This week UCD will host the Irish Student Drama Awards (ISDA). The festival takes place from the 21 – 31 March, there ending with the final awards ceremony. ISDA was originally established in 1947 and aims to provide a platform from which student drama can be “promoted and encouraged”.

With 11 universities represented at the festival, the event has become a unique forum within which students have the opportunity to meet and interact with each other on a creative level. Each university presents a number of plays to the festival, which will be put on at three separate venues across campus – LG1 in the Newman Building, Astra Hall in the Student Centre, and Memorial Hall in Richview.

The performances take place at 11am, 3pm and 7.30pm throughout the week and are open to all; entry costs €3 for students and €4 for adults. All productions are viewed by the ISDA judging panel – John Carty, Louise Lowe and Brian Singleton – who must then decide the winners of each award. Each judge is a notable figure in the industry and their input is invaluable to both the festival as a whole, and those seeking to learn from the experience.

Last year UCD’s Dramsoc won 4 ISDA awards, including Best Overall Production and Best Director.

The four plays submitted this year (The Walworth Farce by Enda Walsh, Two by Jim Cartwright, Blue Remembered Hills by Dennis Potter, and Frank McGuinness’ Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me) are set to build on last year’s success, each having enjoyed successful runs in UCD this year. In addition to the plays presented to the judges, new pieces and original scripts are given a unique platform at the Fringe festival.

This year the Fringe is made up of eight individual pieces put on in-between the judged productions, three of which are being presented by UCD’s Dramsoc.

The festival also provides the perfect opportunity for those who have yet to participate in college drama to get involved. Alongside the productions, free workshops will be run throughout the week for any interested participants. These will be held on all areas of theatre production, including lighting, directing and improvisation, so there is something for everyone.  Nicole Doyle, head of these workshops, emphasises that “all of them will be lead by top industry professionals in Ireland and they are not an opportunity to be missed”.

The unique nature of ISDA and the atmosphere it creates means that social events are an integral part of the week. During the week there will be events such as an open-mic night and club nights, culminating in the awards night on March 31.

According to Dramsoc’s Freshers’ Rep, Conor O’Rourke, ISDA is “one of the highlights of the year for any student in Ireland studying drama or involved in drama societies.

For the newer and younger members of these societies, it gives them the opportunity to witness the talent, creativity and experience of more accomplished members, whilst learning from workshops and enjoying themselves at a variety of events.”

So whether you are up for learning a new skill at a workshop, want to take advantage of the unique variety of theatre for your viewing pleasure, or just want to go for a drink, the ISDA festival promises to be a college experience like no other, and is not to be missed.

Frances Ivens