All across the country, people of every age are, quite literally, making an absolute show of themselves by joining amateur dramatic societies, or AmDram, as it’s referred to by those talented thespians who proudly tread the boards. We caught up with one such enthusiast, who not only has a passion for performing, she’s also got a genuine admiration and true sense of camaraderie for her creative colleagues who, like her, have also caught the bug and enjoy nothing more than making a song and dance of it.
Knockcroghery native, and busy mother of two grown-up daughters, the lovely Mary Cox, who works as a personal assistant to the area manager in the Brothers of Charity (South Roscommon), first got involved in the Roscommon Drama Group when she moved back to the county from Dublin in 1984.
“The group was established back in the 1970s, and I joined in the ‘80s,” said Mary who has just recently enjoyed the honour of being elected National Treasurer for the Amateur Drama Council for Ireland, the governing body for drama festivals in Ireland.
Speaking to the Roscommon People recently, a very proud Mary told us: “This of course is a first for me and a huge honour, and also for amateur drama in Roscommon town and its environs”.
The group, who are now getting into the Christmas spirit, have all been very busy, due to recently completing a hugely successful drama festival circuit run competing in the One Act Drama Festival Circuit where performances are evaluated and winners are selected.
However, unfortunately the talented troupers were disappointingly pipped at the post and fell short of qualifying for the All-Ireland by a mere whisker.
“Five groups go through and we were placed sixth. We were so close and only narrowly missed out. The play was called The Stanley Parkers by Geraldine Aaron, and the competition itself, (to qualify) for the One Act All-Ireland finals, was held in Kilmuckridge. We did secure several acting and directing awards and five out of six placings along the way which was a huge success as we are only in our second festival circuit year, so the experience was absolutely wonderful,” said Mary, adding: “We did great. We made huge improvements for this year, and we got better results”.
The group consists of 30 members, however, the festival circuit, which is a national competition, involved only ten representatives, with talented Mary, who took Best Director at the festival, impressively repeating that success at the Western Drama Festival in Tubbercurry, excitedly saying: “The results were amazing. In total we’ve participated in six festivals in 2018. One of our actors, Tom Holian, won three Best Actor awards, and Con Connolly won two Best Actors and Joint Best Actors awards,” said Mary who puts her hard work down to her love of drama and her “patient and supportive family”.
The gifted group, who are based in Roscommon Town, rehearse and perfect their illustrious award winning performances in Hannon’s Hotel and Culleen Hall in nearby Knockcroghery, are planning to showcase their next production, which, given their amazing success, we’re sure will be sold out in no time. The play is called The Lone Burrow; it’s an original piece written by Tommy Murray and it will be directed by Tom Costello and Brigeen Fitzmaurice. The production, Mary told us is “a historical drama based on the life of Aleen Cust who lived in Athleague, County Roscommon,” and, as Ms. Cust is celebrated for becoming the first female veterinary surgeon in Ireland and the UK, culture vultures can anticipate enjoying it some time in May 2019.
In the meantime, Roscommon Drama Group, including Chairperson Tom Holian, would like to thank their generous sponsors, in particular Kilduff Construction Limited, Seán Cox Electrical and Roscommon County Council; with Mary wishing to give a big Christmas ‘shout out’ to her Lighting and Sound technicians who are her beloved husband Seán Cox, and Stephen Nicholson and Leo Walsh, make-up artists Edwina and Amy Holian, and Sound Engineer Kevin Woods; thanking them all for their wonderful contributions.
* For any readers interested in taking up amateur dramatics, they can contact the Roscommon Drama Group’s Chairperson, Tom Holian, on 086-7363597.