Interview with Hillary Dziminski – Producer of Close to the Sun
Hillary Dziminski is the creative producer of Close to the Sun, and also of Corps Ensemble. Close to the Sun will open next week in Smock Alley as part of the Fringe Festival. It is a new play by Philip Doherty who previously wrote Pilgrim and The Birthday Man. We had the chance to ask Hillary about her role in the Ensemble and also about the play itself. You can see the results below.
“Perth, Australia – Irishman Colin prepares for his wedding to Australian sweetheart, Sophie. But everything changes when his estranged brother arrives unannounced, bringing the demons of their shared past. This exciting new collaboration with award-winning writer Philip Doherty fuses music and movement, tragedy and drama to tell the stories of a lost generation.”
Close to the Sun – Smock Alley – 12 – 17 Sep
How much of a struggle is it for theatre companies to get funding at the moment? Is it getting better or worse?
Funding is a bit of a catch-22, I think. Of course it’s very competitive and in a perfect world, every artist who wanted to make art would have access to whatever they needed. So what is available is very high-stakes and fiercely competitive; the catch is that your odds of getting selected for a grant or a residency are higher if you’ve established yourself and made work that people are familiar with…but how can you make that work and make your name without the resources to create that first project?
I think it’s improving and we’re certainly seeing more and more opportunities for emerging artists or artists at the very start of their career, but there’s a long way to go yet, and not just in Ireland but all over the world. If art isn’t being made, if culture isn’t being created, then what is anyone fighting for at the end of the day? Artists of all practices need support from their governments, their communities, and from the people who love them and love their work.
One of your roles for this play is as the Creative Producer. What does that job actually entail? What is your day to day involvement with it?
That’s honestly a great question! What I love about my role in the company as Creative Producer is that my job is so diverse. I’m not only working to make sure the company is running smoothly, but I work on all our projects, in all departments. For me there’s not really a “typical day”, so to speak, because every day I have new challenges, new aspects to consider.
Just last week, I started the day finalizing our order at the printers which really put butterflies in my stomach because I’ve also designed all the printed material for Close to the Sun, so I was very anxious to see the final product. From there I had a few phone meetings, then in the afternoon I dropped in to the rehearsal room to watch a few scenes and record a few video clips for social media, which I manage day to day as well. At that point one of our two brilliant stage managers had returned with the printed posters and flyers so I got to have a peek at what was going to go up in the Fringe box office the following day.
So it’s a difficult role to explain in many ways because my responsibilities are changing day to day and project to project. It’s all terribly exciting and I can honestly say I’m in love with my job and the work we make together. The Corps Ensemble has become my family here and really made Dublin feel like home for me. (Don’t tell my mom back in the U.S. that though!)
This seems to have quite a large cast for a Fringe production. Will this be your biggest production to date?
Yes – our last production, Bug, had a cast of five, two more than our previous production, Made in China; Close to the Sun has a cast of seven, so we seem to be growing by twos! The size and scale of the play is something we thought a lot about when we started discussing our ideas. In the end we wanted to make something that had the power to transport an audience in a huge way; what we all felt was missing from Irish theatre right now was an epic family story with nuanced and relatable characters. The idea of Phil writing a piece specifically for the ensemble started to come to life and it all just blossomed from there.
It’s been such a delight to be in the room, watching this group of insanely talented people develop their characters into three-dimensional and extremely relatable people. I’m not on the acting side of things myself, so just observing how they work, seeing their individual processes within the overarching creation is nearly miraculous to me. It’s so organic, you can feel the synergy that only comes with a group of people who are all completely attuned to one another.
This is a new script by Philip Doherty, that deals with the relationship between Irish and Australian mythology. Can you give us an idea of the setting for the play?
The action happens as an Irish man and an Australian woman are preparing for their wedding in Perth, which itself is a really interesting place. It’s an enormous city but it’s extremely isolated, one of the most remote cities in the world. In a way, for me, the story feels hyper-focused because it’s one narrative happening in a place that has an enormous story of its own; there’s a definite feeling throughout the play that there are forces at work outside of these people’s lives that are unfathomable and unpredictable.
Philip has crafted an extraordinary script that allows for the natural and the supernatural, the real and the surreal to blur together in one world. It’s a real crossroads of culture, of elements, of facets of human nature.
Has Philip sent time in Perth or where did the idea come from?
Philip has spent time in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth and I think he was, justifiably, really intrigued by the mysterious nature of Perth as such an isolated place; we’ve discussed his experiences there quite extensively and I think the fact that he has spent time there really shows through in the authenticity of the script. In addition to wanting to write a piece for and with The Corps Ensemble, the mythological nature of both Australia and Ireland makes for incredible storytelling possibilities, so that was a huge factor in the genesis of the story as well. Plus the collective impulse to create a classic large-scale family drama, which we haven’t seen much of recently, that address issues that are really timely and relevant.
What can we expect next from the Corps Ensemble? How far ahead do you plan?
You can expect big things, very ambitious things for sure! At the moment we’re very focused on new work, on collaborating with fellow artists, exploring multidisciplinary creation and devising work. But in everything we do we try to have an essence, a pulse of truth and kinetic energy running through our body of work. For us it’s both about creating something really high caliber but also challenging our audiences, inspiring and leaving them with a mix of emotions and responses. I don’t want to give away all of our secrets but we do plan a good while in advance and I can definitely say that 2018 is going to be a vital, visceral, vivid year for The Corps Ensemble.
What would be your tips for the Fringe Festival? What is not to be missed?
Well of course you can’t miss Close to the Sun! In all seriousness, this year’s programme is amazing. I think there are a lot of opportunities this year for people to ask questions they’re not normally allowed to ask, to break taboos, and to take a good hard look at some of the biggest national and global issues. I’m particularly looking forward to Don’t Be Looking!!! by Mary Nugent and Not At Home by Emma Fraser and Grace Dyas. There’s also some really interesting site-specific work happening that I’m very keen to see, like Deadline! by Conor O’Toole; I’m also really excited for Within Rooms from Grupo Tripé as I’m trying to learn Portuguese! And the Fringe is always great for a laugh, which I think we all need these days, so I’m really excited for Alison Spittle’s Worrier Princess and Oink from Foil Arms and Hog. But with such an awesome lineup this year, whatever you go to see is bound to be fringetastic!