Speech Given by Mary Moynihan, Artistic Director, Smashing Times Theatre Company Limited, at the launch of Acting for Peace funded by the international Fund for Ireland, June 2012:
I wish to thank you all for coming here today to participate in the launch of this very exciting and inspiring project Acting for Peace presented by Smashing Times Theatre Company Limited.
Smashing Times Theatre Company is now established as a leading professional arts
organization that promotes social justice through high quality artistic processes. The company is involved in professional performance, training and participation and the work is underpinned by a rights-based approach and a commitment to artistic excellence and social engagement.
I am delighted to be here today on behalf of Smashing Times Theatre Company to announce details of this major new project which is supported by the International Fund for Ireland.
Acting for Peace is an innovative arts programme using drama and theatre activities within Cavan, Leitrim, Louth and Monaghan to bring people together to explore themes that are a consequence of the conflict in Northern Ireland and the Southern Border Counties. The project uses drama and theatre to promote reconciliation, equality, diversity and the coming together of different communities in mutual understanding and respect.
The Acting for Peace Project has been generously supported by the International Fund for Ireland, an independent international organisation established by the Irish and British Governments in 1986. The Fund’s main objectives are to promote economic and social advance and encourage contact, dialogue and reconciliation between unionists and nationalists throughout Ireland. The Acting for Peace project promotes cross-border and cross-community participation and consists of Reconciliation through Drama Workshops; Seminars for Dialogue & Training; the creation of a professional original performance with post-show discussions and a final report and evaluation.
It is sometimes argued that when theatre is inspired by principles of a political or social dimension, that the artistic quality of the work can be lessened. In our experience when artists with a deep commitment to artistic integrity come together with audiences to create work of a high artistic quality and equally to use the power of drama and theatre to promote equality, such highly original and innovative approaches produce ‘undeniable artistic achievements’.
The talent and dedication of artists using their art form and creativity to engage directly with participants through collaboration and participation develops a sense of sharing and a way to create new visions for the future.
Audiences become deeply involved in the theatre performances, the post-show discussions, the seminars and workshops. There are many aspects of drama and theatre that have relevance for working to promote positive human interaction. Actors train to open themselves up, to be vulnerable and to freely communicate with others. As part of this project, artists and audiences engage together in processes that look deep inside to discover what makes us instinctive human beings as we work together to develop deeper levels of engagement with each other.
Our work regularly touches on issues that can be challenging, difficult, disturbing, or
contentious yet evaluations regularly feed back words like ‘enjoyable’, ‘fun’, ‘meeting new people and making new friends’, and ‘discovering more about ourselves and the other’. In relation to the conflict in Northern Ireland we have come a long way. However major challenges still remain such as the glass wall of sectarianism, the threat of dissident paramilitary activity and the appeal that physical force violence can have for young people today.
We hope this project plays a role in continuing the process of building and sustaining a peaceful society that promotes equality and justice for all.
We in Smashing Times Theatre Company are dedicated to using our creativity and skills to provide entertainment, and equally to challenge and promote freedom, dignity, respect, and non-violence and to do so in partnership and collaboration with those whom we work with and for.
On behalf of Smashing Times Theatre Company I would like to express our appreciation and thanks to the funder of this project, the International Fund for Ireland. Their support has enabled the development, growth and success of our company and this project and we thank them sincerely for their vision and support. I wish all the staff; artists and participants involved in Acting for Peace every success.
We also wish to thank our patrons – Maeve Binchy, Brian Friel, Tim Pat Coogan and Robert Kee – for their ongoing support and to thank Dublin City Council Arts Office.
The stories we tell on our stage come from our direct engagement with local communities and have a resonance with artists and audiences culturally, socially and politically. The work aims to entertain, to challenge and to empower citizens and communities. We hope you will join with us as we work together to encourage local and national conversations and debate on issues affecting us today and to develop and contribute towards new visions and ways forward in Ireland and Northern Ireland in the 21st century.