More than just a bit of "CRAIC"
First of all, I will just clarify for all my Aussie visitors. When I say "Craic" I mean the wonderful Irish word that translates to fun! I have been caught out way too many times here in Australia asking people in bars, "any craic?" or telling people that parties were so good because, "we had so much craic!!". It gets a very unsettled reaction.... So before I delve into this post, Craic = FUN.
However, since I was about 10 years old Craic is a word that has meant more to me than it's humble meaning of 'fun'. For those of you that know me well, you'll know that the CRAIC Theatre in Coalisland (my hometown) has been a big part of my life from my preteens, throughout my teenage years, and right up until now as I sit here, a not much wiser adult.
My experience of CRAIC Theatre began when my mother had realised that all my magnificent and incredibly annoying performances of "Tomorrow" from Annie were really and truly going to waste in my living room. My grandmother had often said that I "should be on the stage"! So it seemed to only make sense to start sending me on a Saturday morning to CRAIC theatre so I could focus my dramatic energy in a more productive way! Well, I can honestly say, it worked. And so began my addiction, my obsession, my passion for the stage.
As a child I wasn't athletic. I know some of my wonderful close friends will read this and laugh at athletic even being in a sentence alongside me. Playing football, camogie or any kind of physical activity was absolutely foreign to me. However, teach me a dance routine or encourage me to run around a stage and I was your girl. I felt free! I felt inspired! But most of all, I actually knew I was good at it. CRAIC theatre gave me such a gift at that young age. I finally felt a strong sense of belonging and excitement.
As I got that bit older, I was then offered the opportunity to have main, leading roles in CRAIC's productions. A memory that I will never forget, is being cast as a leading role in CRAIC's annual pantomime, "Treasure Island". It was the most lines I had ever had, the most stage time, the most responsibility! The opening night, we finished our final number and the curtain closed, (we had a curtain/gauze back then!!) and I remember standing and watching the audience continue to stand and cheer and celebrate our performance. They were celebrating our hard work. They were celebrating our bravery, as young kids, putting ourselves out there. They were celebrating our community. Their community! I remember that as a very defining moment of my life. As a young girl, around 13 years of age, I felt important, appreciated and seen.
My journey with CRAIC continued and I was driven then to study Theatre at university. That seed that CRAIC had planted 10 years before, had officially paved the way for my career to begin. When I finished my degree, with impeccable timing, a job opportunity came up, for a new Drama facilitator in the theatre. I jumped at the chance to apply, regardless of the fact that I had JUST graduated and wasn't even quite sure if I could do the job. I remember they phoned me and asked me was I sure I could do it? Was I confident to write, direct and facilitate? Was I ready?
With incredible false confidence I proclaimed, "yes, absolutely".
How lucky was I?! To have the opportunity to grow up with CRAIC and then come back, full circle, and have the opportunity to work with kids, just like myself. Through this experience I learned so much. I learned about how to facilitate, I learned how to stage HUGE productions, I learned how to write, direct and produce my own work, to an incredibly professional standard. But most importantly, I learned how much this work means to our community. How much it benefits our audiences to come and relax and laugh. How much it develops our children's confidence, hones their theatre skills and shows them a professional stage environment, in their own area. How much it brings people together, of all ages, of all backgrounds.
That is exactly was CRAIC gives to people. Opportunity. Opportunity to grow, to learn, to develop. Opportunity to laugh, dance, have fun! Once you are a part of CRAIC, it never leaves you. It supports all your ventures, celebrates your wins and offers you a safe space to always return to. Working with the most magnificent Youth Theatre, I can confidently say, there are so many kids and young people that rely on CRAIC for support, for learning and most importantly for fun and joy.
The pandemic has meant that CRAIC is now closed for the foreseeable, meaning they have taken significant cuts to their earnings from the box office. They have just released a crowd funding campaign and I fully encourage people to donate as much as is possible for them to protect and support an organisation that is so vital to our community.
Community theatre is so much more than "just entertainment". It's a space for young people to feel safe, to feel a part of something and to utilise their incredible talents. It's a space for all the amazing creatives in our area to gather, to share in their gifts and to delight audiences, time and time again. It's a space for the past, the present and the future and it would be more than a shame to ever see it disappear.
I have left a link to the crowd funding page below and I really hope you can take the opportunity to donate. Craic helped shape my life for the better, and we must support it so it can do the same for so many others, now and well into the future.
Thanks so much you lovely folk! I appreciate you all reading more than you know.
Sending good vibes, happy times and plenty of community theatre to all of you!