Janet Moran is an actor based in Dublin. In recent years she co wrote the play Swing which toured nationally and internationally. Swing was published by Bloomsbury Press in 2017. In 2018 she wrote and directed A Holy Show which goes on a national tour this coming Spring. More recently she directed My Romantic History for Verdant Productions. She received the Artist Bursary in Spring 2019.
What did you do with your Bursary award?
I applied for the award because I wanted to learn about both writing for larger casts and also directing a larger ensemble. I am writing a new play, entitled Quake, with a cast of seven which will be presented as part of the In Development strand at the Dublin Theatre Festival and I thought it important that I take an opportunity to upskill in order to be better placed to make this piece of work. As part of the application I lined up mentors that I thought would be best placed to help me in the areas I wanted to learn more about. On the directing side of things, I was able to spend a week at the Globe Theatre being mentored by Sean Holmes as he directed A Midsummer Night's Dream. I was particularly excited to observe Sean. He has worked with many ensembles over the years and I admire his approach to work. He seems to make very strong design and directorial choices before rehearsals but he is also open enough to allow things to change quite radically when he is the room with the actors. This feels to be to be properly collaborative and I learned a huge amount with him.
On the writing side, I have been able to spend time with Colin Murphy. I asked Colin to treat me as if I had never seen a play and to actually “teach” me about playwriting. As a relatively new writer, I fell like I am finding my feet when it comes to how I work and how I understand what it is that I want to say. As well, as doing this, Colin has been very generous in our sessions with teasing out Quake as begin the process of writing the first draft.
I have also been afforded the time and money to go to London to have sessions with the playwright Simon Stephens. So far, we have had one meeting in London which was enormously useful. We spoke about playwriting in general and he critiqued A Holy Show which actually fed in to my latest draft. We have two more sessions scheduled for early next year.
What has receiving a Bursary award meant to you as an artist and for your career?
Some days certain jobs give a solid shape to the day but that does not always happen. Whenever I am in the studio I feel like something has been achieved no matter how small. The one consistent thing is that my day begins and ends with a dog walk which helps me think about the varied tasks ahead that constitute what is my daily experience.
How would you describe your creative process?
I’m still trying to work that out. I usually have an idea rattling around for ages and finally I sit and try to write a storyline. As an actor, I know how valuable it is to get into a room with actors even with just an idea. Hugh Murray at the Pavilion Theatre funded me to spend four days with actors at a very early stage. I really like to do this because it really cracks things open. On Quake I was able to test out how different aspects of it might work and what styles we might use. I have a very young son, so finding the time to write is tricky. I usually write when he is in Montessori in the mornings and anything else is a bonus. Directing is also relatively new to me but most of all, I appreciate the chance to collaborate with the design team and the producer. It’s a real privilege to direct. I feel like I have some strengths, for example working with the actors, but I feel like I have a lot to learn which is a brilliant position to be in. Being challenged is a gift.
What is the best piece of advice you received as an emerging artist?
I suppose it would be stick with it. It’s tough and when you’re young, it seems that people never tire of telling you that but its also incredibly rewarding. Another good piece of advice would be, “Have no discernible skills”, so you have to stick with it.
What or who has influenced your practice the most?
I think it would have to be Corn Exchange Theatre Company. I think of all the shows I’ve done, I learned the most both personally and professionally in the Corn Exchange show I’ve done. Having not trained as an actor, I was a little afraid of improvising and games and the work with them really pushed me to be a little more courageous in my choices. Because we often did devising sessions before Michael West would write the plays, I learned a lot about crafting a play too. The actors I worked with were terrific storytellers, like Mark O'Halloran, Louis Lovett and Andrew Bennett and I always felt I had to put my best foot forward. Annie Ryan uses a range of disciplines and games in the work and I come back to them all the time, both as an actor and as a director.