Over the past 23 years, the Backstage Theatre in Co Longford has evolved into a theatre which is accessible, participatory and provides a rich cultural experience.
This was proven in March with the premiere of a professional dance production which had its roots in an artist’s residency and community project that turned the spotlight on the plight of asylum seekers living in Direct Provision in the county town.
Dancer and choreographer, Catherine Young engaged with young men who are living in Direct Provision in Longford and the stories of their journeys to Ireland and their experience in the asylum process formed the core of State of Exception, which received a huge audience response when it premiered on a cold night in March.
“Some people didn’t know there was a direct provision centre in their town and now they know it and the audience was so moved. People were left wanting to know what they could do to make things better,” explains Mona Considine, Backstage General Manager.
As well as delivering a diverse and innovative programme of arts events, the theatre takes seriously its role in the community, working with local schools, youth groups, people with different abilities and people of different cultures.
“We are always changing what we do and looking at new ways of working with people and with artists, and I suppose, more and more, we see we are that vital connection between artist and community,” adds Mona.
In 2010, the theatre added on a studio space which is vital for providing studio and rehearsal space for such groups.
The theatre is dependent for its survival on an annual Arts Council grant in the region of €135,000 which is supported by the National Lottery.
Nearly 30 cent in every €1 spent on National Lottery games go back to Good Causes in the areas of sport, youth, health, welfare, education, arts and heritage. Last year alone over €225 million was raised by the National Lottery and its players for Good Causes all over Ireland, equating to about €616,000 per day.