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‘Dancing at Lughnasa’ Embraces Life’s Equal Measure of Happiness and Heartbreak

Friday, March 9, 2012 4:54:00 PM

(Feb. 16, 2011 – Akron, Ohio – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE) – Weathervane Playhouse continues its 77th Mainstage season with the Tony Award-winning Irish drama, Dancing at Lughnasa, presented live on stage between March 1 and 18, 2012. The production is directed by Katherine Burke.

Set in a rural Irish village in the 1930s, Playwright Brian Friel’s beautifully moving play tells the story of the Mundy family’s struggle to embrace change in a world that spins too fast.

In Celtic folklore, Lughnasa (pronounced with the “gh” silent: LOO-nuh-suh) is an annual festival marking the end of the summer growing season and the beginning of the fall harvest. In Dancing at Lughnasa, the festival is in full swing when we meet the five unmarried Mundy sisters – Kate, Maggie, Agnes, Rose and Chris – who live a life of limited financial means in their small village.

The play’s action unfolds through the narration of Michael, the illegitimate son of Chris. In the play, Michael speaks as an adult narrator, mining his childhood memories to relate the events of this fateful summer of 1936 (when he was only seven years old). His narration serves as a framing device to magnify one of the play’s central themes: the experience of change against the forces of tradition.

As he looks back on those days, Michael describes the summer of 1936 as a pivotal time for the Mundy family. He describes this time in his youth as presenting "a sense of…things changing too quickly before my eyes." Europe is on the brink of war, and incredible changes are coming to disrupt the Mundy family’s rural life.

Recently returned home is the sisters’ brother, Jack, a priest, back after a 25-year stint as a Catholic missionary in a leper colony in Uganda. Jack is recuperating from malaria, and his condition causes him to be forgetful. What’s more, he has begun to question his Catholic faith – which promises to cause friction with his sister Kate, an upright schoolteacher who, as the only real wage earner in the family, reigns as the leader of the household.

Another disruption for the Mundy family comes in the unexpected arrival of Gerry, the father of Michael. A charming yet undependable man, Gerry creates tension in the Mundy household by offering once again to marry Chris.

In spite of the financial hardships and complicated family ties, the Mundy women experience occasional bursts of merriment by way of their radio. Against the backdrop of the ongoing Lughnasa festivities, the radio brings 1930s dance music and traditional Irish melodies into the home – inspiring the sisters to burst into spontaneous dancing.

Though altogether fleeting, the radio’s periodic outbursts – and the dancing that it inspires – help to soothe the women’s harsh existence. Dancing and laughing through their tears, the five Mundy sisters in Dancing at Lughnasa embrace a life filled with equal amounts of happiness and heartbreak.

Weathervane’s Dancing at Lughnasa  Ticket and Performance Information

Dancing at Lughnasa plays on the Weathervane Playhouse Founders Theater stage between March 1 and 18, 2012.

The low-cost preview performance is Thursday, March 1 at 7:30 p.m.; the official opening-night performance is Friday, March 2 at 8 p.m.

Between March 1 and 18, 2012, the performance days and times are Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets for the March 1 preview performance only are $15 each. Tickets for performances after March 1 are $21 each.

$19 tickets for seniors are available for Thursday and Sunday performances. Tickets for children (ages 17 or younger) and college students are $5 each. Additional discounts for groups of 12 or larger are also available.

The Weathervane Playhouse Box Office is open Mondays between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., Tuesdays through Fridays between 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. and is also open beginning one hour before each performance. For tickets, visit or call the Weathervane Box Office at (330) 836-2626 during Box Office hours or connect online to www.weathervaneplayhouse.com.

The Dancing at Lughnasa Cast and their Ohio Residences

Dede Klein (of Hudson) plays the role of Kate Mundy

Brenda Redmond (of Twinsburg) plays the role of Maggie Mundy

Kayla McDonald (of Bay Village) plays the role of Agnes Mundy

Hannah Storch (of Kent) plays the role of Rose Mundy

Kelsey Hamilton (of Avon Lake) plays the role of Christine Mundy

Sid Freeman (of Kent) plays the role of Jack Mundy

Zach Griffin (of Wadsworth) plays the role of Gerry Evans

Joe Dunn (of Cleveland) plays the role of Michael Evans

The Dancing at Lughnasa Backstage Team and their Ohio Hometowns

Stage Manager – Hannah Conkle (of Stow)

Costume Designer – Jasen J. Smith (of Akron)

Sound Designer – Matthew Boehlke (of Cuyahoga Falls)

Properties Co-Designers – Mary Pat Doorley and Scott Robishaw (both of Akron)

Lighting Designer – Mark Stoffer (of Cuyahoga Falls)

Scenic Designer and Technical Director – Alan Scott Ferrall (of Cuyahoga Falls)

Assistant Technical Director – Kathy Kohl (of Akron)

About the Show’s Director

KATHERINE BURKE last worked at Weathervane Playhouse as the dialect coach for last year’s production of Crumbs from the Table of Joy, and she served in this same capacity for 2010’s productions of Breaking the Code and The Sum of Us. She teaches in the theater department at Kent State University. Prior to coming to Kent, she taught at Purdue University for more than a decade. As a performer, she has appeared on stage at Porthouse Theatre, Indiana Repertory Theatre, Chicago’s Candlelight Forum Theatre and North Carolina’s Waterside Theatre. Her credits as a director include Six Characters in Search of an Author, Blue Window, The Music Man, Urinetown and Under Milk Wood.

About the Show’s Production History

Dancing at Lughnasa was first performed at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, Ireland, on April 24, 1990. The production transferred to the National Theatre in London, England, in October 1990, and thereafter won the 1991 Olivier Award for Best Play. In America, the play opened on Broadway at the Plymouth Theatre on Oct. 24, 1991, where it played for 421 performances before closing on Oct. 25, 1992. The New York production was nominated for eight Tony Awards and won three of them (including Best Play). The original Broadway production also won two 1992 Drama Desk Awards. Most recently, New York City’s Irish Repertory Theatre revived Dancing at Lughnasa for an off-Broadway production; it closed in January after a limited run. Dancing at Lughnasa has also been adapted into a film. Starring Meryl Streep in the role of Kate Mundy, the 1998 movie version was named one of the Top 10 Films of 1998 by the National Board of Review.

About the Playwright

BRIAN FRIEL was born Jan. 9, 1929, in Omagh, a community in the county of Tyrone in Northern Ireland. Raised as a Catholic, Friel attended St. Columb’s College in the town of Derry, the town to which his family had moved when his father assumed a new school-teaching position. One of Friel’s classmates as a boy was Seamus Heany, who would go on to receive the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature. Friel continued his higher education at St. Patrick's College, a Catholic seminary, located in the village of Maynooth (not far from Dublin). He received his bachelor of arts degree in 1948, but he changed course by not entering the priesthood. Instead, he moved to Belfast to enroll in a post-graduate course in teaching.

By 1950, with his teaching qualifications earned from St. Joseph's Training College, he began teaching math to young children. In 1954, he married Anne Morrison. Together, they would raise one son and four daughters. In between his teaching and helping to raise his family, he began to write. In 1958, the BBC aired his first radio play, A Sort of Freedom. The next year, The New Yorker published one of his short stories and the Group Theatre in Belfast staged his first play. In 1960, Friel stopped teaching to write full time, but he struggled to make a living as a writer. He supplemented his work with the Group Theatre in Ulster by contributing articles to the Dublin-based newspaper The Irish Press.

A trip to America in 1963 renewed his creative spark. He came to Minneapolis, where he observed the innovative theater artist Tyrone Guthrie. Following his stint at the Guthrie Theatre, Friel wrote Philadelphia, Here I Come!, the story of a young man moving to America and struggling to sever his emotional ties to Ireland. After productions of the play in Ireland, London and New York City, its critical and financial success established Friel on the international theater scene.

On the Broadway stage, productions of Friel’s plays have included The Loves of Cass McGuire (1966), Lovers (1967), Faith Healer (1979 and 2006), Dancing at Lughnasa (1991), Wonderful Tennessee (1993), Translations (1995 and 2007). Many of Friel’s plays have also been produced in off-Broadway theaters: Crystal and Fox (1973), Translations (1981), Aristocrats (1989 and 2009), Making History (1991), Molly Sweeney (1995 and 2011), Give Me Your Answer, Do! (1999), Philadelphia, Here I Come! (2005) and Dancing at Lughnasa (2011).

In addition to his 1992 Tony Award for Best Play for Dancing at Lughnasa, Friel’s other honors include the 1988 Evening Standard Award for Best Play (for Aristocrats), the 1989 New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Foreign Play (for Aristocrats), the 1991 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Play (for Dancing at Lughnasa), 1996 New York Drama Critics Circle award for best foreign play (for Molly Sweeney) and the 2010 Donegal Person of the Year. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the British Royal Society of Literature, and the Irish Academy of Letters.

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