Artist of the Month-January-Aisling McDonnell

Here is our Miss January; Aisling McDonnell! You may have seen her previously in Glengarry Glen Ross, Coffee and Cigarettes or We Won't Pay! We Won't Pay! I completely agree with her answer to number ten! I haven't seen an mass audition notice go out in MONTHS!

One of the few female Irish actors in HK, Aisling is something really special..


1. Name, Birthplace, Age
Aisling McDonnell, Ireland, 25.
2. How does where you were raised affect your work?
I definitely got my first love of theatre from attending the Irish drama festival every year with my aunt when I was growing up, and always felt particularly gripped by the complex and often heartbreaking issues that actors engaged with in the more serious productions. It was this strong connection with the emotional and dark side of theatre that led me to eventually make the decision to try my hand at directing, and more particularly, to see if I could bring to life a serious production like those I had been mesmerised by as a young child.
3. Where did you train?
My theatre training doesn't come from books or courses, but from the best possible way to train as far as I am concerned, and that's through regularly watching plays and also through immersing myself in as many productions as possible. I had done a few shows when I was younger, but I really started getting involved in theatre properly about three years ago, and over the course of the next year and a half, I was usually rehearsing for 4 or 5 plays at any given time. The completely different nature of the productions I was involved in during that time, as well as the numerous talented actors I had the privilege to tread the boards with, allowed me to really appreciate the differences and subtleties that scripts sometimes demand from us, and the importance of really getting under the skin of your character.
4. What is your favorite style of theatre? Why?
As I said above, my favourite style of theatre, both as an actor and director is definitely intense drama, involving complex emotional character development and the consideration of many issues which challenge us in the world today. However, I recently acted in two comedies, which marked my first attempt at tackling a lighter script, but I really enjoyed it. In fact, I am currently rehearsing for a comedy called 'Featuring Loretta', which will be staged in Hong Kong before the summer.
5. What was the best show you EVER saw?
I've seen a number of incredible productions over the years, but one of the best was a production of an Irish play called 'By the Bog of Cats', performed by Kilmeen drama group back in Ireland over ten years ago.
6. What was the best show in HK you EVER saw? (You cannot say your own.)
The best play I have seen since I moved to Hong Kong a year ago is definitely the recent production of 'Nocturne', starring an Irish actor called Paul Sheehan, whose understanding of the role and energy onstage was incredible. The production value of the show, which I think can often be lacking in shows in HK was also excellent, with a nice workable set, image projection and very appropriate choices for sound.
7. What piece of work are you the most proud of? (please include photo, if possible)
I'm most proud of a production I directed almost two years ago called 'On Raftery's Hill', an Irish play written by Marina Carr. The play is a dark tragedy which deals with many complex issues, particularly incest and the effect it can have on a family, both those engaging in the incestuous acts, and those that know about them, but wish they didn't. The play was first staged in Cork, and then went on to represent my university at the Irish Student Drama Association awards 2010, where it competed against 30 other productions. I was extremely proud of my actors and crew, many of whom won awards, and most of those who didn't, were nominated in their given categories. But most of all, I was proud of the commitment and talent that everyone gave in making the rehearsal process and performances one of the most memorable times in my life thus far.

A photo of the piece she is most proud of. Loving the floor!


8. What is your process like?
As a director, I like to cast a play about five weeks before the run and then have a four week intensive rehearsal schedule. I usually dedicate an hour at the start of every rehearsal to intense character work, where I demand actors to consider every detail about their character, often asking them questions that may be uncomfortable for their character and forcing them to come to grips with every aspect of who that character truly is. By the time we start rehearsing scenes, they have been intensively questioned and speaking as their character on a number of issues personal to them, and so they are completely focused and can bring that energy into their performance during rehearsal. By the end of a rehearsal, the actors will be tired and sometimes emotionally drained, but their understanding of their characters will be stronger and the production will be all the better because of it.
9. What is your dream project?
My dream project at this moment in time would be to direct either 'Death of a Salesman' or 'All My Sons', both incredibly powerful pieces penned by Arthur Miller.
10. If you could change one thing about the art scene in HK, what would it be?
I think the theatre scene in HK can be very closed and extremely hard to break into if you are a newcomer here. Productions should always hold open auditions and allow everyone the opportunity to read for a role or get involved behind the scenes if they wish.

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