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Theatre & Events

Be INspired - Deirdre Kinahan

Even though we have been confined to our homes for the last few weeks, this doesn’t mean we can’t explore. Here, playwright and theatre producer Deirdre Kinahan explains how she is inspired to write and invent new ideas for her work. She describes how she is curious about everything around her; anything can be of interest if we are aware, listen and observe. This is part of our Be INspired online series where we asked artists, writers, performers and crafts people to share with us what inspires them to create.

Read her interview below, then look at the suggestions we have prepared for you to explore in your own time. Have pen or pencil and your notebook ready and as Deirdre says try to ‘open your head to the amazing complexity and beauty of the world’ but most importantly enjoy yourself.

Learn how to make your own notebook

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do: 
I am from Dublin but living in County Meath since 1998.  I live in a cottage in Wilkinstown and have a small little writing shack at the bottom of my garden. From there I write plays for theatre artists and organisations all over the world. I collaborate with theatres, actors, directors, writers, producers and my arts officer creating new theatre projects and plays. My plays are also published by Nick Hern Books and I often travel to the US, Europe and the UK to work with theatre companies in those countries.  I love to collaborate with musicians and dancers too and include them in my productions. 
What area of the arts do you work in? 
How long have you been working in this area of the arts? 
I have been writing plays professionally for 21 years but have always been involved in the theatre.  I fell in love with it as a child and went to drama school and did plays as a young girl.  I then went to college to study English and worked as an actress for a few years before I started writing. 
What materials do you use to make your artwork? 
People and their stories.  My head.  My heart.  A computer.  Books.  Plays.  Music.  Images.  Internet.  Radio.  Newspapers. Notebook and pen. 
What or who inspires you? 
My plays are inspired by the experiences of people around me. Plays slip in from the fields, they are made in kitchens, school playgrounds, villages, lanes and towns. Plays ask questions as to why people behave as they do and how people make their way in the world. They reflect and explore and challenge and change. 
How do you start a new piece/body of work or how do you explore a new theme? 
An idea can come from anywhere, a book, a story, an image, a radio interview, a newspaper headline, a character, a moment in your life.    
If an idea grabs me then I look at the why?   For example, my daughter once brought a flower into my uncle, she just picked it from the flowerbed outside his nursing home.  He was suffering from dementia and was not very communicative but there was something about her little gesture that lit him up and he began to sing to her and play with her like he did with me when I was a child and I thought…he is all still in there, but now we just get glimpses of the man he once was.  That moment inspired a play Halcyon Days I wrote in 2012 about a man in a nursing home who is coaxed out of himself by another patient who falls in love with him. 
So you take the idea, what interests you about it or what you think you have learned through it and then you think and think and play with it in your head until you create a story that allows you to open up others to your discovery.  Then you start writing and you might write four or five draftsi of the play before you are happy with it. Then you collaborateii with other brilliant people like actors and directors and musicians and they bring their magic to the finished work. Finally, it goes out to the audience who bring their laughter and tears and understanding, and we all share a huge experience from that one little chance moment. 
Do you have any advice for those reading this? 
Always be curious. 
Never be afraid to cry. 
Never be afraid to ask questions of yourself or anything in this world. 
Never be afraid to laugh. 
Allow yourself to feel every emotion in your own life and in others. 
Love people and try to understand them even if you totally disagree with them. 
Open your head to the amazing complexity and beauty of the world. 
Enjoy yourself. 


Can you share with us an image of your work? 
This image is from a children's play I wrote in 2008 for Solstice Arts Centre called Maisy Daly's Rainbow. It was directed by Veronica Coburn and Elaine Agnew composed some beautiful music. 
The idea was inspired by a story my Dad told my two girls when they were very small. He told them he saw a rainbow at the back of the Doctor's big house in Clara where he lived and how he wanted to take the rainbow home.    I loved this idea and created a story about a young boy who was bullied but created his own rainbow on his bedroom wall and each colour helped him work through his emotions.   It was great fun and the cast of dancers, musicians and actors were totally terrific.



Music plays an important role in theatre as it can create an atmosphere or mood for the audience. It can communicate the emotion of the characters, their feelings and thoughts and even help us predict what might happen next in the story. Collaborating with the playwriter the composer thinks carefully about the instruments to use and the notes the musicians will play. Elaine Agnew, a composer from Belfast has created work that has been commissioned, performed and broadcast worldwide. She created music for Maisy Daly’s Rainbow, written for the clarinet, violin, cello and harp. She uses the instruments to describe the colours of Johnny’s rainbow in the story and is delighted to share some of that music here with you.

The first piece is Yellow, for the clarinet and harp and is mainly quiet and sleepy.


The second is Green and represents the character of Master Kane so it has more movement and also includes stringed instruments.


The third is the Navan Dance, used at the end of the play. It is a compilation of a number of shorter pieces and ‘colours’ throughout the show, especially Blue and Orange, and brings them all together to for the grand finale.


Listen to this beautiful music and think about how each piece makes you feel. Use your notebook and colours to draw to the music, creating images, shapes or lines to the notes in each piece.



LOOK & LISTEN – Always be curious

Deirdre uses everything around her for inspiration as her ideas ‘come from anywhere, a book, a story, an image, a radio interview, a newspaper headline, a character, a moment in her life’.   
You will need your notebook or paper, pen, markers or colouring pencils 

Begin where you are - write 10 things into your notebook about where you are sitting. Take your time. Use your senses, what do you see, hear, touch or smell? Write them down randomly, across, down, all over the page, in no particular order. Maybe go outside, close your eyes and really listen. Do this activity at different times of the day. For example, sitting in the same spot what sounds, conversations or smells are you aware of in the morning, the afternoon or evening? Pick a different page in your notebook for each time of day so you can compare them later. Use different colours for different words and sounds or draw shapes instead of letters if that’s what you are inspired to do, you’re the explorer! 

COLLECT – Start a collection of inspiration 

Some artists use paint, others clay to make their artwork. As a writer Deirdre says people and their stories are her art materials. Her head, heart, computer, books, music, pictures, the radio and her notebook and pen are all important tools for her writing. 
You will need an envelope, tape or glue, used wrappers, old newspaper or magazines, scissors 
Step 1: Make a word pocket in your notebook. If you made a notebook from envelopes as described in our first session link to YouTube video to flip books you can use one of those pages (Click here to see video). If not, ask an adult for a used envelope (they are always more interesting if sent to you). Put some glue or tape on the back and stick it down onto a page in your notebook. You can fold the sticky flap back out of your way. 

Step 2: Being looking for words on food packets, in magazines or newspapers (always ask before you cut them out), collect as many as you can especially words that interest you and slide them in your word pocket for inspiration later. 

Step 3: Gather some pictures too of people, animals or things that you like. You’ll find that once you cut them out, they no longer have meaning in relation to the ad or article they were in. 

Step 4: Put your cut-out letters, words and pictures on a large sheet or notebook page, turn them upside-down or place beside something else and they have a whole new meaning, one you can invent with, play with and change. Have some fun and maybe the beginnings of a story start floating in your head. Write any ideas down, ask an adult to take a picture of how you have put them together on your page so you can look at them again. 

Step 5: Store them in your envelope pocket for inspiration another day. 



COLLABORATE - A Story Map at mealtime!  

Collaborating with others is a very important part of being creative. Deirdre’s plays are inspired by the experiences of the people around her. Her ideas come ‘from the fields, they are made in kitchens, school playgrounds, villages, lanes and towns’. We can not explore the playgrounds, our town or many public places at the moment, but we do have others around us in our homes and home can be a great source of inspiration. 
– You will need: large sheets of paper (or smaller ones taped together), pens or markers 
Step 1: I’m sure you always offer to lay the table before dinner but before you do, cover the table with paper, either 1 large sheet (a paper tablecloth if you have one) or stick smaller sheets together. 

Step 2: Place a pen or marker beside each person’s knife or fork. You can do this with one other person or six, it doesn’t matter as long as you take part. 

Step 3: Use ‘Something that happened today’ as a starting point. Chat together about the day, ask everyone to write down some words or whole sentences that describe their experience. A younger brother or sister may just draw and make marks and that’s great too. Take turns, ask questions, write around your plates, down the middle or across the table (on the paper of course!). It might take a little while for everyone to join in but once they do you can start joining the words with lines or dots, shapes or squiggles! You may find your paper fills up very quickly or you can use it at different mealtimes, adding story on top of story. Just see what happens. 

Step 4: You can add to this activity however you like: ask questions, listen and be aware of other people’s suggestions, look and share together. Once finished, fold up your paper and add it to your notebook. If it doesn’t fit, keep it safe for later. 
We hope you found some inspiration in these activities. Let us know how you have been inspired by Deirdre Kinahan’s interview or you can send us a photo of what you have added to your notebook after looking and listening, collecting and collaborating with your family. You can email this along with your first name to and we will inspire each other to be curious and creative. 
Next week we will share inspiration from visual artist George Bolster. He has sent us a video where he is chatting about his creative experiences, what motivates his different artworks, the materials he uses and exciting places he has been for inspiration. 


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