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  • Chris O'Rourke

The Saints Are Coming

There's a charge of excitement in the air. Rumbling in the distance, Reboot Live 2020, Dublin Fringe Festival 2020, and Dublin Theatre Festival 2020 are getting ready to herald a return to live theatre. True, it won't return in its full, bedlam filled glory, and there will still be an online dimension. But for the first time since March the immediate, intimate, and unrepeatable experience that is live performance finds its way back to a space near you, performed under strict Covid-19 guidelines. Offering hope to the beleaguered arts sector. As does a brave new venture soon to open on Dawson Street.

Beginning with Reboot Live 2020, commencing August 25, Peter Reid's ambitious brainchild takes to the pop up theatre above the International Bar. Featuring 50 artists performing live in 18 new plays by 18 writers, Reboot Live was developed as a direct response to Covid-19. Premiering six triple bills of short plays on various dates until September 13, Reboot Live 2020 delivers the visceral immediacy of live performances while also streaming its shows online. Featuring many of the best and brightest of Irish theatre, Reboot Live 2020 could hopefully signal the start of some beautiful relationships.

September 5 to 20 sees Dublin Fringe Festival 2020, Pilot Light Edition sprinkle its annual, innovative magic across the city. Working to a vastly curtailed programme, DFF cranks up the innovation in an effort to ensure quality if not quantity. A thankless task at the best of times, recent Government flip flopping between restrictions has made the lives of festival organisers an unnecessary nightmare. And continues to do so, with DFF announcing it has been compelled to cancel all outdoor events. If you've already purchased tickets for these shows, refunds are available. But if you were to donate, the hard working, keeping her lit people at DFF promise to keep you in their novenas and prayers as a gesture of eternal gratitude.

Joking aside, if it's insane trying to run a festival at the best of times, its sheer lunacy during a pandemic, so every little helps. If the indefatigable spirit that insists the show must go on is being keenly felt, it's also being keenly tested. Yet as Dublin Theatre Festival's Artistic Director, Willie White surmised, 'it's liveness that makes theatre special…we don't want to shrink into our homes and be reduced to watching the world through a screen.' To this end Dublin Theatre Festival 2020, which runs from September 24 to October 11, has taken up the challenge of reimagining a smaller programme of 'new work made for a new reality,' and does it with some style. Promising to deliver some highly impressive productions.

As does an exciting new venture soon to open on Dawson Street. Driven by Artistic Director Rex Ryan, The Glass Mask Theatre offers Dublin's newest theatrical experience in Dublin's newest theatrical venue, at a time when the need for new venues has never been more crucial. With a mission of presenting plays for now, plays for everyone, plays that uplift, Glass Mask Theatre promises a new writing venue catering to some of Ireland's finest playwrights and actors, including Stephen Jones, Philip Doherty, Ali Hardiman and Jimmy Murphy. Working in conjunction with Bestseller, the coffee and bookshop, a full food and wine service will be on offer, kicking off Sept 21 with its inaugural production, One Hour To Ron Montana by Keith James Walker, a surreal, one man comedy featuring Rex Ryan.

Theatre has taken a beating in the past few months. And nothing, absolutely nothing online has come close to presenting a viable alternative or a sustainable way forward. The people behind these projects, and countless similar projects, have shown incredible determination, resilience and strength in the face of overwhelming odds. Sainted lunatics who could have thrown in the towel, but didn't. They're ready to bring live theatre back to the city. So book your tickets now. If shows are sold out, then donate. If you can't attend for whatever reason, donate. The hard work's already been done. Do your part now to support live theatre, in whatever shape that might take. Money is always good.

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