Limerickman to connect home city with New York theatre

George Heslin in Limerick recently. Picture: Ian Collins
THE Limerickman who has helped facilitate Bottom Dog in taking to a New York stage later this year says he hopes to have a “conference of creativity under the banner of Limerick” in the Big Apple in years to come.

THE Limerickman who has helped facilitate Bottom Dog in taking to a New York stage later this year says he hopes to have a “conference of creativity under the banner of Limerick” in the Big Apple in years to come.

George Heslin is aiming to foster cultural links between the two cities through Culture Connect Limerick, which will see local theatre groups – including amateur productions – perform in New York.

Mr Heslin, who runs Origin Theatre Company and the annual Origin First Irish Theatre Festival in New York, launched the initiative last week when it was announced that Bottom Dog would travel to the States to perform at the festival this September.

George said that he aims to work on two Limerick projects over the course of 12 months in 2016.

“While we do get a lot of culture in New York – and we do get a lot of theatre – there are many other strands that come from Ireland that are not represented here. You have very little opera, you have very little art exhibitions, very little choirs, and that was the idea behind Culture Connect Limerick,” he said.

“We have reached out to quite prominent people from the Limerick community and we have had a series of meetings already, in terms of building a network of Limerick people who are passionate about culture. And the aim of the project is that each year, we will start bringing in projects from Limerick and give them a performance, an arena and a stage, here in New York,” he explained.

He added that he would “love” to see Limerick amateur theatre groups performing in New York.

“I am aware that there are so many amateur dramatics groups here in Limerick, and I would love to see a situation where we would be able to bring four or five of the amateur groups to New York, even for a week to showcase their work.”

He said that the cost of bringing a show from Ireland across the Atlantic can be seen as a challenge, as it could be as expensive as $170,000. However, groups working through Origin can reduce their costs to around $30,000, with the help of its strong network, according to the Raheen man.

He added that he hopes that this initiative will help Limerick’s bid for European Capital of Culture 2020.

“If you look at any place that has won European Capital of Culture, there needs to be an international strand. This is helping that as well. A European Capital of Culture is very different to a National City of Culture, in terms of the international flow of work, and the international engagement with other organisations, so all that feeds into that end goal, ultimately,” he explained.

Limerick city and county arts officer Sheila Deegan said that the “international connectivity fits well with artistic vision of Limerick”.

“Their [Bottom Dog Theatre] leap to the international stage is testament to their commitment to be an ambitious Limerick theatre company and the connection to New York via Origin Theatre, itself led by a Limerickman, brings this to fruition,” she said.

Limerick Marketing Company CEO Eoghan Prendergast said that this was an “opportunity to open up Limerick to international audiences” and to form connections. He added that Limerick Marketing Company would be helping Origin Theatre Company with the Bottom Dog production, and added that this would support Limerick’s European Capital of Culture bid.

Bottom Dog Theatre will join Dublin’s Fishamble at this September’s festival in New York, which has supported more than 100 playwrights over the past seven years.

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