In 2000 I studied for a Masters degree in Drama and Theatre Studies. I was an introverted by day, social by night young woman, horrified by the unknown and with very low self confidence. This was a group of twenty people and even day one, orientation in the theatre was daunting. It was dramatic. The seats were in a half circle as if waiting for a performance. The mood was tense. Every one looked more professional…more talented. More entitled to be there. I would have ran away if I had been confident enough to stand up and stand out by running. I also couldn’t be sure where the door was.
The group was a eclectic cross section of Irish turn of the century society, ranging in age and gender, completely different to what I was used to in third level education. Married people with grown children. Single parents. People just out of their degrees. Folk looking for new outlets. Hopeful actors and writers in their twenties and thirties chasing the dream. People with money and people without a bean. And I- uncertain and feeling my way into the darkness.
I was the youngest. The oldest was in his sixties. We got on very well as the oldest to youngest would.
I loved the year even though I continuously had heart stopping moments. Being Mother Courage. Singing on a lecturer’s table facing a full auditorium. Reading my own writing aloud. It made me challenge myself and face fears. Unpredictable in nature, I was forced to stand out. Inevitability, I felt foolish or proud, like a failure or a true success and never just average as a result of this course.
Writing is what I love and I cherished those classes. I cannot say I do not enjoy the acting side of life. I enjoy it but I am not skilled at acting and I dream not of it. The design of the MA meant you could do the whole year without one acting class but I chose to enrol in them. Trying it might have compromised my end grade. I had to risk it anyway. It was my only chance. We had improvisational classes and straight acting. The creative stuff was a revelation to me. It was wild and unhinged. Wednesday morning from nine am until eleven I could be asked to be a reindeer. A car. The colour purple. To sing. Dance. Be still. These sessions ended with one large chant of sorts. We held hands and sang Everything’s fine when you reach cloud nine- just that line- repeatedly until energy built and it bellowed across the concourse. A little like sounding our
‘barbaric yawp across the rooftops of the world’
Upon leaving the theatre we were always met by the perplexed group who were next to use the room for a language class. I heard the word spread quickly that the drama group was a bunch of oddballs and got up to bizarre behaviour in class. Rumour is a great fertiliser and the tales grew tall at beanstalk rate. We laughed. It felt great to be part of something like that even if it no one in my real world would ever fully get it.
It all came flooding back when my friend suggested we meet for lunch at a new cafe called Cloud Nine in Athlone. I thought I knew every eaterie in the town. Not this one. Carefully secluded at the back of a well known local bar, it is not defined by connotation but is its own space. The interior of calming blues, whites and greys is lovely and nothing like what I thought- a cafe bar with the sticky remnants of last night’s beer. It is far from it. This is an old college friend who I met, one who I lived with me when I took this MA. She understood completely when I told her why I loved the cafe name. Just the laugh we needed as we had a lot to catch up on; her little boy is in his first year and we are in the Paper bubble which needed much analysis. (See Change)
Two slimmer’s breakasts (always fighting the flab here) and endless coffee later, I think we both felt really good from a purging cleansing chat and a belly laugh.
This time it was right. Everything was fine when we reached cloud nine. For a bit anyway.
This is all a true tale. No one asked me to write anything or paid me in any way. The good people at Cloud Nine had no idea there was a notorious blogger eating in their pretty little haven reminiscing their youth. It just happened this way.