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Attend a premiere from home

Going Out

Westport Town Hall Theatre’s Solas Sessions open online tomorrow night

Ciara Moynihan

At last, we can go to the theatre again! Well, virtually at least, thanks to a wonderfully imaginative initiative from Westport Town Hall Theatre, which will premiere the first of its much-anticipated Solas Sessions on its virtual stage tomorrow evening, Wednesday, June 10, at 8pm.
The Solas Sessions will see a series of online live presentations of original pieces of writing performed by a mix of professional and amateur actors from the UK, Dublin, Galway and Mayo online at the theatre’s website, www.westporttheatre.com. And the line-up is truly impressive.
A full 26 pieces have currently been short-listed into groups of weekly sessions that will go out live over rest of the month and into early July. The performances will take place on  Wednesdays from 8pm, with each evening set to feature six pieces.
Westport Town Hall Theatre manager Rosaleen Heraty and involved been overwhelmed by the response to their call out for submissions, which they made last month. “The standard of writing has just blown us away, and we are proud to give these writers and actors a platform for their work, with each piece making the Sessions overall just stand out as being vivid, intriguing, funny, sad, poignant but most of all – original,” Rosaleen said.
“We at Westport Town Hall are so grateful for all the actors and writers that came on board with such enthusiasm to support us in keeping the spirit and relevance of the arts in our community alight during what has been a devastating time for the sector over the past few months.”
Tomorrow night’s premiere will feature six performances, including a piece by Manchester-based playwright Phil Pearson, whose work has have been performed all over England and Ireland. Pearson’s monologue for Solas, ‘Frank Sinatra and my Dad’s Wig’, will be performed by Dublin actor Charlie Hughes, who performed on TV, including in Fair City, as well as on stages across Ireland and the UK.
Some of the other writers featuring in the Solas Sessions, such as Biaina Ryan, Carolyn Donnelly, Ava Hahessy Madigan and Duncan Smith, are professional actors and writers studying at the Gaiety School of Acting in Dublin under the direction of Donal Courtney. The sessions will also see piece from Galway-based writers and actors Ita Reddington and Luke Morgan.
Mayo talent features large, with contributions from Cullintra, Killawalla-based actor and writer Paul Mekiatarian, who will perform one of his own monologues, ‘Nothing New’; a piece by Hennessy/Irish Times Literary Award-nominated Castlebar poet, author and playwright Anne Walsh Donnelly, performed by Phillip Murphy from Kilmeena Drama Group; and a timely and powerful piece called ‘Stay Inside’, written by Straide actor, producer, and writer Éamonn McNicholas and performed by Des Grealis, actor and producer of Louisburgh Community TV.
Westport’s Seamus McNally, who last year won a Neill O’ Neill Creativity Award for his quirky and engaging writing, will perform along with his grand-daughter Lucy, a student of Westport Drama School with Aoife Creaby.
Westport resident Maura Flynn, whose work has often featured in these pages of The Mayo News as well as in Ireland’s Own, will also be taking part. Five of Maura’s works have been selected for the Solas Sessions, each guaranteed to bring the online audience on a vivid trip down memory lane. Maura’s pieces will be performed by St Patrick’s Drama Group members Liz Browne, Marion Moran, Bernie Byrne and Brian Murphy.  
Another Westport writer, Mary C Reilly, originally hails from Dublin. From producing and presenting ‘The Arts Show’ and ‘Searchlight’ on local radio to her involvement in Westival, Mary is no stranger to the local arts scene. Her pieces will be performed by Colette McGinty and Sharla Greenway.
With more writers, actors and pieces due to be added in the coming weeks, theatre buffs can look forward to regularly rising from their couches and armchairs for standing ovations and cheers of ‘bravo!’.
Solas means ‘light’ in Irish, and the idea for the Solas Sessions was inspired by the superstition is that all theatres are haunted, so a light is left on over the stage at all times to ensure the space is never left in darkness, to keep the ghosts at bay. Right now, the spectre that haunts us might be corona-shaped, but with initiatives like this, we can keep it from killing our creativity.
The arts give us so much – not least escape from the world when we need it – so let’s show our support by tuning in, and giving a donation to Westport Town Hall Theatre if we can.

The the full Solas Sessions programme, see www.westporttheatre.com on. While the screenings are free to watch, donations of support will be most welcome.