Following a sold-out run in Killybegs earlier this year, Big Fish Drama Group is bringing Ultan Pringle’s play, “School House Rules” to the Balor Arts Centre this month.
It’s been a big year for Ultan, whose play, “Salt”, was recently selected by The New Theatre in Dublin to receive a professionally staged reading during New Writing Week next month.
“Salt” was one of three plays chosen for the honour, and one of those three plays will receive a full commercial production.
“To have the chance to have two plays of mine on two great stages is a dream. It’s the dream, really, and I’m terribly excited for both of them,” Ultan said. “When the Balor said yes to taking ‘School House Rules’ I couldn’t believe someone thought enough of my play to take it, and then when The New Theatre said yes to ‘Salt’, I couldn’t believe my luck.”
“School House Rules” moves to the Balor Arts Centre in Ballybofey for two nights, August 22nd and 23rd, at 8pm.
‘School House Rules’ follows a year in the life of a transition-year class after the arrival of a substitute teacher who challenges his class to experiment, bringing his love of theatre to reluctant students. As the year goes on, tensions rise.
This funny and moving play looks into a classroom and the lives of the students and staff who spend much of their days there, as they deal with such issues as bullying, inclusion, diversity, and the role of education and the arts.
Ultan, who also plays the substitute teacher, Mr. Ryder, and directs the play, wrote the characters specifically for the talented young cast. He knew the actors from the St. Catherine’s Vocational School production of ‘All Shook Up’, which he co-directed, and from Big Fish, which he founded while a student at St. Catherine’s. Ultan is now a student at Trinity College Dublin, studying drama and theatre studies and classical civilisations.
“School House Rules” came about when it was suggested to Ultan that he do another production with young actors after the success of “All Shook Up”.
“I couldn’t find a play with 13 characters for these great young people and I thought, ‘Why don’t I write it?’” Ultan recalled. “They’re all fantastic.”
The cast includes Ciara O’Boyle, Eoin Cassidy, Ailbhe and Sorcha Mc Gowan, Barry Breslin, Sheena Doherty, Alecoe Haughey, Catherine Burke, Lauren Gormely, Jacque Dupuy, Lauren Mc Hugh, and Erin Gallagher.
“I’ve never worked with a greater bunch of people,” he said. “We’re all here for one another.” Ultan also welcomed input from the cast, and many of the suggestions they made during rehearsals were incorporated into the play.
“If you can make a line funnier, make it funnier,” he said. “I want it to be the best play it can be.” The cast inhabit their characters, each doing their own realistic bits of stage business as the dialogue continues on another part of the stage.
“I think these young people with no training are every bit as good and every bit as deserving as any actor in Dublin,” Ultan said.
The play charts the sometimes rocky relationship between Mr Ryder and the students, with both ultimately learning from each other. The response Ultan received from the audience earlier this year illustrated the commonality of the story: Parents told him of their child’s experiences being bullied; older people recounted difficult times with teachers when they were in primary school; a substitute teacher told him he nailed the realities of that engagement.
“The spectrum of reaction was amazing. The play is universal about our experiences in school, about complicated people,” Ultan said. “We all remember what a teacher says to us.
“We always remember those people who give you that little push,” he said. “Without them, where would we be?”
Ultan, whose father is Thomas Pringle, independent TD, is delighted to be bringing the show to the Balor stage. “It’s a lovely theatre – I can’t wait to get up there.”
For ticket information, contact the Balor box office on 074 91 31840 or visit the website, www.balorartscentre.com