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Cork Profile: Ger FitzGibbon

Wednesday, 13th June, 2018 4:07pm

When you were small, what did you want to be as a grown-up? 

The usual - train-driver; ‘round-the-world’ traveller (on the boat that Maurice Walsh and I were going to buy); snail-trainer.

Tell us about your career progression to your role today:

Parallel lines I think; in terms of the day-job, going from postgrad student to lecturer to (eventually) Head of a new Drama & Theatre programme in UCC. In terms of extra-curricular activities, being involved in the first Granary Theatre; working with Gerry Barnes in the Cork Theatre Company and opening the Ivernia Theatre on Grand Parade; being a founder of Graffiti Theatre Company; writing plays, including The Rock Station, which had a number of productions here and in the UK; leading the campaign for the new Granary and being on the board of that for many years; getting involved in the Theatre Development Centre; and now, finding more time again to write and direct and do dramaturgical work.

Recent high points for me included directing ‘Not I’ in the Crawford Art Gallery for Gaitkrash TC, directing ‘Juno and the Paycock’ in The Everyman and, most consistently, working with Jack Healy and Theatre Makers on a range of projects, including ‘The Great Hunger’, ‘The Bed’ and, currently, ‘Tenebrae’.

What is the most enjoyable aspect of what you do?

I love the whole process of making a theatre production. I enjoy writing but it is quite a solitary business, so it’s a delight to get involved in the collaborative process of putting a production together, watching it take shape, seeing actors inhabit and embody a script.

What motivates you?

The pleasure of working with creative people. That, and perhaps a certain urgency to engage with new projects, now that I have the time and space to do so.

What advice would you give your 15 year old self?

Ask more questions; be more courageous; say ‘yes’ more often.

If you weren’t in the job you have, what would you be doing?

I flirted with different possibilities when I was a teenager – architecture, law et al.

The real attraction – theatre-directing – did not seem a plausible fulltime possibility in the sixties and had no very discernible career-path.

Later, I found I could maintain and develop that passion within an academic career that allowed me to teach drama, direct, write and be part of the Cork theatre scene.

What is your greatest life or career achievement to-date?

Apart from helping to found Graffiti, in work terms the things I’m proudest of were my role in the development of the Granary Theatre and the establishment of Drama & Theatre Studies in UCC. It gives me enormous pleasure to see graduates from the programme doing well, finding their voices or their creative or educational niche.

Who has had the biggest influence on you in your life?

Beyond the obvious – parents, siblings, children – my wife Emelie has been an enormous influence, not least through our shared passion for theatre and the arts. More formally, I was lucky to have some incredible teachers and role-models - Dan Donovan in Pres, and later Sean Lucy and Sean O’Tuama in UCC.


What is the life dream now?

Win the Euromillions Lotto and set up a small 250-seat theatre in Cork. That would be fun.

How do you switch off?

I’m not sure I’m ready to be switched off yet. I do love meeting old friends, colleagues, former students. Beyond that, TV (I’m slightly addicted to rugby on TV), photography, or – if I’m really stressed – walking by the sea. The big relaxation is spending a little time in France.

What is your favourite Cork memory?

Memories – too many to mention. Hunting for the real Santy around the shops of Cork with my pal Jimmy Byrnes, the Dukes Showband playing ‘Pick a Bale of Cotton’ for Pres Dances in the Imperial Hotel, putting on shows as a UCC student in James N Healy’s old Group Theatre on South Main Street.

What is your favourite place in Cork?

The view of Shandon from the Coal Quay on a sunny morning.

Do you have a favourite quote or motto?

At the moment, it’s my friend Jack Healy’s injunction: “Find what gives you joy”.

When are you at your happiest?

In the rehearsal room, or having time with my family, or drinking coffee with friends.

Any regrets?

Of course!

What is your hidden talent?

Making things. I love working with my hands. I do so less now but still occasionally make masks, or props, that kind of thing.

What might we be surprised to know about you?

I still wonder what I’ll be when I grow up.

Anything else you’d like to share with us? Come and see the world premiere of my new play ‘Tenebrae’ at the Cork Midsummer Festival from 18-24 June at the Unitarian Church at 8pm. Tickets are €15 from

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