Last year Flora Fauna Project came together with 17 women from Dublin’s North East Inner City to dance. This exchange expanded and inspired us. Our group of women were heroines, but the project, like many productions, was not short of systemic challenges. At the height of an intense time for us Veronica Dyas entered our world, on fire with encouragement, support and empathy for the work we were in the throws of. Veronica was in the later stages of an almost identical project in theatre also with a group of women from the North East of Dublin, about to go on to the stage of the Abbey Theatre.
As a theatre practicioner and writer Veronica's work has provoked and enlightened audiences in Ireland for the past 20 years. She is an artist that seeks authenticity, speaks out of experinece and builds herself into the installations of her work, leading and living by example.
When we spoke in september 2020 Veronica was in a period of deep reflection about her continued role as a theatre practitioner, artist and citizen. Veronica’s professional career has led to facilitation and collaboration with many vulnerable groups, and to an impressive body of stage work. However, listening to where she is at now, our focus is to give ROOM for her to continue and incorporate her personal reflection as she looks for the best ways to move forward as an artist.
Veronica's first and most important creative influences and inspriations were in her family and her own theatre practice began with a community youth group in The Liberties run by local volunteers, followed by Dublin Youth Theatre (DYT). The leaders behind this project inspired her and still have a strong impact on her today. The ripple effect. Veronica undertsands the value of this 'creative or artistic intervention' as she calls it, by her community and DYT. The freedom to be yourself in these community driven inititives saved her and many others. She is a true ambassador for the positive impact creative practice can have in society.
Veronica has a deep sense of justice and responsibility. Ireland is riddled with subtle inequality, and although this may appear light comparatively, Veronica can testify to the damage it causes and how it continues to live and breathe in the the Irish theatre industry and beyond.
Our conversation with her took place in Glendalough - our home and Veronica’s spiritual home, as she describes it herself. Veronica is one of our role models for authenticity, creativity and community collaboration. We invite you to look a little closer at the woman behind the work, to dive in and glimpse 30 years of notebooks and personal reflections of an artist.
Veronica Dyas, 2020
I am an artist working primarily through theatre, new text & installation. Facilitation, Action & LOVE are crucial to my practice and I work regularly with communities of identity, purpose and/or place. I make work to investigate contemporary living, acknowledging the visceral reality of past trauma while always focused towards healing. Rooted in my own lived experience, my work extends from the feminist declaration: the personal is the political.
While studying Drama & Theatre Studies with Sociology at Trinity College Dublin, I began to fuse sociological tools within my arts practice; Reflexive Practice informs my methodologies. The intention to be authentic, allowing what’s there to be present in the space, owning my own stuff, and self identifying as female, white, Irish, queer, working-class, extending to more nuanced lived experiences when pertinent. This practice informs the process, enabling the potential for real relationships to develop within. My underlying assumption is that we are beings of infinite potential, each, every. I begin from a place of Equality, with the attempt to balance I Am free/I Am responsible continuously moving from the conceptual principle towards sustainable practices. I don’t always manage to hold that liminal ideological space, it’s an ongoing practice to try, starting with my own repairations, towards manifesting an equitable society. We are not there yet. That’s usually my initial motivation to create work, to artistically interrogate the sociopolitical landscape, trace root causes, wounds across time carved on the body politic.
Facilitation is crucial to my practice, enabling me to continuously learn, relearn and develop who I am in the world in beautifully challenging and at times precarious situations. My practice has been enriched by Augusto Boal’s ideology “we made use of our art to tell Truths, to bring Solutions”; by observing Veronica Coburn, Chrissie Poulter, Nic Green, Sean Millar & Andy Smith in practice, and my Youth Worker colleagues at The Reco Ballymun where I was Artistic Director of Roundabout Youth Theatre (2009-11) and worked alongside the BRYR Team on collaborative Youth Arts Projects. I began to comprehend Paulo Freire’s ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’ while collaborating with SAOL on a number of projects since 2012. SAOL, “a community project focused on improving the lives of women affected by addiction and poverty, adopts a trauma-informed gender responsive empathic approach to women and drug use”, resonates with the ethos of my arts practice. I find the distinctions made between professional and community arts practice problematic, the term socially engaged becoming more loaded of late.
My role as Artistic Director of the inaugural BallyMacSheriff Halloween Festival (2016) in historically underrepresented communities within the North East Inner City of Dublin during an intense period of social and political upheaval and violence had a radical, transformative impact on my life and on my practice.
My theatre practice became embodied through In My Bed (2011), a solo autobiographical show, which came to be about the politics of rape and the place of women in Irish society through interrogating my relationship with my maternal Grandmother, fifty years my senior, tracing our lives in parallel. Created through a collaborative process with Niamh Burke-Kennedy, the show was based on a written play text and sought in performativity to create a visceral engagement with the spectator. Initially performed on the site of the Norman Typewriter Manufacturing Company, where my grandmother worked until she married, and returned to work when the Marriage Ban was lifted, this resonant space (now a car park) lent itself to transformation into an intimate black box space. I continue to be interested in raw presence as authenticity within the performer/spectator relationship and to investigate Genders and Queer Theories as a tool to subvert hegemonic heterosexual narratives.
Jean Paul Sartre’s call to become aware of the significance of your situation, and Albert Camus’ Sisyphus, fueled my artistic impetus for HERE & NOW ( 2012-2018) exploring how we live through the lens of housing, homelessness, spirituality and the practice of walking as a means to interrogate the larger dysfunction in how we articulate our sense of ‘home’ in contemporary Ireland. I presented this creative research in phases using a diversity of form (theatre, sound installation, installed theatre, music, film, live performance, walking), with the expertise of Artists across disciplines, and concurrently facilitated Drama Programmes with Focus Ireland’s PETE Service.
Antonin Artaud’s corporeal theatrical entrenchment as a means to “get out of hell”, his ritualistic methods, personal obsessions and struggles with mood alterings resonate with my own life. Brecht’s political theatre, the devices he manufactured to speak his truth, inspired my motivations to make work interrogating society and class, realised in presenting My Son My Son (2018), a play about women, class, and community echoing my own lived experience as a working class woman in constructing this text inspired by “The Mother”. While Hans Thies Lehmann theories of Postdramatic Theatre arouse potential alternatives in form. The juxtapositioning of the traditionally structured and rigorous study of the theatrical form at RADA and the wonder and awe of interrogating radical contemporary performance at King’s College London while undertaking my MA served to fuel my dramaturgy with honest, vital questioning, experimentation and a desire for craft, this dichotomy of form continues to influence my practice today.
Lifemap "Spiral of Life" by Veronica Dyas, 2020
Floor preparations, Spiral of Life
Spiral of Life
Words by Veronica Dyas, 2020
I can’t fit my whole life on a page, not even my art life I’m sure I’ve skipped over, forgotten, haven’t yet made all the connecting steps between I sat with this for almost a month Lived with this physical representation on the floor in the kitchen for about two weeks I thought the first page, my first attempt, would be too small I wouldn’t be able to see, wouldn’t be able to understand Adding to it, getting frustrated with myself, getting confused with the sequence of events Searching references, the short hand in my head not communicable Letting my notebooks out of their boxes A Pat Ingoldsby poem is shared on twitter about a Young woman afraid to say to him that she wrote poems, and a similar memory comes back to me “Take your poems out of the box!” he told me then I do it now Pile them across the kitchen floor, my piled high and teetering past stretches itself, a way to articulate my subconscious, do I still believe in the Collective Unconscious? Carl Jung and my dissertation in RADA, practical, and academic Dr. Dance teaching Laban states and I use ‘kinesphere’ forever ever after The spiral grows in multi coloured sharpies I go and buy extra Part procrastination and ‘cos I know I need more colours It’s like an exercise I’d do in a workshop, but I wouldn’t have to do it myself then Their faces come back to me, each individual within the group, maybe not all their faces, but an essence, a feeling of them as I contort myself around the page There’s something useful in how physical this is SAOL SAOL SAOL spirals LIFE All the Saol Sisters echoing in my minds eye I light the candle I breath it in The courage to try, to change, to play, allow the JOY to manifest That house in Amien Street like a beacon, a place of Hope for me Like the house on Gardiner Street years before, Dublin Youth Theatre energetically infusing everything I do for ever after, it’s never over Thank the Universe “Where there’s life there’s Hope” Knees sore, take the cushion from Granny Vera’s chair, used in nearly all my work I need to include the deaths Samhain fast approaching It’s important In a notebook from 2002 I find a drawing of the Celtic Calendar, surprised to find how far back I was conscious of it Knees on the tiles, not mine but i live here now
Is there anything that isn’t significant? Is there anything that didn’t change my life? Finding what I need in ‘The Magic Bag’ - I’ve used it for years, in every workshop, in every project, every show, changing past tense to present, that little shift indicating where I find myself, where we all find ourselves now In the stillness Reminding myself “Everything grows in the dark” I am trying to action the tasks as set I am trying to facilitate myself It’s not easy But it’s a really good exercise for me Pulling strings from the liminal space I am facing into from my kitchen table staring at the ground There must have been an easier way to do this, I think Thumbing through notebooks, I kept them all, nearly Even when I let go of everything else all that signified me... What’s left? What do I need to live here and now? Checking dates, ties, fractures, and, fears Inevitably It rises up It always does It doesn’t seem to go away What have I done? Nothin’ Why didn’t you finish that wrap up list? I was too wrecked Is that true? No I lost confidence The post show/post project/post collaboration energy evaporated Disolved into the tedium of reliving every flawed action, word, choice Is this too negative? It’s just the truth There’s power in acknowledging what I wish I’d done differently What I want to do differently Now It’s okay to own the shadow, it’s all a bit gloopy right now, I’m in transition Again Beginning again, again... How many times? As many as I need to I did my best
I am doing my best
“The only question is, is it your dream? And at times like these, what’s the quickest way back to your dream from where you are now?” A name comes into conscious awareness, a wisdom shared Something to hold and mine as I continue “Practice inviting being seen in every cell of your body” “Stand in the shit” I read The Four Agreements at least every second day now “There’s always more money and there’s always more tickets” Step off the sticky spiral, now grounded in the gratitude for every path and Every other pilgrim on the way Meditating on chance and synchronicity Even in failure there is triumph We wrote a book together during one of the most challenging processes of our lives Each interpersonal connection shifts my soul a little I believe in souls Still The older I get the more contradiction just becomes a factor of being alive Nuance Allowing the space for nuance There’s Grace in that There’s HOPE in that Potential, my favourite word Trusting that The Universe Always Provides Adayatatime, amomentatatimesometimes It always has so far On my knees pulling a string I’ve steadied on the countertop Pulling it down and breaking an empty honey jar On my knees amongst the glass Pritt Stick coloured sharpie fingers trying to roll a cigarette Is that it, am I finished? Sure you’d never be finished! Sweeping and kneeling on this contorted spiral I finish off with the string that I held with me as my aunt passed earlier this year, in June, it was early June, only Hot, I wore a different Summer dress every day into the hospital Grateful I got in Grateful that she was Grateful that I am Here Now There’s power in the ritual Reclaiming the space to set it all out, just as it is, as I understand it, more and more and more The layers of it caked onto my finger tips
Glass and Honey Kneeling into the humility of not knowing Remembering the revelation of “I don’t know” and the energy off it I can’t really tell you how to read it But I wish you LOVE and ABUNDANCE and JOY while you do As always, continuously learning to allow that for myself Allow my “terrifying longing” to reveal itself In this unknown space As I continue to walk One foot in front of the other In ever decreasing circles, not all concentric Inhaling the visceral beyond the linear A trillion zillion steps taken in Dublin City A walk across Spain A series of deaths and a string of new births A Holy Well in Liscannor To arrive to this, the present moment, knowing “All that is tangled will be unravelled All that is tangled will be unravelled All that is tangled will be unravelled...”
Notebook inscription by Veronica's uncle, artist Pat McGrath, poem 'Now Summer is gone...'Arseny Tarkovsky