When I got the email saying that my play was going to be produced in Dublin as part of the Smock Alley Scene + Heard festival, I cried tears of joy. The play that I had submitted was called Escapegoat. It followed the conflicts between an invasive species of goat and native species in the Galapagos, and the ethically questionable ways in which scientists intervened. I was excited to do this play in Dublin because, while many of my plays directly address American political and social issues, this play does not deal with human cultures in any significant way, and is primarily told from the perspectives of different animals. This makes it the play of mine that is best suited to cross-cultural collaboration. Smock Alley was the first theater I ever went to in Dublin, and it is a beautiful space with a rich history, so I could not have imagined a better home for my playwriting debut in Dublin.
While the process of staging a play in a new city was challenging, and there were moments when it seemed nearly impossible, I was touched by the support I received from my Irish and American circles. My professors met with me to give me advice and inform me about resources available throughout the city, as did several theater artists to whom I reached out because I admire their work. One professor even secured us free rehearsal space, which helped us immensely. Friends recommended actors and a director, and two of my classmates were involved (one as the producer, and the other as an actor). American friends and family were incredibly generous in helping us fund the production and spreading the word. And, of course, the Mitchell family has been a constant source of support to me throughout this process. When we faced challenges, my fellow scholars were often the ones to enthusiastically cheer me on and inspire me to keep going. Many of them came to see the show, and Carolina (the Mitchell Director) was also able to attend while she was in Ireland. I always feel fortunate to be part of this community, but I was especially aware of how special it is in the weeks leading up to my play.
One question that this process has raised for me is the extent to which plays have to be culturally specific in order to resonate. Several of my Irish colleagues in theater remarked to me that this play was very different from the majority of plays they have seen in Dublin, simply because its subject matter had nothing to do with Ireland. Indeed, all of the plays I have seen in Ireland interrogate what it means to be Irish, or address the most pressing social issues in Ireland today. I have often heard the critique that Irish theater is “navel-gazing,” and I generally object to this opinion because it assumes that Ireland is not important or culturally rich enough to be worthy of writing many plays about. After all, countless American plays deal with specifically American politics and national identity, and no one ever accuses American theater of navel-gazing. However, I also believe that Irish audiences deserve access to stories about other parts of the world on their stages, and that Irish playwrights should not feel that they must only write about Irish topics if they want their work to be produced. Putting up a play in Ireland as an American writing about the Galapagos has complicated this debate for me in a constructive and eye-opening way.