BWW Feature: Chattting with the Cast of DANCING AT LUGHNASA at Everyman Theatre
Everyman Theatre traveled to Ireland for their first show of the 2018-2019 season, producing the Brian Friel work DANCING AT LUGHNASA. The piece revolves around a family living in 1930s Ireland, and the memories of one little boy and one particular summer. The cast, which included many members of the repertory company of Everyman and a few new additions are top-notch. They presented a work that was both beautiful and heartbreaking.
After the production, the cast and creatives joined for the first Cast Conversation of the season. I've been to many of these events now, and they never fail to spark an idea about the play. It's fun to see the cast who has just spent almost 3 hours acting, come out and chat so openly about the show they've just shared with the audience. For me, the talk-backs are one of the many reasons Everyman is such a fabulous place for theatre in Baltimore.
The conversation was run by Lindsey Barr, who is the dramaturg for this piece. She began by asking the audience what stuck out for them about the play. For the most part, the theme of the dichotomy between hope and sadness was most prevalent. One audience member also noted the ethereal quality the piece had, in that Michael (the little boy telling the story) is there but not really there.
Later in the conversation, Tim Getman who played Michael mentioned that this is the way Friel wrote the play. The stage direction for the little boy mentions specifically that you never see him. He only appears as a grown man. Getman went on to say he believes presenting it in this manner helps to further flesh out the major theme of memory. He noted that in memories, you tend not to see yourself. You only remember others. Because of this, grown Michael isn't seeing himself in the story he's telling the audience. It's a fascinating way to look at that particular aspect of the piece. I merely thought it was a creative way to present those moments in the story.
The first question in the Q&A portion was what is each actor's favorite part of the play? As you can imagine there were a variety of answers from such a large cast. For the most part most actors mentioned the dance the sisters do in the first act. It's big and messy and fun, and the women dancing the dance, aren't the only ones in the cast that seem to love it. Both Bruce Nelson and Danny Gavigan both shared that they enjoyed seeing the women have so much fun staging the performance. They watch the dance each night from back stage.
The members of this cast obviously were quick to mention the fantastic work that their fellow actors are doing. Annie Grier called out Tim Getman's work as Michael and his intense monologue at the end of the piece, while Bari Hochwald mentioned the smaller moments in the play between herself and other actors. She feels her moment holding hands with Megan Anderson is special each evening. Then, Labhaoise Magee shared that her favorite moments are actually decided by the audience. As the audiences react to certain pieces of the play, her favorites change. But she also believes the silences in the piece are the most magical.
Throughout creation of the production, the cast has gotten the chance to build in moments of their own for their characters. One of the storylines in the piece revolves around a love triangle between 3 characters that may surprise. The actors in the triangle, shared that Friel doesn't present a backstory for these beats, so it's up to the actors to decide how to play it. While there was a bit of disagreement at first, the actors finally decided on a way to present it that made sense to them and was the most real.
Labhaoise Magee then brought the conversation to a close by explaining a bit about Friel and his works, which shined a light on the message in the play. As a native of Ireland, she revealed that she had acted in Friel plays before. Because of her Irish heritage and her study of Friel, she had specific insight into subtle messages in his works. She shared that Friel existed between Northern Ireland and the South, so most of this works include a message of nationalism, and never quite knowing where he belonged. Lastly, to the delight of the audience and the cast, she noted that she also played Uncle Jack (the almost 60-year-old patriarch of this piece, currently played by Bruce Nelson) at the age of 14 in her all-girls Catholic school.
After a thoroughly interesting conversation about this beautiful piece of theatre, it was time for the cast and audience to say their goodnights. As I mentioned, the insight the cast presents in these conversations truly brings the plays Everyman produces to light in new and exciting ways. Whether you enjoy behind the scenes stories, or have questions about the plays themselves, I highly recommend attending one of Everyman's Cast Conversations. You won't regret it!