Upfront: Caitríona Ennis on stage nerves, thrill of live theater and her thirst for storytelling

Caitríona Ennis (32) is an actress renowned for her versatility and passionate performances. She studied at UCD and the Dublin Academy of Dramatic Arts, where she now teaches theater. Originally from Crumlin, she lives in Dublin.

How were you as a child?

I was a very happy kid. I grew up in a house full of fun. My mom and dad always had parties. I used to sit on the stairs, run my hands through the handrails and knock on the door and they’d say, “OK, come down. ” My parents created all the entertainment for us.

Choose three words to describe yourself.

Dazed, strong, and emotionally intelligent.

Why are you an actress?

I am thirsty to tell stories. Since I was little, I have been interested in human beings and have great empathy. If I see a hand gesture, it’s like I know exactly what’s going on – pain or joy.

Do you suffer from stage nerves?

No, but there is definitely a wave of cold fear before we continue. You get used to it. Now, if I didn’t understand this, I would be more worried.

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Do you have any rituals before going on stage?

There’s a glorious minute before we go on when you can hear the audience. I tend to keep my character in a bit of light in front of me at this time. I like not knowing what’s going to happen. It’s the thrill of a live audience.

How does it feel to work in the theater at Christmas?

I always liked it. The whole city is illuminated and everyone is in disguise. I was in Bugsy malone at the Olympia when I was a kid and it was so special. It was then that I realized that I wanted to be an actress. This year I’m at the Gate Theater as Mabel, Santa’s Elf. Children are the most exciting audience.

What are your most memorable stage moments?

I was in the Fishamble production of Duck, Duck, Goose, which is an intense and serious play about rape. The fire alarm went off and we were all sent outside the building. I was there, standing outside the theater – the actors and the audience all together. Then we were told we could go back inside. There was nothing wrong. My line was this. I said, “Now we’ve all had our cigarette breaks, are you ready?” Then they suspended their disbelief again. The audience is so important.

What drives you?

I give voice to the voiceless and I feel privileged to do so. I think we often hide things, but the theater throws itself in the middle of a pool of truth. Even though there is glitz and glamor, playing the part is very difficult work. But I believe that I am doing something important for the world. I believe in every character that I have played.

You played alongside Fionnula Flanagan in A Christmas Carol at the door. Has she influenced you?

She was a force of nature. Every inch of his life oozed out. It was hard to be on stage with her and not get lost in her.

Best advice given?

My mom says the only mistake you make is the one you don’t learn from. Everything is an opportunity, especially when you fail.

The best advice you give?

Work as hard as you can and be as kind as you can.

What did you learn by leading the UCD Dramasoc for a year?

It made me understand my own worth and the value of everyone in the theater, from control room to lighting. Nothing happens without each person.

Are you worried that the female parts will become scarce as you get older?

Yeah, that’s a problem, but it kindles a fire under me. As women get older, they don’t just drop the face of the planet. On the contrary, they become brighter and more complicated.

What are you doing for a laugh?

I am a dizzy goose. I like to do quirky dancing around the place. But what I really like is making people laugh, especially on stage. It’s like a firecracker for me.

‘Mabel’s Magnificent Flying Machine,’ a pop-up family adventure, written and directed by Louise Lowe is at the Gate Theater until December 24. gatetheatre.ie

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