Henry Martin doesn’t usually crowdsource his works.
“Usually, I’m the kind of cliched view of a writer. I sit at home alone and I just kind of pluck ideas from my imagination and hope that I can do something with them,” he says.
With My Irish Love Song, though, he wanted to do things a bit differently, reaching out to those living in Ireland to come forward with their love stories. “I thought, I’m kind of tired of being alone,” he said.
The idea behind the project is simple. He wants to counter some of the hate that’s going around, to do something positive, by weaving together people’s stories of love for the stage.
“I feel like the world is very divided right now, and that song and storytelling bring people together, especially in a theatre capacity,” the writer says.
It can bring people together who might not ordinarily get to meet each other, and encourage them to share something. “Also, who doesn’t love love stories, and music?”
It was also a way for Martin, who says he’s moved back to Ireland after 10 years away, to get involved again in life here. “It was a way for me to start engaging with both my local community, and with the country as a whole.”
Martin says he’s worked in a number of different London theatres, including the Roundhouse and Theatre 503. His short play, The Cost of Your Forgetting, also featured in the line-up of Tiny Plays for Ireland in 2013.
Right now, he’s on placement at the Belltable Arts Theatre in Limerick, he says.
While he dabbled in acting a while back, nowadays his focus is on writing for the theatre, says Martin. (A biography on the American abstract artist Agnes Martin is also in the works.)
My Irish Love Song, he hopes, will let people tell stories they haven’t told before. He’s kept the criteria for submissions broad: it could be love for a pet, love for a family member, or even reflections on the absence of love.
The submissions form is freestyle, too. That’s a conscious choice, preferable to structured interviews, says Martin. “At least this way, people are totally free to submit whatever they want,” he said.
If you’re wondering what he means by “Irish”, he’s using a straight-forward definition. “If you identify as Irish, you’re an Irish person,” he says.
So that includes people who have moved to Ireland because they’ve fallen in love here and made it their home, refugees pushed here from elsewhere, first generation, second generation.
“Ireland is going to be a character in the play,” he says.
Submissions are open until July. After that, he hopes to have enough stories to choose from to create a rewarding evening of complex, simple, happy, and sad tales.
How long it takes to pull the final production together depends a bit on how many people submit, and how soon, he says. “It really depends on how enthusiastic people are.”