Maureen joins the cast of new play
WICKLOW actress Maureen O’Connell is part of the cast of a new play which will have its world première later this month.
Set in 1800s frontier America, The Gods of the Ozarks is written by playwright Matthew Cole Kelly. It tells the story of a smalltown community where Jonah Hahn is the only doctor for 300 miles around. But the religious ban on cutting up dead bodies holds back his medical understanding. When his wife Sally gets sick and people in town start dying, Jonah’s escapades have unexpected consequences for the community.
Speaking to the Wicklow People, Maureen said: ‘Other people die in the village and Jonah digs up their bodies in secret to examine them. But the villagers discover that these bodies have gone missing because they are so religious, they say they must have been resurrected. These people become gods of the Ozark and worshipped by the village.’
The Avoca native explained that the play is a comedy with elements of farce and flavours of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible and Monty Python’s Life of Brian. She is full of praise for the cast and for Matthew Cole Kelly’s writing. She plays the role of Phoebe, the village prostitute, who dreams of becoming a burlesque star. The RADA trained actress admitted that it is a demanding part.
‘Playing Phoebe is a nice challenge because in certain scenes, I’m trying to be sexy and to do a burlesque dance in front of people, that’s quite a challenge because you’re extremely vulnerable.’
‘As an actor and an artist, you’re always looking for ways to challenge yourself. I thought I haven’t really done that yet so I’ll try that out and see if I can do it,’ Maureen said.
The play involves some intimate scenes for Maureen, and she highlights that a safe space was created during rehearsals by director Anna Nugent.
‘From my point of view, there were some intimate scenes because I’m the prostitute. Anna was so good at that and very sensitive and made sure I felt very safe in the rehearsal room, she’s a phenomenal talent.’
A screenwriter, director and producer, Maureen’s no-budget feature film, Spa Weekend, premièred at the Female Filmmakers Festival in Berlin earlier this year where it won the She is on Fire award. Maureen directed, co-wrote, produced, edited and acted in the piece.
‘It’s a slacker comedy with a feminist message. This actress Jo comes back from England and she’s down and out. The reason why Jo is back is because she was bullied by a theatre director who she stood up to and because of this, she was blacklisted. She couldn’t get any auditions and she lost her confidence. But she realises “I’m a filmmaker and I could make a film about it”.’
Maureen explained that the plot does contain some autobiographical elements.
‘It’s about empowering yourself. If someone tries to take your power away, they can’t really because you can just use it.’
An upcoming project funded by Screen Ireland and will see Maureen direct one of their short stories for 2020.
‘It’s my first funded film so it’s cool because they [Screen Ireland] loved Spa Weekend and other shorts I’d made,’ said Maureen.
Although living in Dublin now, the Avoca native is no stranger to Wicklow.
‘It’s really my home. I love Dublin, but Wicklow is more my spiritual home,’ Maureen added.
AboutFace’s production of The Gods of the Ozarks is at the Studio Theatre in the Civic, Tallaght from August 20 to 24. Tickets cost €17/€15 for concessions. To book, visit www. civictheatre.ie.
Maureen O’Connell from Avoca.