Lisa Tierney-Keogh on rejection, #WakingTheF­eminists, and how time away from home led her to challenge the system

Seven years ago, LISA TIERNEY-KEOGH received word that the Abbey Theatre wouldn’t run her play. She took the news hard, but after a stint in the US, the #WakingTheF­eminists movement, and a lot of attention on the gender balance of the national theatre, her next attempt proved a success as well as a learning experience.

On a hot September day seven years ago, I was waddling my pregnant body cross-town along a New York City street. I stopped to take a breath in the humid air and pulled out my phone to check for an email I had been anxiously waiting for. As my inbox refreshed, I leaned against the warm cement of a building wall and opened a message telling me that the play I had been writing for the Abbey Theatre was rejected.

I remember this day vividly. My husband left work and met me on the street and I wept into his shoulder. My father was visiting with a friend and we made our way to the bar where they were playing pool. When I broke the news to my dad, I could see the protective anger rising in him. Something wasn’t right. Rejection is part of being a playwright, but this felt different. This felt unfair. It felt unjust. It felt, wrong.

In that moment, I gave up on my dreams of ever seeing my work on stage in Ireland. I muted everyone I knew who worked

in Irish theatre on social media so I could drown out the voices that would be a constant reminder of the painful fact that my country didn’t want me. To this day, it remains the most difficult rejection I have ever received. And believe me, I’ve had a fair few of those.

I didn’t talk about the gory details of how it all went down because I knew I would be branded as a bitter writer. I knew that as a woman, it would sit particular­ly badly. Because women were not allowed to speak of injustices. We were supposed to be silent, accept our lot, and not disrupt the structures in place to keep us this way.

Motherhood ensued. Life continued. My worldview expanded and I focused my attentions on building a body of work relevant to the place I was living in. But inside, an unnamed hurt was growing. A sense that no matter what I did, the odds were stacked against me. I suppressed it and kept going. Surely if I just worked hard enough, somebody would notice my work?

 ??  ?? Playwright Lisa Tierney-Keogh’s This Beautiful Village premieres at
the Abbey Theatre September 2
Playwright Lisa Tierney-Keogh’s This Beautiful Village premieres at the Abbey Theatre September 2

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