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The Baptiste Programme

The Baptiste Programme is a paid and mentored script development programme for Black Irish theatre makers.

The programme is named after the 18th century Black Irish singer Rachel Baptiste, who performed to great acclaim here in Smock Alley as well as at other notable and prestigious venues and pleasure gardens of the time. There’s a good article about her over on headstuff which is well worth checking out.

This project is lead and facilitated by Pamela McQueen, established dramaturg and supported by Lucy Ryan, our Director of Programming & Finance at Smock Alley. The programme has been funded by the Arts Council and Dublin City Council.

2021 was the first year of the programme and we were delighted to work with Osaro Amanda Azams, Mary Duffin, Kwaku Fortune and C N Smith.

We are planning to run the programme again in 2022 and will shortly be looking for expression of interests from artists.

The programme is broken into four stages that take place over 9 months. The first stage includes script concept exploration, writing plans and feedback sessions. The second stage will involve master classes with Irish and British writers with established careers. For 2021 we were very pleased to have, May Sumbwanyambe, Inua Ellams and Sonya Kelly deliver these sessions. In stage three the scripts will be redrafted by the writers with dramaturgical support. First draft scripts will then have an in-house informal reading with actors. The fourth and final stage is a facilitated two-day rehearsed reading process for the redrafted script. These play readings will be mounted for an invited audience of new play producers, directors and festival representatives. We will also invite other Black Irish theatre makers to these private readings.

The program has four central ambitions. The first is to support the up-skilling and craft development of Black Irish artists. The second outcome is four fresh new scripts that present responses to our modern world from Black Irish theatre makers, whose voices have been underrepresented on our stages. The third is an expansion of Smock Alley’s relationships with Black Irish artists that can grow into future projects. The final outcome is connecting the writers and their work with the broader community of Irish theatre.

Contemporary of Rachel Baptiste. Portrait by Jean-Etienne Liotard.

Pictured Top Left L – R:  Esther Ayo James, Donna Anita Nikolaisen, Ryan Lincoln, Pete Daly, Bairbre Ní Chaoimh, Barry Simpson, Jeanne Nicole Ní Áinle. | Top Middle L – R: Osaro Azams, Jeanne Nicole Ní Áinle, Esther Ayo James | Top Right: Jeanne Nicole Ní Áinle |  Middle Left: Osaro Azams, Alessandra Zevedo, Jeanne Nicole Ní Áinle, Yves Lorrhan | Bottom Left: Bairbre Ní Chaoimh, Caitríona Ní Mhurchú | Bottom Middle: Osaro Azams, Esther Ayo James | Bottom Right: Osaro Azams, Aoife Spillanne-Hinks