The Ark’s Children’s Council Blog: September - Birthday Blog!

You might have heard The Ark turned 21 in September! Normally, turning 21 is a time to reflect, look back, and plan for adult hood. And The Ark’s Birthday event was no different. We had a memory wall, we had a new strategic review in the pipes- but most importantly, and perhaps most distinctly; we also had an exhibition of the most amazing cakes you’re likely to ever come across. Just ask our council…

Birthday Banter at The Ark…

Having a big birthday was nicely in keeping with Katie’s Birthday Party which ran during Dublin Theatre Festival and marked our Council’s first experience of truly interactive theatre.

Luckily for me, our young people were psychically in tune with what was to come- having made it their mission to create and design their own birthday hats (on a whim, and completely without direction).

As the key facilitator of the Council, I try to encourage the young people to come and see all of the work The Ark has to offer and to feedback with their honest opinions afterwards. I was especially excited for them to see this piece however- because it’s the first show on the programme that’s been made specifically for their age group.

Our group are at that awkward, scary period of young life, where they are just about ready to move into secondary school and Katie, the star of our show, has just endured the pain and promise of a similar transition.

This is her first birthday party with a host of new class mates she doesn’t really know yet- and the upcoming parallels between her experience- and what is soon to be theirs- was truly palpable.

Katie’s party takes the shape of a series of games. Mainly truth and dare. And it’s here that the audience really get involved. I was glad to see our members were more than able to participate in the awkward truths and embarrassing dares that helped Katie’s story unfold and afterwards our Q&A with the artist, Mary Frances, was really in-depth! With our council mainly wanting to hear about Mary’s research methods and why she made the show so sad!

It was interesting to hear our group cry out for a happier ending to Katie’s story- but Mary Frances’ ambition was to make a work reflective of the true experience- and not to wrap things up too neatly or delicately…

Birthday Drama…

Our drama work that month was geared specifically around the themes of Katie’s Birthday and The Ark’s 21st. The group delved into the themes of growing old, celebration and failure- writing and performing their own pieces that ruminated on what it might be like for a birthday of theirs to go badly wrong.

This was an interesting exercise where they very delicately seamed their own experiences into their fictions, later drafting their stories into monologues to share with Mary Francis at their upcoming Q&A.

Let’s get critical…

This month also saw us meet with Sara Keating from the irish Times. Sara is a great journalist who really champions work for young people so it was great for our council to hear how she frames her pieces, goes about her research and writes her reviews.

Our group were really eager to hear how Sarah feels about giving bad reviews in particular. This was something I was happy for them to mine because it’s important that they understand that giving their opinion (no matter what it is!) is always welcome when they come to the table at The Ark! We’re not gonna cry if an exhibition or piece of theatre is not for them. We will, however, keep their thoughts, criticisms and observations in mind…


Shaun Dunne is The Ark's Artist in Residence