2010, 2011, 2012, 2016, 2017 The Conversation
The Conversation is like a gift that keeps on giving. It began in 2010 as a short 1-act play. It was inspired by the historical ‘private’ meeting between English queen Elizabeth I and the so-called Irish ‘pirate queen’, Gráinne Ní Mháile, or in English Grace O’Malley. They met at Greenwich Castle in 1593 to discuss their contentions, most notably the confiscation of Irish lands and the imprisonment of some of Grace’s relatives. Little to nothing was recorded of the meeting save that they met as enemies and parted as friends – of a sort. The true story struck Dennis Corcoran, the playwright, as a perfect opportunity to create a character study – a private meeting, transformative in nature, without any of those messy recorded historical details to get in the way. Perfect!
The initial drafts were read by various pairs of actresses in STLCC-Meramec’s theatre program. From that, a final version was created which was then fully staged in Brian Rolf’s Back Lot Theatre, the BLT, with Brian directing, Bri Moyer-Smith playing Elizabeth I and Katherine A. Robinson as Gráinne. The play was runner up in the Kennedy Center’s regional theatre competition in 2011, with Brian J. Rolf playing Cecil, Katherine A. Robinson as Gráinne and Bethany ‘Duke’ Dukette as Elizabeth I. Feedback from this performance gave rise to the full-length version which was then staged at the Focal Point in St. Louis in 2011. Students Brian Rolf and Katherine Robinson (Katie) were joined by non-student Gwynneth Rausch as Elizabeth I.
Then lightning struck. A dramaturg from Nashville got wind of the piece and co-produced with Black Mirror a New York reading at the Dramatist Guild in late 2011. That led to the play being performed in early 2012, a formal reading, by the Fallen Angel Theatre Company at the Manhattan Irish Center. A representative of the literary office of The Public Theatre in New York attended which resulted in an open invitation to submit any and all new work to The Public for consideration.
Subsequent to that, the piece was performed as a formal reading in Nashville. A film producer in Atlanta got wind of it and, after a long delay, the play is currently (2017) in pre-production as a feature-length film.
A cutting of the play, due to time constraints, was performed as a reading during one of the 1916 Centenary programs at the Book House in St. Louis in 2016 and again at the 2017 Missouri River Irish Fest.
Cast for the 2016 and 2017 readings were: Michelle Rebollo and Julia Belz, Gráinne Ní Mháille, Madeline Finn, Elizabeth I, and Dorothy Anne Francis Robinson and Brigit Carmody as Áine, Elizabeth’s lady in waiting.
It seems, for better or worse, The Conversation just won’t go away.