Reach for the stars with Stagecraft

Bernie Commins


Bernie Commins

Niamh Whelan enjoying a Stagecraft workshop
Months of planning for the forthcoming season of Stagecraft’s youth theatre offerings are finally drawing to a close as it prepares to open its curtains again for a brand new season.

Months of planning for the forthcoming season of Stagecraft’s youth theatre offerings are finally drawing to a close as it prepares to open its curtains again for a brand new season.

Some exciting developments are underway in the Stagecraft Youth Theatre camp for the coming season which commences on September 27, according to artistic director Shane Dempsey, who founded the group in 1998.

In that time Shane and his colleagues have produced over 70 full-scale theatre productions, eight of which have been Irish premier, and have run over 4,000 workshops and rehearsals.

“We are a small enough organisation but with a big persepective,” said Shane. “We try to get people who are really brilliant to work with the kids.”
But Shane doesn’t just try, he succeeds, and the forthcoming season is testament to this with special guest workshops in film making and directing. Stagecraft has secured a grant for ‘one of the most progressive directors working in Ireland’, Annie Ryan from Corn Exchange, to be guest tutor this year. Tom Flannery from Fragments Theatre, onother project that Shane in involved in, will also guest tutor. Having people like these visit Clonmel and work with local young people, inspiring them and educating them, is a massive deal.

This is also the first year that Stagecraft is offering a scholarship for one lucky child to attend the youth theatre’s classes and workshops free of charge for one year. The Mary Cummins Award is a unique chance for someone to learn from some of the greats in Irish youth theatre, and at the same time, honours a woman who inspired Shane to pursue his own dream.

“Mary passed away just two years ago, and this just means that everything Mary did continues, she spotted the glint in my eye when I was 17, and this feels like the right thing to do,” said Shane.

“And this scholarship is for anyone who would really benefit from it,” he added.

Having recently celebrated two sell-out nights in the Abymill Theatre with Stagecraft’s annual Musical Mania event - the second night was added due to phenomenal demand - it is now very much down to business again as the season commences next week. There are two parts to the Stagecraft year: the first from September to December prepares the young actors for theatre with training in voice, movement, improvisation, directing and more - oh, and not forgetting fun!

The second term from January, sees all young people commence rehearsals for a series of five productions, one to include an Irish premiere this year. The productions are divided between shows suitable for the younger actors, and more advanced and challenging production for the older ones. As well as the stage shows, there will be a number of rehearsed readings again this year, in aid of the South Tipperary Hospice and the Meningitis Research Foundation.

“The rehearsed readings are ways of doing a lot of plays that you wouldn’t normally be able to produce, it is about givibg actors as much experience as possible, and giving them a challenge,” said Shane. The rehearsed readings will take place in the first season.

“We have a core group of kids and they have complete owenership of that group, it works from the ground up,” said Shane. But his vision for what that core group is exposed to, who that core group meets and learns from, and what that core group can achieve, is limitless. It shows in the quality of acting and shows that Stagecraft present each year.

If you are interested in joining Stagecraft see for an online form, and for all details of the upcoming season, or contact Shane on You can email your nominees for the Mary Cummins Award to this address also.