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Amy Gilmartin, Assistant Director on Dr Stirlingshire's Discovery

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The beginning of a journey.

I was nervous as I arrived for my first Lung Ha evening session.  Nervous and excited.  I really wasn’t sure what to expect.  But I was eager to learn and get involved.

Many artists compare the first day of rehearsals to the first day of school.  Everyone is figuring everything and everyone out.  My first day with the Lung Ha company was like transferring to a new school, joining a company of people who all know each other and know how each other work.  The beginning of my journey with a project that’s been in development for a long time.  I didn’t need to worry though, I was welcomed with open arms (literally and figuratively) into the excellent and unique Lung Ha company!

Faces light up when I tell them that I’m the assistant director on a Lung Ha and Grid Iron co-production.  Either people tell me how much they have enjoyed productions of the two companies – discovering new places and stories across Scotland with Grid Iron or the inventive and exciting productions of Lung Ha –  or they tell me how much they enjoyed working with either or both companies.  And if they were lucky, they tell me how much they loved the two companies’ first co-production, Huxley’s Lab in 2010.  Faces light up, even more, when I tell them the production I get to work on is a site-specific promenade performance at Edinburgh Zoo.

“How is that going to work?”

I resist the temptation to spoil anything.

“You’ll have to come along and see for yourself!”

I imagine our future audiences might feel the way I did on my first day when they arrive at the zoo.  Nervous and excited, not sure what to expect but eager to go on a journey with us!

Edinburgh Zoo has excited generations since it was founded in 1909, opening to the public in 1913.  I, like many Scottish children before and after me, was taken to the zoo as a young child for a treat with my family.  I don’t remember much of that first visit, although I do have a somewhat beaten up photo album full of photos of that visit.  Photos probably all taken by my mum, photos of the zoo’s famous penguins, monkeys, seals, polar bears and giraffes, as well as the back of heads of my auntie and grandpa, and little me posing away in front of the animal enclosures.  I do remember being a little scared of the penguins as one decided to chase me, now a family legend, and absolutely loving the giraffes.

As part of my research for the project, I’ve been interested to find out, that my favourites, the giraffes, were once considered a myth.  You can understand, they are extraordinary looking animals! Many other animals were considered a myth until relatively recently, including the mountain gorilla who was thought to be a myth until 1902, the giant panda only seen in Europe in 1916 and the giant squid that was only photographed for the first time in 2004.  Logic suggests that’s there’s still lot to discover out there, and maybe we’ll be lucky and meet Dr Stirlingshire’s discovery before anyone else!

My journey is only just beginning and I’ll be blogging and tweeting along the way (@AJGilmartin), stay tuned as we go into rehearsals and make our way to Edinburgh Zoo!

The Assistant Director position on Dr Stirlingshire’s Discover has been supported by the Federation of Scottish Theatre with funding from Creative Scotland.