Joan McCready Interview, January 12, 2020
By Conor O’Neill
February 10th sees the first anniversary of Sam McCready’s death in 2019. Wife of 56 years and co-founder of their Two-For-One Productions Theatre Company, Joan McCready, is back in her native Northern Ireland to host, direct and act in some of the pair’s later works together. CultureCrush NI caught up with her to talk about what will be happening over the next month and a half.
Well, Joan, you have a busy month coming up. How are things going?
“Indeed, we’re in rehearsals at the moment for Percy French so we’re very busy. That opens on January 22nd and runs for six performances. Rehearsals are going well and we’re looking forward to that enormously. We were rehearsing over the weekend with Kyle Riley coming up from the south and during the week we were working with Karl O’Neill who is playing the role of Percy. It’s all going smoothly so far.”
With working so closely with Sam for so many years it must have been almost intuitive, what’s it like directing another actor?
“You look at it like any other time you’ve done a show before. You just try to find that actor’s particular strengths and you work to those and that’s what we’re doing at the moment. Sam and I knew how each other worked but Sam and I didn’t always work with each other, it was only over the last years when we retired that we started working on these one player shows, so for all those years we were working in general theatre we weren’t always playing together or directing one another.”
Will there be any nostalgia involved in how you approach these shows?
“There is only one way to look at it and I have to look forward. I can’t look back, I mustn’t look back. I move forward and that’s the most important thing.”
Aside from the theatrical work, ArtisAnn Gallery is running a retrospective look at Sam’s painting career. I’m only aware of Six Colours Of Black and The Emergence Of Colour, what else is to be featured?
“That’s going on throughout February. The official opening is not until Wednesday, February 12th. I can’t do an official opening night the first week because I will be performing Coole Lady, but the exhibition will run the whole month of February. The exhibition will cover both Six Colours Of Black and The Emergence Of Colour periods and a few others. I haven’t gone too far back in his painting career, but the exhibition certainly embraces those two periods and a little further back but not too far.”
Thawing Sam McCready 2018
There’s also The Seven Ages Of Sam, again at the Lyric, how did the name of that come about?
“We take it from the fact that when our son Richard gave the eulogy at Sam’s memorial service, he began by speaking ‘The Seven Ages of Man’ from Shakespeare’s As You Like It and then he broke down the seven stages of Sam’s life and work. Richard went through all Sam’s various stages right from early childhood. We’re going to represent each aspect of his life and we’re going to cover the fact that not only was he an actor, but also he was a teacher, a writer, a painter and an academic. It will be a total approach to Sam’s life and a fine tribute. We have about 30 contributors during the evening and I think it will be very exciting.”
And then there’s Ruby by Michael Cameron,, I know Sam was very influential and helpful to Michael, so that’s another event.
“Yes, Ruby begins the night after The Seven Ages Of Sam. Sam advised Michael greatly on that piece and indeed was supposed to direct it but unfortunately fell ill and died on the night before it opened last year. In fact, The Seven Ages Of Sam is on the exact year anniversary of his death.”
Of course, you are performing Coole Lady, can you elaborate on that?
“Yes, it’s about Lady Gregory and her life. Probably the most important aspect of her life was meeting Yeats. She together with Yeats worked tirelessly to try and find him a theatre and started the Irish Literary Movement which eventually evolved into The Abbey Theatre, Dublin. That was her most important claim to fame, but she herself had a wonderful life; she married at a very young age to an elderly man, Sir William Gregory, and had a couple of affairs during her lifetime. He was 63-years-old when they married and died 12 years later.”
“She met many outstanding figures of the Irish Renaissance, if you like, of that period and welcomed them to that wonderful estate at Coole, which unfortunately no longer exists. The estate is still the but there but the house was torn down, there’s only the footprint left. Lady Gregory is still highly celebrated in that whole area where we have taken the play in County Galway.”
Reading from the Lyric’s information, Lady Gregory’s story is described as, ‘One of survival and courage’?
“Very much so. She was working in a man’s world at a time when women really didn’t have a voice but she fought her ground and was herself a writer. She was a folklorist, a poet, she wrote plays and has quite a body of work in her own right while still managing a 5000 acre estate. She was a tireless worker and a wonderful lady.”
Do you see properties similar of her in yourself?
“In some ways I suppose I do. I certainly feel a lot of closeness with her because of her love of the theatre, and her association with Yeats, who Sam loved. That’s why he worked so hard on the plays and bringing them to a modern audience as he did very successfully at the Yeats International Summer School and indeed to audiences in America.”
What’s your plans for after this period when you return to the United States, will there be more plays?
“I hope so. I’m here to the end of February and already have a project in mind from just before Sam died. In fact, just three weeks before he died he finished it. He had planned to act in it himself but he has given that to a great friend of his in Washington D.C and I’m going to direct him in that. That’s my next project.”
Do you care to elaborate on that, can you give the readers a name?
“I’d prefer not say but it’s a very famous novel and a very famous work that he adapted.”
And I presume once again, you wielded the editor’s pen?
“Of course, of course.”
And there she is. The indomitable Joan McCready.
Percy French runs at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast from January 22nd – January 26th, Coole Lady runs from February 5th – February 9th, The Seven Ages Of Sam is a one night only event on February 10th and Ruby runs from February 11th – February 16th.
ArtisAnn Gallery’s Retrospective runs from February 5th – February 29th, the official launch night will be on February 12th.
For further information on all shows, events and exhibitions discussed in this article visit http://www.lyrictheatre.co.uk or phone the box office on 02890 381081.
For information on ArtisAnn Gallery visit http://www.artisann.org