Tag Archives: collaborative theatre

Audience-led development of theatre

Create A Story Project The objective of the Create a Story project was to engage with our audience and include their creative input in the creation of a piece of Children’s Theatre alongside Barnstorm’s company of actors, musician, playwright, designer, facilitator and director.

The project was initiated in 2009 in partnership with Poetry Ireland’s Writers-in-Schools Scheme which is one of the longest running arts-in-education programmes in the country, marking its 30th anniversary recently. But this was the first time it teamed up with Ireland’s leading children’s theatre company to devise and produce a piece of professional theatre. In times of economic uncertainty it is hands-on, proactive partnerships like this that will keep the art of theatre and storytelling alive for children.

All primary schools in the region were invited to apply to take part  in Create a Story and four were eventually chosen to work directly with the project. The four participating schools were St Canice’s National School, Kilkenny; Marymount National School, The Rower, Co Kilkenny; Scoil Naomh Bhríde, Ballyragget, Co Kilkenny and Scoil Bríde, Paulstown, Co Kilkenny. And Barnstorm would like to thank all the schools who applied for the project.

In Spring 2009, two writers were engaged as Writers-in-Residence in the four schools to explore the art of writing and develop student’s individual skills. After a series of initial workshops the participating students (then in 4th and 5th class) were each asked to write their own story based on a specific theme agreed on by the writers, Barnstorm and the class teachers. The themes given were a Brother and Sister, Lost and Forest.

Barnstorm’s company of actors, musicians, playwright, dramaturg and director read the stories carefully and they proved to be a rich source of ideas.

Originally Barnstorm proposed to create a script from the children’s stories and to present a promenade production in a forest in Kilkenny in summer 2010. But with the cuts in funding to the arts in Ireland it was impractical to mount such a production.

LOST IN THE FOREST was the title given to the final phase of the project which involved a presentation of the script developed from the pupil’s work in the previous months.

For our presentation we did not pick any one of the 95 stories! Instead using the characters, ideas and events in the originals we created a ‘final story’ to form the basis of further exploration and devising.

For three weeks in April 2010 the actors worked with a designer, playwright, musician and director to devise a theatrical presentation based on this new story. In order to give the children a fuller insight into play-making, the company’s designer spent several sessions working with each school on theatre design and mask-work. The children’s ideas further informed the design of our presentation and each child’s work was displayed as the audience entered the theatre.

Lost in the Forest was the fruit of all of this work and was presented in The Barn on April 29th and 30th 2010 to the participating students and their teachers.


The pupils who took part:
5th Class St. Canice’s Co-ed N.S Granges Rd. Kilkenny
5th and 6th classes Marymount N.S. The Rower, Co. Kilkenny
5th and 6th classes Scoil Naomh Bhríde Ballyragget Co. Kilkenny
6th class Scoil Bhríde, Paulstown, Co. Kilkenny

Their teachers:
Martin Hanrick &  Eilís Delahanty, in St. Canice’s;
Brid Moloney & Anne Marie Butler in Marymount N.S.;
Martina Kennedy, Mary O’Neill & Claire Dunne in Scoil Naomh Bhríde
Mary Holden & Olive Sheehan in Scoil Bhríde

From Poetry Ireland’s Writers-in-Schools Scheme:
Jane O’Hanlon: Education Officer
Writers:  Martina Murphy & Terry McDonagh

For Barnstorm:
Actors: Sarah Johnson, Ita Morrissey, Shane O’Reilly, Will Pinchin.
Actor/Musician:            Serena Brabazon
Playwright:                    Maeve Ingoldsby
Designer:                        Carol Betera
Outreach Officer:          Anna Galligan
Company Manager:      Vincent Dempsey
Artistic Director:            Philip Hardy

Also: Paul Curley (actor) and Ben Samuels (actor/musician) who were involved in the early stages of the project.


In February 1996 Barnstorm embarked on a 16-month project with playwright Ken Bourke and the people of Castlecomer to devise and present a community play which would be unique to that community, reflective of its rich history and its people.

The Comer Story written by Ken Bourke, in collaboration with the people of Castlecomer, was presented in the Castlecomer Community Hall, and represented a major achievement for the company in its aim to provide wider access to theatre within local communities, and marked a first for the company and the county.

The Comer Story was presented in the Castlecomer Community Hall (1997) and subsequently in the Watergate Theatre, Kilkenny (1998).

The 'Comer Story

The 'Comer Story

Comments of cast members:

“…Before, when people used to ask me where I lived, I used to explain ‘Comer by saying “it’s a little town fourteen miles from Kilkenny”, but now when poeple ask me I take pride in telling them all about ‘Comer, past and present….”

“…They say laughter is ‘the best medicine’! We certainly did laugh – old friendships were strengthened, new friendships begun, never to be forgotten….”

“… I didn’t have a lot of confidence in myself but as the weeks and months went by I started to enjoy and let myself go. Still, at that time, I swore that I would never go on stage, except to help backstage. But here I am with only two weeks to go and I am really looking forward to the challenge….”

“… Friendships were formed with new people and also with people you already knew but had very little contact with before the play. Hopefully all these friendships will continue long after the play has finished….”

“… At our Christmas party night in the Springhill Hotel, our table was labelled The Castlecomer Community Play Group. There was a lot of truth in the title. We are all adults with inhibitions, but in this group we were allowed to become children playing freely and having genuine fun….”

“… Although I knew snippets of the history of Castlecomer from my schooldays The ‘Comer Story has instilled a certain pride in me in being a Castlecomer woman, which I already had but which has now become deep-rooted and alive….”

“… I was always passing through, knowing very few people and very little about the area. I went along to the introductory meeting on my own and I was hooked!… It wasn’t the usual core group, but something new and exciting; and everyone felt immediately part of. … I thank Barnstorm for their huge initiative and enthusiasm. Each of us was treated equally and gently pushed! Thanks for giving me the chance to make new friends in my new home….”

“… As my father once trod the boards in the old Parochial Hall in Castlecomer in many pantomimes with the Deenside Players and as a member of the Castlecomer Male Voice Choir , it is with great pride and a certian melancholy that I carry on this family tradition in The ‘Comer Story. I value and appreciate the experience….”

The ‘Comer Story

Written by Ken Bourke

in collaboration with the community of Castlecomer

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