BY Rachel Cunningham
Actors normally depend on other people’s words to earn a living but when Dubliner Doireann MacMahon (27) went to Yale School of Drama in the US, she discovered a platform for her writing as well as for her ability to perform.
This led to the multi-talented southsider starring in a play, ‘How To Relearn Yourself’, which she had originally written two years before emigrating.
For her powerful performance in the lead role, she based it on the psychological trauma she experienced following a sexual assault. Her insightful negotiation of the subject generated huge interest both on the Ivy league college campus where it was performed and along the east coast of the USA.
Her play was based on an original final year assignment for Trinity College and was written shortly after the People v Turner trial in 2015 in the US. In that criminal case, a former Stanford University swimmer Brock Allen Turner was convicted by jury trial of three counts of felony sexual assault.
It was as a result of reading Chanel Miller’s victim impact statement from the case that Doireann drew courage to bring her own harrowing experience to the stage.
“I felt as if I could really relate to Chanel’s experience, despite coming from a totally different background. I wanted to open up the conversation on such incidents and thought that if I could spark a reaction from people who had suffered in silence, then putting myself out there would be worthwhile,” she said.
When Yale University saw the power of Doireann’s drama, the college took the unusual step of booking out an entire show for its students to attend and learn from the challenging subject matter.
The demands of such theatre was both exhausting and exhilarating for the actor-playwright.
“We never talk about an audience being vulnerable but this was a prime example, as we were performing in a very intimate space where we could see and feel them connecting with the story.
“I found the process very difficult and, at the time, I felt more like a receptacle for the trauma of others than for my own. However, looking back I’ve realised how cathartic that moment was for me, which is probably why I’ve been drawn to return to the project.”
Despite the pandemic arriving shortly before her Yale graduation, Doireann used her isolation time in America to keep busy. In lockdown, she has collaborated with director Danilo Gambini to develop her play for future production.
The Monkstown actor and former Coláiste Iosogaín student has co-written a new play ‘Ellis Island’ with Scottish theatre maker James Clements, which will feature in New York’s Rattlestick Theatre Festival this June.
The production focuses on the challenges of Irish/Scottish emigration down the decades and Doireann will also be performing in it.
PHOTOS -Rachel Cunningham