First Ladies needed Lady Luck

So it’s a few nights before your first major play in Dublin is about to open, the stage is set, lines are learned and rehearsals have been going well. Sure you’re worried about how many people might turn up but the advertisements around the city will help with that, plus it’s been listed in a number of the “what’s on” guides around town. With a bit of luck things will take care of themselves.

So it’s a few nights before your first major play in Dublin is about to open, the stage is set, lines are learned and rehearsals have been going well. Sure you’re worried about how many people might turn up but the advertisements around the city will help with that, plus it’s been listed in a number of the “what’s on” guides around town. With a bit of luck things will take care of themselves.

You know what you don’t need right now?

Your venue to shut down, that’s what.

This is just what happened to director Aleksandra Rosiak a few days before her play “First Ladies” was about to open in Le Cafe Des Irlandais on South Great Georges Street. Cue understandable panic.

“I had a week which was a nightmare really,” she says sounding briefly pained, “a nightmare.”

As producer of the show and head of theatre group the Kaleidoscope Project - which presents the show - it was her responsibility to find a suitable new venue – in this case the Outhouse Theater on Capel Street. However, not in time for opening night and thus dates had to be changed and all that advance advertising gone to waste.

Aleksandra, originally from Poland but living in Ballitore in Kildare, is upbeat about the whole thing now though. In fact she’s positively bubbly.

“First Ladies” is an unsettling comedy critiquing modern family life and tells the story of three women, Erna, Greta and Marie who sit around a kitchen table talking about their life past and an alternative future.

It was written by the controversial Austrian playwright Werner Schwab and features his characteristic strong language and take on black comedy. Schwab’s is a name which might not be all that familiar to Irish audiences. In fact it was the lack of plays written by people outside of Ireland being staged here which led Aleksandra to setting up her own production company in 2009, after nearly a decade’s work in or around Irish theatre.

“There are very very few European playwrights staged in Ireland,” she says, “apart from a few English playwrights and the odd Ibsen here and there.”

With Ireland apparently ignoring works from most of our European neighbours she got the “idea to start bringing those plays here and to try to create something in the theatre that is not Irish but tackles the same issues.”

As for why the scarcity of multinational plays here, Alekandra believes the reasons are two–fold.

“I think it’s partly because Ireland is not connected so much to the continent. If there’s a show in Berlin we want to see it [in Poland] the next day, to know what the fuss is about, what’s happening. If you’re in Dublin, in Cork you’re not going to hear about it so much.”

And secondly.

“There is a lot of young Irish playwrights that write brilliant plays so there’s also a lot of choice out there.”

She points to the theatre festivals around the country which do put on non-Irish focused shows - and generally sell-out - as evidence for the potential success of her fledgling theatre company.

Aleksandra moved to Ireland in 2002 having initially only intended coming here for a holiday but instead has settled into life in the rural area of Ballitore, insisting it gives her space to think. Being one of the first Eastern Europeans to move to Ireland - Poland only entered the EU in 2004 - she still needed a visa to work.

Having already been a part of theatre back home she wasted no time getting involved in local theatre groups, joining the Upstate Theatre Project in Drogheda before graduating to teaching her own workshops to children and adults alike. There are few barriers to achieving your goals for those willing to work for them. There was one thing she couldn’t get around though.

“I’m very limited as an actor in Ireland because of my accent,” she says, “in general most of the theatre in Ireland is for Irish actors.”

The one role which is out there for a young Polish actress is understandably not something she wants to confine herself to.

“How many waitresses can you play?” she says laughing “or how many plays about waitresses are you going to have?”

So the acting dream had to go. Having settled in a new country and seeing your principal dream prove impossible, you’d forgive anyone from getting disheartened or giving up. Instead Aleksandra just refocused her goals and instead turned her hand to directing and the even more ambitious goal of forming her own theatre company.

The Spiral Staircase was started in Drogheda 2007 with the more enterprising Kaleidoscope Project following in 2009. As you might imagine being the sole driving force behind such a companies isn’t all that easy.

“It’s very difficult in terms of getting all the background stuff which needs to done, like where do you rehearse, where do you advertise, where do you get the money for this?” Things have not gotten any easier since.

“Like last week, it’s the producer’s role to deal with this and it’s on my shoulders basically to move it all along if we loose the venue. I would rather give the responsibility to someone else and focus on directing.”

Her hopes for the show – or at least those she’s willing to admit to - amount to little more than that the play will provide “an echo around the city” with the company getting itself some name recognition. And secondly to “see if it makes sense here what I’m doing with European theatre and to see if people understand what I’m doing.”

“First Ladies” is on from Monday 23rd May – Wed 1st June in the Outhouse Theatre in Capel Street, Dublin. Tickets from 087-7406363.