LaGrange College to present ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’

Published 11:55 am Thursday, February 8, 2024

Loosely based on the experiences Irish Playwright Brian Friel had with his mother and four unmarried aunts in Glenties, Ireland, “Dancing at Lughnasa” serves as a memory play framed by the narrator’s childhood recollection of the summer of 1936 which changed the Mundy sisters’ lives forever.

“Dancing” in the title of the play is literal and metaphorical,” said Kim Barber Knoll, LaGrange College Theatre Arts Program Chair and Director of the production. “The sisters long to go to the Festival of Lughnasa dance to break away from their mundane day-to-day existence.”

The show opens on Wednesday, Feb. 14. It also runs Thursday and Friday with all performances are at 7 p.m.

The narrator, Michael Evans, is seven years old when he meets his father and his uncle for the first time.

Junior Will Gray said he is in a unique position of narrating the play as the adult Michael and voicing the child’s interaction with other characters.

“Learning how to interact with the actors in an indirect manner has been an eye-opening experience for me,” he said. “I discovered a new side of me when tapping into this role as narrator and storyteller.”

The arrival of two significant characters, Father Jack and Gerry Evans, sparks the action of the play, Knoll said.

Father Jack, a priest, played by LaGrange College First Gentleman Mark Huffman, returns to Ballybeg after 25 years of serving as an army chaplain at a leper colony in Africa.

Huffman said Jack has many layers that get unraveled as the play progresses.

“What we discover as the family learns more about Father Jack is that he brings back with him an appreciation for the culture and the rituals and beliefs of the African people he has worked with much to the consternation of the Catholic Church,” he said. He has also clearly lost his faith and has a deep respect for pagan traditions and beliefs, much to Kate’s distaste.”

Kate, the oldest sister, serves in a matriarchal role for Jack and the rest of the family.

“She earns income for the family as a schoolteacher and makes certain everyone is doing their duties and responsibilities,” said senior Carlie Jones, who plays the role of Kate. “She is a devout Catholic and fears that Jack has “gone native.” “She constantly worries about the reputation of the family as the events unfold.”

“The arrival of Gerry, Michael’s father, also causes great upheaval in the household,” Knoll says, “His mother and father were never married.”

Michael’s mother, the youngest sister Chris, is played by senior Hayleigh Sebaugh.

“She is 26 years old and had her son Michael out of wedlock, which is looked down on in this Catholic community,” she said. “Chris brought shame onto her family.”

The child’s absentee Welsh father Gerry Evans, played by junior Jackie Morman, shows up to visit his son after many months.

“He has traveled to Ireland to find his fortune,” Morman said. “Gerry is charismatic to a fault. He will do anything to make someone smile and that is his vice and his charm.”

Senior Annabell Sapp, who plays second youngest sister Rose, said her character, who is described as “simple” is always under the watchful eye of Kate.

“Kate is critical toward Rose because she cares and doesn’t want anything to happen to her,” Sapp said.

Rose and her sister Agnes, played by sophomore Isabella Rapoza, help keep house by selling their knitted gloves.

“Agnes is an observer who is very protective of her Rose,” Rapoza said. “She is understanding, caring and very wise.”

Maggie, played by sophomore Aria Mabry, provides lighthearted humor while suppressing her own inner struggles.

“Maggie is the jokester sister,” she said. “She uses humor to cope with all that she has been through and all that she has lost.”

Knoll said family is at the core of this play.

“The sisters do their best to eke out a living with humor, hard work and determination.”

Seating is general admission—no reservations are necessary. It is recommended that patrons arrive early. The show is $10 for adults. The play is not recommended for children.