Thursday, November 17, 2016

Spotlight On...Brian Merriman

Name: Brian Merriman

Hometown: Born in Dublin, raised in Wexford and Waterford, back in Dublin since college.

Education: Master’s Degree in Equality Studies, Certificate in professional Journalism, vocal studies College of Music,

Favorite Credits: Artistic Director/Founder International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival.

Why theater?: Theatre is a safe space to think, create, analyze, reflect and persuade, that is way ahead of sound bites or the modern pressure of being first with the news, be it accurate or not. It allows me and challenges me to engage rather than preach knowing the audience is free to accept or reject the concepts presented.                        

Tell us about Eirebrushed?: Eirebrushed is a play about identity. It challenges all lgbt people to reject the negative definitions imposed on them which they have and do accept. It's about the concepts that every human being is entitled to realise freedom, equality and respect. It calls out the political and conscience oppressors of political and religious life. Eire is the Irish language word for Ireland - Eirebrushed happens when your own identity is erased because you do not conform to the values of a republic of equals you fought to create and realise. It is a timely reminder that the political bully will never win out as long as you continue to stand up after every blow. The four heroes of this play did that 100 years ago and Eirebrushed is when they return today to compete the story that would not be listened to a century ago.

What inspired you to write Eirebrushed:?: Women did. The lgbt rights owe so much to the women's movement. It taught us how to inequality was constructed and how to confront discrimination and injustice based on an imposed unequal status. Nurse Elizabeth O Farrell was airbrushed out of the 1916 Rising surrender photograph and with that act so was the vital contribution of all the revolutionary women who were fighting not just for freedom but to be free. I wanted to put that story on the record and those of some of the gay heroes of 1916 in this centenary year. It is wonderful that Culture Ireland has included this lgbt play in its international 2016 commemorative arts programme - another revolution for Irish lgbt identity.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I don't value "coming out" stories much. I ask what did you come out to do or who did you come out to be? I am also deeply conscious of the shoulders we stand upon and I have hunted back through history looking for the slightest hint of identity and I try to liberate lgbt stories of the past in modern theatre.  Good theatre inspires and thrills me and I don't care whether I like the person who creates it or not. Good theatre benefits all in the sector and none of us has the monopoly on that - in truth we struggle with each piece we do or create to honour and reach that benchmark. I am inspired by those who work hard and who tell their stories even in a hostile environment - silence is the greatest accomplice of discrimination and oppression.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: I have had the privilege to work with fine actors - some of whom are famous! But that fame is not what impresses me - there are real artists who remain "undiscovered" and that does not diminish their artistic merit. I love identifying new talent and if I can to assist that on its way, I do! The fact is that with fame can come amnesia about how they started - doesn't bother me. I would not like to be the person who saw the talent and didn't contribute a cup of water to its growth, whether that's acknowledged or not. Theatre must have room for talent and we must all move over a bit to let it shine. We betray the art form and the opportunity we have had  if we don't do that and sadly many see their role solely as protecting their own turf and not sharing it or passing opportunity or resources on to ensure a future for theatre.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: I unashamedly recommend the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival - a fortnight of Irish and International lgbt theatre which I curate in Dublin each year. We have made the birthplace of Oscar Wilde the home of this unique festival and I hope people will vacation with us - it's fun, friendly, radical and inclusive and you are welcome! There's a different programme of theatre each week but the same warm welcome for audience and artist alike!

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: I think I'm still writing that role by living my life, overcoming the needless obstacles put in my way, being open to love, creating some art and hopefully sharing the benefits of the lessons I've learned on the way.

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?:  It's about time I answered a question posed! Much of my life was in musical theatre and I really would love to have seen the epic originals, especially the golden age of Broadway and the movie musical. Fred and Ginger, Gene Kelly and yes, here comes the stereotypes Judy and Barbra, Bernadette Peters, Barbara Cook, Angela Lansbury, Liza and any Sondheim work.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Red wine, dark chocolate and a torch song!

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?:  I think I am doing it as I have two elements to my career - theatre and egalitarian- but I wish I had the time and the talent to make a lasting impact in even one of those!

What’s up next?: A reading of my full length play Wretched Little Brat based on actual testimony, retells the Oscar Wilde story from the perspective of his lovers Lord Alfred Douglas and Robbie Ross and traces the impact of those lives on all of us up to 1945. It reveals and challenges the gay stereotypes that all can trace their origin to this story of excess. It's in Downtown Art at 3pm this Sunday and will be staged again at the Gay Theatre Festival in Dublin and hopefully Provincetown next year.