We had the chance to ask Sean Millar some questions about his new production of ‘The Songs from Silver Stars’, which will take place in the Outhouse theatre this week (15-17 Dec 2017). A lot has changed since the first production of Silver Stars in 2009 and we asked him about those changes and this new prodcution. You can see the results below.
The Songs from Silver Stars – The Outhouse Basement Theatre, Capel Street, Dublin 1,
Friday 15, Saturday 16 and Sunday 18 December 2017 Performance at 8pm. Ticket prices are €15, €12 Concession.
Silver Stars was originally in DTF 2009. Where did the original idea come from?
The first performance of silver Stars was in 2008 at Bealtaine festival who originally commissioned the piece.
I had a thousand reasons for originally wanting to make Silver Stars and I tend to give a different one every time I’m asked! But I suppose the main one is that I have always been very interested in gender and paradigm change. The republic that I was born into was a very different place, with very different values, than the one we live in now. What a man was and meant was defined very differently from the way it is now. The first Silver Stars interviewees were all men who had been rejected by their society and community, not just for their sexuality but for being honest about themselves. In a way that was what was unacceptable, their integrity. It was so brave. So honorable of them. They are true heroes. I wished and wish to celebrate their heroism and integrity.
Much has changed for the gay community since 2009, with marriage equality being the highlight. Has much changed in the performance?
First of all it’s important to say that we are not staging the Broken Talkers theatre show. It’s a performance of the song-cycle (which is a sequence of songs and spoken word and music pieces).
Broken talkers work is so visually sophisticated and rigorously staged. Everything is interrogated and considered in a very focussed way. Movement is choreographed and performances are very tightly directed. But I don’t really work like that, what I try and do is initiate and develop a process and then invite people in. If people want to sit listening with their eyes closed and join in on the choruses that’s fine. In fact that would be amazing! We are trying to create a moment of community. Christmas can be an alienating time for so many people, the function of the performance is to offer something, a moment of belonging.
Do you think this production has much to say to the younger members of the gay community and beyond?
‘Young people’ are people. The message of Silver Stars, voiced by John Mcneill (via Neil Watkins) in the show, is that your ‘authentic self’, who you really are inside, is the only self that you can really love with.
I think that’s a message that’s both beautiful and important to share – and it’s a message as relevant for people now, as it was ten years ago.
I think that invitation, for love and acceptance is as important for people now as it was then.
This production is described as a ‘pared down’ performance. How many of the original performers are back this time?
It turns out now that We have all ten of the 2009 cast! Which is fantastic. I honestly thought we might get five of them. But everybody was dying to do it, which was very gratifying for me. When we say pared down we mean that The Brokentalkers DTF show had something like eight crew and three cellists, Audio visual elements, sound design, very sophisticated lighting and set design and movement; this has none of those elements. I will try not to even use a pa system. If i have to I will, but I would love people just to experience the room and be in it.
Are you directing this production yourself?
Although I have been listed as director for several of my performance/theatre pieces, I personally prefer the term ‘lead artist’ and that’s the way I see this. I have a very strong ‘anti-performance’ aesthetic because in part of the anti-folk/post-punk background I come from. I love the idea of there being no obvious line between the stage and the room, between the event and the street, between art and life. I try and view everything I do artistically as a process. In this process we will meet, and we will sing and speak the pieces six times – three of those times will be with an audience, who then become part of our evening of song.
You seem to move between music and theatre quite a bit. Where are you most at home?
It feels very natural to me to do both. Composing and performing music is my great joy but I have a lot of stories that I want to tell. When I was young there was no real space for people like me to make stuff like this, but, working mostly in community settings, over decades, I have gradually developed this ‘between’ space that allows me use all my skills to tell stories. My goal now is to develop this space further, while simultaneously having a music career. It keeps me busy!