Before you panic: no, I did not meet a stranger on Tinder and travel halfway across the world with them in hopes of finding romance only to find myself kidnapped and taken to Nigeria where my only means of escape was smuggling myself through a shipment being sent from one of the largest Guinness breweries in the world, all while disguised as a sheep. Wouldn’t that make for a great blog post, though?
All joking aside, I’ve been fairly busy with midterms and choir as well as helping with a short play about Tinder called “Swipe,” one of several plays currently being produced by the NUIG Drama Society (a.k.a. DramSoc). I also got the chance to see a local performance of The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde (an Irish playwright!) in one of the smaller theatres here in Galway. In the midst of all the drama, I’ve learned a lot about Irish music and singing, especially a particular form known as sean-nós singing which I will explain later in this post.
Setting the Stage
When I heard there was a need for a props master and assistant stage manager for one of the DramSoc shows, I jumped at the opportunity. I had auditioned for several of them at the beginning of the semester, but unfortunately did not get an acting part. “Swipe,” the name of the freshers play for this semester, had just recently been cast with first-year students (or “freshers,” as they’re called here) when I first heard about it. It was written by two drama students and follows two groups of students reacting to an accidental swipe right on Tinder. Hilarity ensues, resulting in a short but uproarious comedy laden with teen angst, some juvenile sexual humor, and chicken sandwiches.
With only a few weeks of rehearsal, the gang really delivered with their execution of jokes and dedication to the show. I really enjoyed watching everyone’s characters develop with each rehearsal and how each individual in each friend group brought their own personalities and humor into it. It was such a pleasure working with this lovely cast on this fantastic show!
Venturing off campus, I was really fortunate to have stumbled upon — quite literally, in fact, as I was walking around town and happened to notice its bright red door — the little gem that is Nun’s Island Theatre. Although it only seats 80, the theatre hosts many different events, concerts, films, and of course performances from both professional companies and from Galway Youth Theatre — all sponsored by the Galway Arts Centre (you can read more about it and the theatre here). It just so happened that they were showcasing a performance of The Importance of Being Earnest the very weekend I found the theatre, and for €8 per student ticket no less! In case you’re not familiar with the plot, the play revolves around two bachelors named Algernon and John who like to take on different identities when they visit the country, especially when they try to win the affections of the women they love. As one might expect, their deception lands them both into trouble, which turns into a comical conflict between the men, the women, and their guardians. I loved how intimate the theatre became with its small size and fairly simple set, which consisted of a couple of flats and some furniture for the living room in the first act and a couple pieces of outdoor furniture and flowers for the backyard in the second and third acts. The characters were dressed in aristocratic fashion with quirky pastel and lavish gold and maroon colors, and the actors did a wonderful job playing on the eccentricities of each character. Unfortunately I couldn’t get any pictures of the performance, but I can assure you it was quite the local treat!
Setting the Mood
Speaking of local treat, one of my favorite parts about the culture here in Ireland is the music and traditional Irish song. Through my Indigenous Arts Exploration class we learned about a type of Irish singing called sean-nós, which is Irish for “old style” or “old way.” Performers of this style sing without any instrumental accompaniment, and they often sing words using several notes at a time rather than singing one note per syllable as most contemporary singers do. Most of the songs are in Irish (though they are also sung in English), and are often about love or local pride. What’s really fascinating about this kind of music is how personal and even meditative it can sound; when a performer starts singing, whether they are on stage or in a pub, their audience sits quietly captivated while the performer appears to be off in their own world. Sometimes, if the song is well-known, people will sing along with them. When I listen to these performances I feel a warm calmness and a sense of community unlike anything I’ve ever heard in a capella music. Even though I can’t understand the Irish language, I can connect very easily to the emotion and nostalgia that these singers express through such a unique form of music. I would highly recommend you look up some examples of sean-nós singing on YouTube, and I hope the links below are a good start! In the second video is Dr. Liam Lillis Ó Laoire, a lecturer at NUIG who came to our class and talked about the history and structure of sean-nós singing.
This semester seems to have flown by already! Hopefully I won’t be too swamped with papers and assignments in the coming weeks. I won’t be going on any wild escapades with Tinder matches , but I am making a few travel plans in the coming months. For now, I’ll leave you with a few videos of my favorite performances that have taken place right on the streets of Galway:
Until next time, enjoy the music and take care, everyone!