Róisín Stack confesses to having a constant existential crisis over whether she’s from Galway or Mayo. The Shrule native’s feelings are even more divided this September, with both counties having a representation in All-Ireland finals and, in the end, she remains firmly seated on the fence.
As director of the Galway Theatre Festival, Róisín does not have much time at the moment to worry about county rivalries. The festival, now in its fifth year, and her fourth, kicks off on Monday and she admits that she has thought of little else since April.
“It’s just been theatre fest, really, since April, so I’m looking forward to a break!” she admits.
Róisín studied in Galway Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) before training as an actor in Australia for a time and subsequently returned to Galway to undertake an MA in Drama at NUI Galway. After appearing in the first Galway Theatre Festival in 2008, she was invited to join the team in 2009 and became Festival Director in 2010.
Her role consists of plenty of administrative work, such as attending plays, compiling the programme, organising the launch and liaising with theatre groups and venues. “Just making sure that it happens, really!” as she succinctly puts it.
She is also part of the selection panel that chooses the line-up for the festival, alongside Páraic Breathnach, Rod Goodall, Andrew Flynn and Assistant Festival Director, Katie Moriarty Hopper.
“We have an open submission that runs for about three months and then, in the middle of the summer, we select the companies and that changes year on year, depending on what venues we have, what funding we have, how many we can do and what the quality of the applications is,” she explains.
This year’s festival hasn’t proved too stressful “as yet”, she says, although she attributes much of that to the fact that her Assistant Director, Katie Moriarty Hopper shouldered some of the work while Róisín undertook a different type of direction, a Mephisto production of Marina Carr’s ‘The Mai’. Experience, too, has helped.
“I suppose year on year you put different structures in place, you know what the lead-in times are and you get a bit better at anticipating different problems and things like that, but at the same time it’s been non-stop.”
Great time and consideration has gone into choosing this year’s programme and, though she is loath to choose a favourite, she does reserve particular praise for Talking Shop Ensemble’s production, ‘Death of a Tradesman’. As a non-Galway production, she knows this kind of show could slip under the radar.
“It’s a really, really lovely piece and the Production Manager Mike O’Halloran and Katie Moriarty-Hopper saw that with me as well and we were fairly unanimous that we had to bring it Galway and it had to be seen,” she enthuses.
This year, as with last year, there are a number of shows from outside Galway, but the festival will always be about promoting local theatre groups, such as Mephisto, Fregoli, Vagabond, Blue Teapot and others.
“I think the theatre festival definitely responded to a demand, a need that was there with all of the theatre that was being created in the city,” she says.
“It’s really for emerging artists and that was where is sprang from in 2008, to give a platform for all the emerging work that was happening in Galway at the time, so it has just continued in that vein, although it has widened to be open to national companies and international companies as well,” she adds.
Although Róisín says she is “half-tempted” to take an extended break after the festival, she knows that the economic reality dictates otherwise. Next on the list is a project called Jolt, which she is undertaking with Craig Flaherty.
For now though, she has her sights firmly set on next week’s festival and is hopeful that the people will come out and support Galway Theatre Festival and what she calls the “never-ending” stream of dramatic talent that this city has.
Galway Theatre Festival runs from Monday 1 October until Sunday 7 October at five venues across the city. For the full festival programme, visit www.galwaytheatrefestival.com. For tickets, visit tht.ie or call 091-569777.