A word from Rex Daugherty – Artistic Director of Theatre
You might have seen the announcement that I’m joining Solas Nua as a full-time employee, so I wanted to share some more thoughts on what Solas Nua theatre programming will look like in the coming months and into a very bright future.
First, it might be helpful to talk about where we’ve been in order to understand where we’re going. I joined Solas Nua as a company member in 2008 as an actor in our Off-Broadway production of Disco Pigs and went on to act, direct, and assistant produce several of our plays, readings, and events. In 2015 Solas Nua, which was being run by an all-volunteer board, hired me as a contractor to be the artistic director of theatre programming. Before my time as AD, the company had taken a 5-year hiatus from producing theatre, so it was a deep honor for me to bring back theatre programming to Solas Nua, something I had greatly missed from Washington’s theatre landscape.
My first production, Wild Sky, sold out the entire run and then enjoyed a sold-out extension, a testament, I believe, that Washington audiences also greatly missed Solas Nua’s theatre productions. Building on this momentum, the board and I launched a strategic plan that would, by the end of its term, put us in a position to hire a full-time employee. As I step into this long-planned for full-time position, along with Interim Executive Director Miranda Driscoll who joined the company in November, we can officially say we have exceeded our strategic plan! The future is brighter than ever! And speaking of the future, here’s what the next chapter of Solas Nua theatre productions has in store!
A center for new Irish writing
Solas Nua is already on its way to becoming a significant global home for new Irish writing. Our recent commissioned theatre productions, like The Frederick Douglass Project and Emoji Play, are a unique way that an Irish company operating in a diverse, metropolitan US city can share new light on Irish culture. Both of these projects were co-written by Irish and African-American playwrights. I am currently developing three new works that will feature Irish and US artists of color, sharing cross-cultural perspectives and dynamic new voices. Solas Nua will continue to explore how contemporary Ireland is depicted, seeking out artists across economic and ethnic lines.
New plays directly from Ireland
Solas Nua will continue to produce our own theatrical productions, including the innovative site-specific work we have become known for, AND we will be adding more productions directly from Ireland to our menu. Plays like our award-winning 2019 presentation of Silent from Pat Kinevane and Fishamble have been all too rare for DC audiences. You’ll be seeing more Irish artists and productions here in DC, straight from the best of contemporary Irish theatre companies.
Expanding our play reading series
Over the last several years, our play reading series has grown to an average of 90-100 audience members for every event, making it one of the most well-attended play reading series in the city! I wouldn’t dare mess with that formula, so you’ll continue to see an incredible range of great plays performed by top DC talent. But to expand what we offer, I’ve already been broadening what our reading series looks like, particularly in this time when our programming is digital. I’ve added radio dramas to our menu, featuring a new partnership with RTE Drama on One, and have been experimenting with different forms of narrative, such as our communal story-telling event, What’s On Your Walls. We’ve also launched a discussion series, creating space for Solas Nua to reflect on the health of the arts industry in the US and Ireland. I want Solas Nua to be a home for more than just new Irish plays, but a center for new thought, artistic reflection, dialogue, and an international exchange of ideas. With so much variety, there’s something for everyone in our expanded event series. Bolstered by an excellent relationship with The Irish Embassy here in Washington, our city is incredibly well suited to be an epicenter for Irish culture and diplomacy.
Onwards and Upwards
Now in my fifth year as Artistic Director of Theatre, it’s amazing to see how much the company has grown in a short amount of time. This has been made possible by a profoundly dedicated board, the immensely talented artists who have worked with us, and by audiences who have supported our vision to make sure contemporary Irish art had a permanent home in Washington. That dream is now a reality, and we are looking forward to the brightest days ahead of us!
If any of the above is something you’d like to support, please get in touch! We have a daring season of ambitious work in 2021, and we can’t do it alone! We have an outdoor, in-person theatre production coming up this summer – our first return to in person programming in over a year, two new digital theatre commissions, a festival of work from Northern Ireland, radio plays, international discussion panels with artists, and that’s just our theatre programming! There’s tons more activity happening across all our artistic offerings, and I hope you are on board for the next big chapter at Solas Nua!