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Michael Keegan-Dolan & Enda Walsh speak to students during a workshop.

Eye on the Prize

This fall, Meadows students will have the opportunity to work with Michael Keegan-Dolan and Enda Walsh, winners of the third annual Meadows Prize.

by Victoria Winkelman

Michael Keegan-Dolan, artistic director of Dublin’s Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre, is widely considered the most original choreographic voice to have emerged from Ireland in the last half century. Fellow Dublin native Enda Walsh is an award-winning playwright and screenwriter named “one of the most dazzling wordsmiths of contemporary theatre” by The Guardian. This fall, Meadows students will have an opportunity to work closely with both internationally acclaimed artists, who will be in joint residency at SMU for four weeks as winners of the third annual Meadows Prize.

Inaugurated in October 2009, the Meadows Prize is presented each fall to up to two pioneering artists. Sponsored by the Meadows School and The Meadows Foundation, the prize includes support for a four-to-eight-week residency in Dallas, in addition to a $25,000 stipend. In return, recipients are expected to interact in a substantive way with Meadows students and collaborating arts organizations, and to leave a lasting legacy in Dallas, such as a work of art that remains in the community, a composition or piece of dramatic writing that would be performed locally, or a new way of teaching in a particular discipline. 

“Michael and Enda were nominated separately by two individuals, but we subsequently learned that not only have they known each other for more than 20 years, they also were looking for an opportunity to collaborate on a large project,” says José Bowen, dean of the Meadows School. “They are both daring artists with compatible aesthetics, and it seemed a perfect opportunity for our students and for Dallas.”

Keegan-Dolan co-founded Fabulous Beast in 1997, called “one of the most daring and highly original dance theatre companies in the world” by The Times of London. He has written, directed, choreographed and co-produced critically acclaimed works that combine the visual element of dance with the narrative power of theatre. The award-winning company has performed at major festivals and venues worldwide, from Toronto to London to Sydney to Berlin.

Walsh achieved prominence when he won two prestigious playwriting awards in 1997, the George Devine Award and the Stewart Parker Award, with his play Disco Pigs, a story of an obsessive teen relationship that ends in tragedy. He has since written numerous other award-winning plays and the screenplay for the 2008 biopic Hunger.

At SMU, Keegan-Dolan and Walsh will collaborate with students to create a new dance/theatre piece tentatively slated for a major European festival in 2013. The piece also will receive public workshop performances in Dallas during their residency. 

Brilliant Artist & Teacher

“Enda Walsh is one of the most powerful and original voices writing for the English-speaking theatre today,” says theatre professor Cecil O’Neal, who is overseeing the Meadows Prize residency. “He is also a very wise and generous human being. It will be an invaluable experience for our students to work with Enda and Michael. In addition to being a brilliant artist, Enda is also a marvelous teacher who is committed to helping nurture young talent.” 

Walsh says he is looking forward to the project, adding that he has no idea what to expect. “That’s the way things are,” he says. “I have notions of how things may work out, but all of that changes once you start listening to others. Sure, I have experience on various productions, but I’m always trying to get the best work out of the next collective. The work will be rigorous for sure...but it should be exciting. Like a very fast walk in the dark.” 

Ceaselessly Creative

Keegan-Dolan says he hopes for a “great and transformative creative experience” during his residency. “I’m looking forward to spending an extended period of time working with Enda and the students and faculty from SMU’s theatre, dance and music departments,” he says. “I’ve known Enda for some time and am a great admirer of his gifts; he has to be Ireland’s most exciting living playwright. I think this collaboration of our creative energies could lead to some very extraordinary work. I will bring to it all my heart and good intentions!”

The residency will be Keegan-Dolan’s first stay at SMU, but he does have a connection with Meadows: He has worked for the past eight years with longtime SMU theatre professor Bill Lengfelder on Fabulous Beast productions in the U.K. “I’m looking forward to being in the company of Bill again, who worked with me on three of my major creations,” he says. “Bill and I traveled the world together and he delivered some stunning performances, at times bursting with fire and at times gentle like a breeze.” 

“Michael is ceaselessly creative and at the same time in touch with all that is timeless and universal in the human condition,” Lengfelder says. “When I worked with him, I was one of many nationalities and ethnicities whose varied cultural perspectives were woven into one seamless production entirely crafted by Michael as writer, director and choreographer. His ability to look into a performer and draw what is essential for creation is unlike any I’ve experienced. He is also one of the funniest men I have ever met, so when he’s here I look forward to both incredible creativity and some pretty great laughs!” 

About the Meadows Prize

From 1981 to 2003, Meadows School of the Arts annually presented the Meadows Award to an artist at the pinnacle of a distinguished career to honor his or her accomplishments. In 2009, Meadows relaunched the award as a premier residency prize to establish the school and Dallas as leading centers of substantive and creative activity. Meadows Prize recipients must be innovative artists and scholars with an emerging international profile, active in a discipline represented by one of the academic units within Meadows. A nominating committee of 12 international arts professionals selected the 2009-2011 prize winners.

The first two winners, announced in October 2009, were Grammy-winning contemporary music ensemble eighth blackbird and New york-based public arts organization Creative Time. Eighth blackbird’s residency focused on developing new curriculum to help musicians become more entrepreneurial and engaged in their own career plans. It became part of a new Meadows initiative that included the launch of the nation’s first minor in arts entrepreneurship. Creative Time’s residency took the form of four visits to Dallas to meet with members of the arts community, culminating in spring 2011 with a report on growing and nurturing the arts in Dallas. 

The second two winners, announced in December 2010, were playwright and performer Will Power and choreographer Shen Wei, artistic director of New York-based Shen Wei Dance Arts. Power’s work in Dallas is a partnership between SMU Meadows and the Dallas Theater Center. For his SMU residency in fall 2011, Power and a group of theatre students created a new play, Alice Underground, which was presented at Meadows. In addition, Power returned to Dallas in December to begin writing and developing a new theatre piece, Stagger Lee, intended for production at the Dallas Theater Center. 

Shen Wei’s residency in Dallas is taking place during winter-spring 2012. He spent several weeks at SMU in January and February choreographing a new work for SMU dance students, to be presented March 28-April 1 at their 2012 Spring Dance Concert.

“Dallas is becoming an international destination for cultural tourism, thanks to its growing private and public collections of major works of art, its signature new facilities for the performing arts, and its well-established, sophisticated media community,” says Meadows Dean Bowen.

“To become a leader in the creative world, however, Dallas must also become a pre-eminent center for the generation of new and innovative art and scholarship. With the Meadows Prize and our asso- ciated collaboration with partner arts organizations in Dallas, we are stimulating the creation of new works, providing unique learning opportunities for our students and raising awareness of Meadows and Dallas as centers of artistic excellence.” 

About Michael Keegan-Dolan

Dublin native Michael Keegan-Dolan is considered one of Ireland’s most talented, challenging and innovative choreographers, recognized for his ability to fuse the visual immediacy of dance with the narrative strength of theatre. He is co-founder and artistic director of Dublin’s Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre, an award-winning company launched in 1997. Fabulous Beast creates productions that have their roots in Ireland and Irish experience, but deal with universal and often controversial issues in modern society, making them accessible and challenging entertainment for a large audience.

With Fabulous Beast, Keegan-Dolan has created such works as Sunday Lunch (1997), Fragile (1999), The Flowerbed (2000), Giselle (2003), The Bull (2005), James Son of James (2007), and The Rite of Spring (2009), a co-production with English National Opera. Giselle, The Bull and The Rite of Spring were all nominated for Olivier Awards (the British equivalent of the Tony Awards), and The Bull won the U.K. Critics’ Circle Award for Best Modern Choreography in 2008. That year Keegan-Dolan and Fabulous Beast also received a nomination for the 2009 Europe Prize New Theatrical Realities, the first Irish company ever to be nominated for the prestigious award. Fabulous Beast also won the Judges’ Special Award in the Irish Times Theatre Awards in 2003. Keegan-Dolan’s other choreographic work includes productions of Ariodante, Manon and Alcina at the English National Opera; Faust and Macbeth at the Royal Opera House; The Duchess of Malfi, Carousel and The Oedipus Plays at London’s National Theatre; and productions with opera companies throughout Europe and the U.S.

Keegan-Dolan’s newest work, Rian, a collaboration with musician Liam Ó Maonlaí, was performed in October in the U.K. to critical acclaim, and is expected to tour internationally in 2012. Rian explores the tension and harmony between Irish traditional music and modern dance and was created as a response to “the current seismic changes in Irish society.” Keegan-Dolan also is directing a production of Julius Caesar for the English National Opera in 2012 and has several other projects in the works. For more information visit

Enda Walsh

Born in Dublin, Enda Walsh spent several years writing plays in Dublin and Cork before his breakthrough with Disco Pigs, produced in collaboration with Corcadorca Theatre Company. The play won three awards, includ- ing the Stewart Parker and George Devine Awards in 1997, and was made into a film, for which he wrote the screenplay, in 2001.

Productions of his plays have since won numerous awards on both sides of the Atlantic, including an Obie Award in 2010 for a production of New Electric Ballroom at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn. His plays, notably Disco Pigs, Bedbound, Small Things, Chatroom, New Electric Ballroom and The Walworth Farce, have been translated into more than 20 languages and have had productions throughout Europe and in Australia, New Zealand and the United States. He has written two radio plays, with Four Big Days in the Life of Dessie Banks for RTÉ winning the IPA Radio Drama Award and The Monotonous Life of Little Miss P for the BBC commended at the Gran Prix Berlin. He co-wrote the screenplay of Hunger, which was directed by Steve McQueen and stars Michael Fassbender as Bobby Sands, the IRA hunger striker who starved himself to death in protest over British rule. Hunger won 33 awards worldwide, including the Caméra d’Or award at the Cannes Film Festival and a nomination for Best British Film at the British Academy Film Awards. Walsh also wrote an adaptation of his play Chatroom for a film directed by Hideo Nakata, which was selected for the 2010 Cannes Film Festival. He is currently under commission for two films: an adaptation of the children’s story Island of the Aunts by Eva Ibbotson, and Into That Darkness, the story of Franz Stangl, SS commandant of the Sobibor and Treblinka concentration camps.

Walsh had three plays performed in New York and Chicago in December, including the new work Penelope and an acclaimed revival of his early play Misterman, starring Cillian Murphy (Batman Begins, Inception, In Time). His musical adaptation of the Oscar-winning film Once was performed Off-Broadway at the New York Theatre Workshop in December and opens on Broadway on March 18, 2012.

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