“Just take that first step and all unfolds. Belief and a need to create are what make it work. Every new project is a new blank canvas and artists have the privilege, to create a visual, auditory, tactile, tangible world of wonder and awe.”
Profound words but straight to the point, just like the speaker, Maura Logue.
From 'play acting' at national school, taking part in Loreto operettas, primary school teaching, winning All-Ireland acting awards, developing community and creative industry projects for youth and communities, working on television, and helping to grow the arts as a community arts education officer to forming her own production company, Dark Daughter Productions, Maura has not wasted a minute.
Like any journey, there have been highs and lows but there’s no doubting her integrity and sheer determination to make sure the arts progress at all levels.
Maura was brought up in Stranorlar. Her nomadic schooling was in Convoy and Letterkenny. She and her sisters were among the last set of 13 boarders in Loreto Letterkenny.
Her love of storytelling and performance began in the cot. Maura has been improvising and acting since early childhood. Even at Scoil Bhríde in Convoy, she would hold pupils to ransom and make them listen to her ‘play-acting’. Poor Eamonn Meehan her classmate suffered this fate many times. He had to listen to her recitations whether he wanted to or not.
Maura went on to win acting awards as a teenager and starred in Loreto operettas always with great excitement. She was influenced greatly as a teenager, by Janette McGee and Phil Dalton, teachers at Loreto. Her other love was camogie under Veronica McAteer and Stella O'Carroll, all exceptional women.
Her acting and production interests continued in college. She had acquired a lot of good grounding in the world of theatre in education and production, directing and acting in Irish and English productions. As an adult, she went on to direct many plays for the Ballyshannon Drama Society and won an All-Ireland best actress award in a two-hander with Ballyshannon award-winning actor Richard Hurst.
They both played 12 characters in an hour performance in David Tristram’s The Extraordinary Revelations of Orca the Goldfish. Maura also won an All Ireland Best Supporting Actress award, when invited to perform with Bundoran Drama Society some years later.
She moved on from amateur dramatics creating her own theatre company under Dark Daughter Productions. She credits people like Patsy Croal, Ballyshannon, and Kieran Quinn of the Butt Drama Circle and Balor Arts Centre, Ballybofey, and later in life, Soinbhe Lally, Rossnowlagh as her inspirations. The Butt Drama Circle plays she viewed growing up and later when working in the Balor, played important roles in shaping her creative journey.
Maura made the decision of choosing to live in Donegal and creating Donegal-themed works. In order for Maura to live in Donegal - where else would you want to live as she says - she works hard to have a basic standard of living.
“Life can be spartan when living in a freelance world. Nothing is secure and applications even at 60 years have still to be done, to secure project funding. One must accept that reality with grace.”
Maura has a number of economic strands to her Dark Daughter Productions business in order to keep the wolf from the door. She writes and performs original work for stage. Her work is themed on Forgotten Women in Donegal and North-West histories.
Her company name honours Inion Dubh, Fionnuala of The McDonald Clan of western isles of Scotland, Red Hugh O Donnell’s mother.
The Dark Daughter a passionate play on this formidable woman, was penned by Soinbhe Lally, Rossnowlagh. The two-act historic and passionate play was directed by Eavan King, who works at Nerve Centre, Derry. It featured Donegal and Derry, actors. It was funded by the Donegal Co Council Flight of the Earls Programme for a performance in Louvain, Belgium, where O'Donnell resided in the 1600s.
Maura is a pioneer of history and living history works in the north-west. She is well respected and known for history and heritage-themed projects.
She compliments this work with costumes from her extensive costume collection, collected over 20 years. Her costumes have been outsourced by Film Costume Co. for feature and short films, including Wilde Mountain Thyme and God’s Creatures. Maura provides costume and design services for video companies, theatre houses and festivals in the north-west.
Her largest costume hire and management was 600 external looks in early 1900s style for a solemn Armistice Day procession in Sligo for The Blue Raincoat Theatre Company and Sligo County Council.
Her favourite vintage costuming was for Dark Daughter Animated Histories, at beautiful Glenveagh Castle with actors in character, telling their Glenveagh stories, complimenting the wonderful work tour guides do there.
She is also proud to say that she curated and provided the look of an Edwardian Camogie Player in Croke Park Museum presently on display there. She has supported visual artists in their 3D work including Alan Clarke Dublin, Seamus Dunbar, Leitrim, and sculptor Bettina Seitz, Sligo.
Living in south Donegal, Maura continues to develop original dramatic, creative and heritage works that keep the heart of the arts at its core. She believes very much in the value of another way of thinking, creative thinking in education.
She resigned from her primary school teaching career at 40 years of age during the time when the horror of clerical abuse scandals hit the headlines. Maura needed to honour her creative heart, in a dark time, a time also when there was little training or opportunities to work in the arts.
She credits Donegal Local Development Company (DLDC) and the Balor Developmental Community Arts (DCA) for giving her that first step to employment in the arts.
From there Maura managed, coordinated, and designed Community and Peace Building Projects in east and south Donegal, with funding from PEACE. These programmes brought good practice in the protocol, delivery, and evaluation to the creative industries in the north-west, in a cross-community and cross-border context.
These programmes were activated in community development organisations and community arts group projects. Great opportunities in upskilling and networking were available then. Availing of all those resources Maura continued on a journey honing skills for creative engagement with youth adults and marginalised communities.
Her first post was at Balor Arts Centre as Education Officer DCA in 2000, while working on TG4's Ros na Rún as Ionta Dana Margaret Bonner, her first professional acting role around the same time.
Maura continued to serve Community and Creative Education as Community Arts and Arts Education officer, with Donegal Co Council Arts Office for three years until the Celtic Tiger crash.
Traolach Ó Fionnain has done exceptional work as an arts officer and she learned a lot from him over those three years. During that time Maura was the first in Ireland to create a stage work with African refugees, as actors, working with Declan Birney, facilitating them to stage their story Waiting To Be Irish.
The skills acquired in her previous managerial roles, offered her the confidence to go it alone. Maura left her last paid employee job when she knew had grown too singular and was too informed, to stay and be insulted by loud shouting and wagging fingers.
She felt broken and was forced for health reasons, to leave a job she loved and one she had hoped to have a strong future vision for. She slowly recovered, dusted herself off, and began all over again, at the ripe age of 50.
Maura in one of her many stage roles
Keeps on rising
A dark time gave way to light. Over the last 10 years her star just keeps on rising, Using the economic model of The Little Red Hen, her little grassroots Donegal-based company, Dark Daughter Productions, and Costume Hire weather the storm of economic ups and downs.
She lives happily in a world of creative occupation with strong artistic purpose. She generously shares her knowledge and has mentored wonderful young creators and artists, as they begin their creative process journey.
"Working with young persons is so refreshing, it makes my heart sing," she notes
Maura continues with joy, to visit primary schools under BLAST and TAP residencies She works with TYs be it writing and directing youth in custom-made plays exploring social norms or doing ensemble Living History works.
She has provided drama in classroom training for teachers. With an educator’s background, she focuses on common sense, the practical, and the attainable.
Teachers are so compromised by the lack of creative space in schools, so Maura supports them with practicalities to support achieving an end goal. Maura has adjudicated for Butt Drama Schools festivals for 20 years, offering advice and positive feedback, in celebration of youth performances.
She has also penned pantomimes and large cast youth shows over the years. She also coordinated and managed with Erne Enterprise Carnival Ballyshannon, a nocturnal parade, providing free arts workshops in advance to youth and adults, funded by Donegal County Council for 19 years.
“Every child is a creative bundle of originality, give them opportunities to explore their uniqueness and self-expression in what I call the play-acting self-expression and celebrating self is your unique brand, in a world of fleeting and fake brands. Embrace the creative wonder of you no matter what age,” Maura says.
Presently Maura Logue is known more as Nora than Maura as she brings her comedic show around Donegal. She gallivants as Nora Gallagher, performing in small centres and rural places.
She offers a homegrown comedic character Nora Gallagher. She was granted funding in May-June 22 to visit older persons' residential homes and day centres, with Nora Gallagher’s Bingo Bus story.
“There was a great welcome for Nora who ignited memory and nostalgic smiles with her colourful Donegal 50s 60s themed shows,” she explains.
Nora Gallagher will be playing in Abbey Centre Ballyshannon Thursday, September 22 with her Dry Dance Hall stories The Last Chance and The Last Dance. Booking through Abbey Centre (071) 9851375
She hopes to bring Nora G to the Highlands Hotel Glenties, on October 22, and she has a yearning to bring her Nora G. to West Donegal to Ardara, Doochary, Dungloe, and Arranmore. Leitir is a personal goal for 2022. Lettermacaward has inspired many her serious and comedic writings. It is where she spent wonderful summer childhood days, with her aunt, Marion Logue.
Part of Maura’s unique performance style is to bring a nostalgic interactive mood to her shows. Her Nora Gallagher comedic shows harken back to the storytelling of days gone by. Familiar themes connect the audience and interactions occur spontaneously, especially in informal settings. That is the joy that creativity and performance bring. Maura's live performances have invisible circular energy in the room and from the actor to and from the audience. This offers a connection, a togetherness, and a space for responding. People leave with a smile.
Maura performing at one of her outdoor shows
Maura acknowledges that without successful funding applications to the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport, and Media and Donegal County Council Donegal Cultural and Tourism, Museum Services that life during Covid-19 times would have been grim.
Dark Daughter Productions was the first Virtual Artist in Residence, at Regional
Cultural Centre (RCC) in 2020, during Covid-19 times. With four original Donegal-themed weekly shows live streamed as part of RCC and Arts Office, Bealtaine Fest 20.
"A learning curve where going into the deep end was the best approach! The value of the new live stream medium was seen in the comments from viewers and was a great boost for the performers. The live streams were supported by Shane Smyth and Discover Bundoran, providing that strong Internet connection, in a buffering WiFi service world of Covid-19.
Maura also developed skills and produced, directed, and scripted her first ever videos 6 x 2min videos for Donegal Museum and Tower Museum, Derry as part of the Decade of Centenaries The videos were filmed, by Oath Film Studio Sligo. Beautiful traditional music was provided by Isabel Ni Chuireain, Falcarragh. Dark Daughter actress Claire Falconer was in the role as Lady Lillian Spender, for Tower Museum Videos. They can be viewed on YouTube.
Having secured funding from Donegal Co Council to provide online content for Donegal Bay and Bluestack Festival 2020 and 2021 Maura wrote and created Drumshee Days Series 1 and 2. These featured the bold Nora Gallagher and were performed as story and song duo shows with David Ison, USA, on guitar. Four weekly episodes of Drumshee Days Series 1 and 2 featuring Nora Gallagher were uploaded on YouTube. These were filmed by Oath Film Studio at Balor Arts Centre, Ballybofey with Ciaran O'Neill on audio.
Living the life of an artist is not work to Maura. It is her occupation It occupies her day and her night. She would have it no other way she says.
Her artistic sense of colour flow design and production has been developed through apprenticeship and mentoring. She was lucky to have worked with mentors Patsy Croal, Kieran Quinn, and other creative directors along the way. These gave her gems of theatrical wisdom in those far-off early days. There were no drama degrees to be had in the north-west when Maura was young.
If there is a passion to create, all else will fall into place, that’s what process is about.
“Just take that first step and all unfolds. Belief and a need to create are what make it work. Every new project is a new blank canvas and artists have the privilege, to create a visual, auditory, tactile, and tangible world of wonder and awe. In the fake world of fake products, it is good to know that in Donegal, authentic artistic work is being done. Donegal stands very proudly as one of the best counties in serving artistic and cultural endeavours, in many diverse arts disciplines. May it continue to be supported.”
She believes tourism providers are now embracing the value of the arts and culture as part of visitor experiences. Everyone visits Ireland for music songs and stories.
“Without performers and artists, we can but offer bland conveyor belt tourism, with no Irish authenticity. Visitors deserve better.”
Maura who has worked with thousands of folk is reflecting on work done over many years. If someone reading this has worked with Maura perhaps they would reach out and contact her with their recollections, of their arts or creative experience with her.
If you wish to dip a toe in creativity Maura (above) is designing and producing, in association with Erne Enterprise, a special street heritage event in Ballyshannon For this year's Donegal Bay and Blue Stacks Festival.
She will produce and script community art and heritage street theatre experience called Ballytour, Walking with the Ghosts of Ballyshannon’s Past.
Actors and extras in character will invite the attendees to take a walk, back in time and meet the famous Ghosts of Ballyshannon’s past.
The visual colour of which will see community and professional actors and nonverbal extras, dressed in vintage by Dark Daughter Costuming and curated by Geraldine McGrath. Join the ghosts on the streets of Ballyshannon, and explore the rich colourful histories of Ballyshannon’s past. This will be a free family-friendly event starting from 3pm to 4pm on Sunday, October 9, and is funded by Donegal County Council.
Maura has a presence on Facebook - Maura Logue or Dark Daughter Productions and Costume Hire and at darkdaughtercostumeshire.com
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