About Hilltown Studio Theatre
Hilltown Studio Theatre and Performance Space is sited in the castle keep at the rear of
Hilltown House, an 18th century listed building. The keep about two acres in size is built
around the remains of a medieval castle and features buildings from the 15th century to the
19th century. The buildings have grown organically over the centuries to create a unique
setting for these 21st century events.
In recent years, Hilltown has hosted a number of small arts events and has been made
available to artists, who wish to spend quiet and focused time on developing or finalising
The main stage will be set up open air within the courtyard of Hilltown Estate. Its shape
forms a natural amphitheatre against the backdrop of the main house. For weather
independence a canopy will be erected. (Capacity: 200)
Adjoins the castle and is approached by a medieval stone staircase which formed part of the
castle buildings. (Capacity: 40)
17th century house built on medieval plan with stores at ground floor and mini great hall on
1st floor with a fireplace at each gable end. (Capacity: 30)
19th century workshop with 18ft ceiling; may originally have been site for repair and
maintenance of carriages. (Capacity: 40)
Excellent stone-work around some of the entrance doors seems to point to an earlier use as
castle kitchens/sleeping areas before later development as stables.
(Use for small-scale performances and installations)
Panelled Harness Room
Approached by cobbled bower which has been recently been turned into a peaceful seating
area – ideal for small workshops. (Capacity: 20)
Remains of medieval castle (ca. 14th century), now roofless and ivy- covered, was previously
used very imaginatively as site-specific dance space and installation space.
There are further possible installation spaces in the half acre walled garden adjoining the
keep where a project entitled “Sculpture in the Walled Garden” has been developed in 2007,
with the assistance of Westmeath County Council, and will be continued in September 2008.
This walled garden has also been used as a dance space.
Chronology of events at Hilltown Studio Theatre
Hilltown Studio Theatre was established with the aim of promoting and showcasing
experimental theatre, music and dance. The first event, a dance and opera performance, was
held at the venue on the 10th September 2005.
The opera performance by Glue Factory was developed by composer George Higgs and
visual artist Sarah Lincoln took place within the castle keep.
The dances were performed by choreographer Nicola Kealy and her company and were
specially choreographed for this event. Nicola Kealy works both as a facilitator of dance
drama and as a performer and her work was performed at the Helix, Dublin, this year.
170 people attended the opening event. Children and young people were particularly
encouraged to attend and given free entrance. Through the sponsorship of a financial
institution disposable cameras were made available to the young people who attended to
record the event. An exhibition of their photographs was held at Hilltown Studio Theatre in
On the 20th November 2005, a rehearsed reading of Romanian playwright Mimi Branescu’s
“Insomniacs” took place. The play reading was performed by Guna Nua and directed by Paul
Meade. After the reading Hilltown Studio Theatre hosted a discussion with the artists and an
An experimental theatre project by the founders of Glue Factory, George Higgs and Sarah
Lincoln, took place in March. The event was co-hosted by Westmeath County Council and
Hilltown Studio Theatre, and included a one-week residency by the artists, during which they
built interactive musical models of their stage designs. A concluding public presentation of
the resulting work gave people the opportunity to interact with the stage models.
During summer 2006, Hilltown Studio Theatre hosted a 4-week residency by internationally
renowned Romanian Iconographers Zsuzsanna Mara and Mihai Cucu.
The first part of their residency was an artistic collaboration with Joe Walsh OFM of the
Franciscan Friary, Multyfarnham, Co. Westmeath. The theme of the collaboration was
"Incarnating the Sacred" - sacred art escaping from its limitations. The three artists produced
two fine collaborative pieces of sculpture which are now on permanent display in the grounds
of Multyfarnham Friary.
In the second part of the residency, Zsuzsanna Mara mounted an installation at Hilltown
entitled “Pantry of Memories” working with photographs, light and glass. Mihai Cucu
produced a short film, which was shown on the final day of the residency, with a discussion
and a reception hosted by the Romanian Embassy.
Sculpture in the Walled Garden: Hilltown Studio Theatre hosted a new project
– a four week residency by sculptor, Dan Jauca and the unveiling of his
sculpture in the walled garden at Hilltown. This project continued in
September 2008 with prize winning sculptor, Virgil Scripcariu who had
previously created two pieces for the 2008 Architecture Venice Biennale. His
very fine sculpture, Composition with Serpent, is on public display at Hilltown.
Eoin Lynch, actor and playwright, spent three weeks at Hilltown as part of the
artist in residence programme.
A festival of New Music, the most ambitious programme to date, was held in
July 2008 and was extended with the support of the Arts Council and other
sponsors to a weekend festival in July 2009 and featured Irish and
international composers and musicians.
As part of the continuing artist in residence programme, John Feeley,
classical guitarist spent 3 weeks at Hilltown, during which he hosted two
workshops in August 2008.
The autumn master class programme in 2009 in conjunction with Westmeath
County Council introduced critically acclaimed theatre director Paul Meade of
Guna Nua Theatre Co and artists/environmental architects Caelan Bristow
and Sarah Entwhistle.
Hilltown Dance Lab which was sponsored by Midland Arts/ Westmeath VEC
and Westmeath County Council took place at Hilltown in September 2009.
Hilltown Studio Theatre hosted an exciting programme for 2010. As well as
the now established New Music festival the sculpture project in August was
host to a young Bulgarian sculptor, Neda Damianova, in August.
participation of Ms Damianova has been arranged through the good offices of
the Irish ambassador to Bulgaria, Ambassador Keating.
The programme for the Hilltown Autumn master classes in conjunction with
the Arts Officer for Westmeath County Council, Catherine Kelly took place in
August and September and comprised a sculptor masterclass conducted by
Neda Damianova and a dance masterclass conducted by Cristina Goletti .
The artist in residence programme will continue at Hilltown throughout the
Main Stage Area