Wednesday, July 25, 2012

When a wrong turn is right

"I knew it was the right place for me. There were posters advertising an upcoming Lambert puppet show, and a local drama group production."

dramadynamicsThat was ten years ago, writes Brian Byrne, when Evelyn O'Sullivan and her husband Peter 'took a wrong turning' and ended up looking at a house for sale in Kilcullen. Today, her Drama Dynamics Speech & Drama School is an integral part of the fabric of the community. It not only gives children a chance to develop their talents, but has become a valuable seedbed for teen and adult drama in the town.

Recently her 'Summer Stage 2012' workshop students presented 'Peter Pan' after a week of preparation in which some of them got a first experience in all the intricacies of stagework, a week that was underpinned by fun.

"They've been just wonderful," Evelyn said during a break at the rehearsal. "Their attention, their behaviour, from as young as four and working each day from 10am till 2.30pm. They really are fantastic and I've enjoyed it."


Watching that rehearsal, the 25 or so involved were clearly enjoying it too. And getting something of the feeling which Evelyn herself had got as a child when she was attending Maura Currivan's Speech & Drama classes in her native Cork.

"I had always been acting as a youngster at home, imitating people, so my parents decided to send me to classes. I was a bit older than the other children there, I think around twelve, and the first thing I was asked to do was pretend to be a rock star."

Which she did, to a somewhat dumbstruck audience of classmates. "I knew from then on that I wanted to keep doing this. So I stayed with Maura's class in parallel with my normal school, doing my exams through the London Acadamy of Music & Dramatic Art."

When she later moved to Dublin, Evelyn continued her drama studies, culminating in the achievement of a teaching diploma with the famous Betty Ann Norton school.

"I stopped then, and never taught. But I became very involved with amateur drama, with AIB and the Temple Players. We used to do the All-Ireland Festival circuit."

Three years after moving to Kilcullen, busy at being a full-time mother to her and Peter's five children, Evelyn was in conversation one day with a couple of members of Kilcullen Drama Group. The talk turned to the lack of drama facilities for children. "I thought to myself, 'I could do that'," she recalls. "So I put out my leaflets, and Drama Dynamics was up and running."

It filled a need for the children, but it also changed Evelyn's life 'hugely'. "You get to know the kids, and through them their parents, and it certainly integrated me." And with new youngsters joining her more experienced ones each year, the process continues.

It's more than work, though. There's a real satisfaction in watching her pupils develop their talents … and providing a place for their personalities to flower.

"As a child I never had a problem performing in front of people, but I did have a younger sister with whom I was very close, and she was incredibly shy. So I'm always aware of the shy little ones. It's like the kid in school who knows the answer to a question but is afraid to put up a hand. That's the child I want to help, to give them that little bit of confidence."

And she has a few of those who have been with her since she started Drama Dynamics, who are now 'out there flying'. "If it all ended tomorrow, it would have been worthwhile just for them."

Ten years ago it might have been a 'wrong turn' on a drive, out looking at houses. But for Kilcullen and for Evelyn herself it turns out to have been very much a right one.

(This article was first published on the Kilcullen Page of the Kildare Nationalist.)