gorey Little Theatre. This will be happening in April. Also, Louise is passing on her knowledge of costuming and training other members in costuming for this year’s pantomime.

Louise sees the theatre scene in Ireland as “getting better and better all the time”. Louise went on to say that audiences are forever increasing and more and more people are becoming more interested in the theatre, both as spectators and participants. Louise also expressed the fact that the theatre itself doesn’t charge a lot of money for its shows. Being an amateur theatre, the money raised at shows goes directly into the upkeep of the theatre itself. Louise went on to list all of what needs to be paid for, such as: the lights, insurance, electricity and food and drink. In order to keep this up, Louise says that “we need to just keep bringing people in and produce as much as we can to keep the coins in our pockets!”

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