Eight Haines residents will perform the Tony Award-winning play Dancing at Lughnasa at the end of the month. It’s a drama by Brian Friel, narrated from the memories of a young boy living with his mother and four aunts in 1936 small-town Ireland.
“No, no, no! We are going nowhere! Just look at yourselves, dancing at our time of day. Dancing is for young people with nothing but pleasure on their minds!” the character of Kate Mundy, played by Heather Lende, scolded at a recent rehearsal.
Dancing at Lughnasa centers around five Irish sisters, the Mundys, who live together and sometimes clash.
Director Tod Sebens has put on plays in Haines for about 20 years. He says one reason he chose Dancing at Lughnasa is because he admires Meryl Streep’s performance as Kate Mundy in the 1998 film adaption of the play. He also wanted a challenge.
“I like a challenging play and this one has definitely been challenging,” he said.
Sebens says there are lots of subtleties that make the play less than straightforward. And the Irish accents are difficult to perfect.
“Oh yeah, well I try to keep [the accent] most days,” Michaela Chambers, who plays Rose Mundy, said. “So that it’s easier to have [an accent] once I’m on stage. And practice makes perfect.”
You’ll notice, this play is centers around women. Sebens says there’s a reason for that.
“In the past when I’ve done plays in Haines I’ve had a very difficult time finding men to be in the plays,” Sebens said. “I can usually come up with one, or two or three. So what it does is it narrows down the types of plays I’ll try to do. I generally do plays that have more women.”
Steve Daly is one of the three men in the play. His character is Father Jack, the Mundy’s brother who just got back to Ireland after working as a missionary for years in Uganda. Jack has a hard time adjusting back to life with his family. Daly says it’s a good role for him, because he’s new to acting.
“I feel as though I’m struggling to find my lines anyway, right, and Jack’s struggling to find his English words because he’s been speaking Swahili for the past 25 years,” Daly said.
The actors say the main theme of this play is family.
“All of us — the cast have been connecting really well, so I feel like we’ve been doing a great job, making the familiar connection,” said Gina Randles, who plays Christina Mundy.
Cheryl Mullins and Lende, the two eldest sisters, say people in Haines might relate to some aspects of 1930’s rural Ireland.
“For instance, Kate, she’s very worried about what the neighbors will think, what people will say,” Lende said. “Word gets out very quickly and there’s an idea that you have to hold up appearances. That’s something we think about here. It’s a small town.”
“There’s one line where Jack says, ‘How will we let the neighbors know?'” Mullins said. “And I said, ‘Oh don’t worry about that, word gets about very quickly!'”
Dancing at Lughnasa will be the first play performed under a renovated light and sound system in the Chilkat Center Theater. The show opens Friday, Febuary 27th at 7 p.m. There will also be performances Saturday the 28th and Sunday March 1st.
The actors are Cheryl Mullins, Heather Lende, Steve Daly, Dave Routh, Jacob Brown-Beach, Christina Baskaya, Michaela Chambers and Gina Randles.