With in-person theatre beginning to reopen, Heather Reynolds breaks down what beginner theatre-goers should look out for to make the most of their time.
Live theatre is a wonderful, unmistakable, incomparable thing, one that I have been lucky enough to have been exposed to at a very young age. However, when your earliest exposure to theatre comes about in small productions, local amateur theatre or school plays, it can be really hard to figure out where to begin when you first start looking for professional productions.
My biggest tip for when you first start scouring a theatre’s programme for the upcoming season is to keep an eye out for names you know, whether that be an actor you’re familiar with, a director you like, or just a show whose name you’ve heard a million times. There’s a reason why classics become classics, and it's a guide that really is worth following. A play I would always suggest on this line is The Importance of Being Earnest, a campy, over-the-top comedy by Oscar Wilde, which is widely considered to be his best work, and for good reason. I’ve seen more productions of this play than I can count, both professional and amatuer, and it never disappoints.
But if you are looking to see fresh new shows on the scene, rather than some tried and true favourites, there are two things you should do to help leave you feeling content every time.
Firstly, engage heavily with genre. At this stage, you might have a fair idea of what you like and dislike, even if it's just in the broad strokes. If you’re a fan of period dramas, you’re probably going to enjoy a new production of Anna Karenina, while if you have a soft spot for ghost stories, you should check out the theatre production of The Woman in Black. But, if you hate movie musicals, you probably shouldn’t check out a touring production of Hairspray. Read programme descriptions, talk to the people working at the box office, and find out when something that fits your interests is running, rather than trying to fit what’s running into your interests.
“...find out when something that fits your interests is running, rather than trying to fit what’s running into your interests.”
My final suggestion, and the most prominent one for students looking to engage with new drama, is to engage with student theatre. It may be clunky at times, and it doesn’t have the budget that bigger productions do, but it remains one of the best places to find new talent and see original scripts. A lot of work, time, and love goes into every production; but student theatre is done for the love of it, and that shows in the passion of everyone involved, from set designers, to sound technicians, to the actors on stage. Plus, student productions are made to fit the student price point, so you won’t break the bank seeing seven shows in a season the way you would at the Gaiety. So keep an eye on the shows here in UCD put on by classes, DramSoc and MusicalSoc, as well as with the rest of the student theatres around Dublin. And who knows, maybe you could be in the front row of the first run of a show that becomes a classic.