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Preview: "Dancing at Lughnasa" in North Creek

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North Creek's community theater troupe is prepping for its fall production of Dancing at Lughnasa. The play, set in Ireland in the 1930's, opens Friday, October 19th at Tannery Pond Community Center. It's a memory play loosely based on the lives of playwright Brian Friel's mother and aunts who lived on the west coast of Donegal. Set in the summer of 1936, the play depicts the late summer days when love briefly seems possible for three of the Mundy sisters and the family welcomes home the frail elder brother, who has returned from a life as missionary in Africa.

Our Town Theatre Group director Colleen Potter tells Todd Moe that the play won a Tony Award for Best Play. She says it's a show she has been eager to bring to the region.

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Todd Moe
Morning Host and Producer

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Interview summary:

“The story is actually something that really resonates with me. It kind of ties into my just own family background, and so there’s a lot to it that I think I can relate to, which always makes it easier for the director in terms of creating their vision, and kind of the overarching story that they want to tell, Potter said.“

The play has been labeled, “the Irish Glass Menagerie” It is a memory play, with a narrator telling the story and moving it forward based on their memory of a time before in their life.“

This narrator, Michael, looks back on august 1936, when he was a seven-year-old boy, growing up in the Northwest of Ireland with his mother and 4 aunts. There are two major visitors that help shape the story. The first is the oldest brother, Uncle Jack, he is returning from Africa after being a missionary in a leper colony for 25 years.

“So he brings, as you can imagine, a lot of history from 25 years.”

The other visit is the father, Jerry Evans, who is a Welsh travelling salesman. He is not married to the Michael’s mother, but comes back to check on them every now and then when he feels like it.

“The summer of 1936 was one of those times, when the narrator got to see his father again,” said Potter.

The title, Dancing at Lughnasa, comes from the festival of Lughnasa, that pays tribute to the Celtic god of the harvest, Lugh. It is an old festival, where bonfires are lit and people dance around them and make offerings to the god for a bountiful harvest. This conflicts with the Irish Catholic tradition that the family embraces.”

There is tension in a couple difference places within the play as Potter explained, “The outside world sort of creeping in on this small town and this small community, and the economic and political changes that are about to happen around 1936 and then into the forties, and what that does to impact these five women.”

There are also tensions between the family and Jack, the local priest, over their religion. Jack has brought back with him value of the tribe from Africa, which leads away from the strict Catholic ideals of the family. “And now that he is back home in the Northwest of Ireland, there’s a definite conflict between his embrace of the African way and the stringent Catholic beliefs of the community.”

Of this production, Potter said, “We have some really great crew members who have been doing research and are working on helping us do our best to create--as realistic as we can--a small Irish cottage in the rolling green hills on a wooden floor at Tannery Pond in North Creek, in the Adirondacks.”

Performances will be held next weekend at the Tannery Pond Community Center, North Creek, on October 19 and 20 at 7:30 p.m., and October 21 at 1:30 pm. There will be an opening night reception honoring the Our Town Theatre Group’s founding director, Lyle Dye, following the performance on Friday, October 19.

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