It is not often that the founder of an organization will admit that it all began as a joke. Sophie Cairns, founder of SHITE theater-company, however offers this information up readily. SHITE began as a quip between Cairns and her parents surrounding the acronym that it still bears – “Sophie’s highly interesting theatre experience.” It was when Cairns received the SHITE URL as a gift from them last Christmas, that the joke got a bit more determined.
SHITE didn’t beat around the bush getting itself off the ground, beginning in January 2014 in Berkeley, California, where Cairns was on exchange at the time.
“It was the third year of my college life, and I didn’t really want to wait until I got back to Dublin to get it started, so I asked friends in Berkeley if they wanted to get involved, and it just went from there. We didn’t have much of an idea what we were doing, but we thought we would give it a try.”
When it comes to SHITE, Cairns seems to have speed on the mind (please excuse the pun, but they are difficult to avoid with the subject at hand). The aim of the Berkeley branch was to create a series of small, unique events. Ten months on in Dublin, Cairn’s pauses over the company’s mission statement:
“We aim to organize one off, unique events, that typically take place outside of theater spaces, and are often inspired by these places. These events should be low time commitment and low pressure.”
The fruits of this idea have been seen over the past months in events such as “The Living Room Plays”, an evening of short plays performed in a Trinity campus apartment, and “Potions in the Lavatory”, a “bathroom based” event inspired by a certain magical book series (no prizes for guessing which.) It would seem that SHITE favours events that do what they say on the tin. The latter takes place this week, and as Cairns’ will be reflecting back on SHITE Dublin’s progress over the months, it must be asked what’s the point? In a landscape of numerous competing arts organisations, why is SHITE necessary?
“I personally feel that there is often a lot of pressure attached to creative activity. There is an idea that stuff needs to be polished, or academic before it is shown at all. That allows for politics to get in the way of creativity – what you put on becomes your reputation, not your love. SHITE think that there is merit in fun accessible work, and we aim for inclusion and spontaneity for our contributors. We are audience based – our theatre is supposed to be giving people something they will never ever get in any setting. We love our audience, and we want to make something that people outside of theatre spheres will want to watch.”
In this case, does reputation itself mean nothing to SHITE? Cairns argues no, citing reputation as an arm of the challenge that they take on. The aim is to create work that is sharp and well done, but in a short amount of time. This, she says is entirely possible, and is enabled by the low-pressure environment which they seek to foster. The SHITE “process” seems to be one still being teased out, ranging from a week’s worth of rehearsal for one event, to an afternoon for another. To this extent, SHITE has a director’s eye, shaping the material to the fit with the arch of each event. Contributors can expect to be enfolded and welcomed into the SHITE team upon submission, as Cairns and her committee operate both facilitators and creators.
“If we have the kernel of an idea,” Cairns says wryly, “writers, actors, directors etc, go and make the popcorn.”
We can expect to see more of SHITE in the New Year with “Cans and The Canon”, an event which Cairns describes as “well rehearsed scenes from our favourite plays, with a protagonist plied full of alcohol.”
Inclusivity, innovation, speed, quality; SHITE have set themselves a lofty cacophony of ambitions. With bright ideas, but a model still in its teething stages, only time will tell. The proof it seems, will be in the SHITE (I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist).
“Potions in the Lavatory” will be on today from 3-5pm. The location is secret, but if you follow the updates on Facebook you’ll be in with a chance of guessing and winning a pretty nifty raffle prize. If you would like to get involved in SHITE, email firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, email address and which aspect of the events your interested in. You can also like them on facebook and follow them on Twitter.