A family in four weeks: ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’

“Dancing at Lughnasa” won the 1992 Hugo awards for best play. (Courtesy of Michaila Cowie)

Michaela Goss
Connector Editor

With only four weeks to cast, direct and design an entire production, the UMass Lowell Theatre Arts Program has put a lot of time and effort into becoming a family both on and off the stage.

The Theatre Arts Program will be presenting the play “Dancing at Lughnasa” at the Comley-Lane Theatre in Mahoney Hall from April 19-22 at 7:30 p.m. and April 23 at 2 p.m. It is directed by Jennie Israel, a founding member of the Actors’ Shakespeare Project in Boston who has previously directed productions at UMass Lowell.

Cast and crew members have said that only having four weeks to put the production together has been stressful, yet they feel it will be rewarding in the end.

“It’s been fun. I mean, that’s kind of what you do in the real world, so it’s definitely preparing everybody for the real world theatre,” said Michaila Cowie, the stage manager of the show. “It’s also stressful… it’s kind of like a full-time job.”

Cowie said that the entire cast and crew has been great about helping each other out and putting in the hard work that is necessary to make a show in a short amount of time. As the show takes place in Ireland, cast members would interchangeably speak in Irish and American accents when they were not rehearsing scenes in order to improve.

Israel is also a very hands-on director. She would join the cast in speaking in an Irish accent, and she is always on her feet when telling cast members exactly what she wants from them in scenes.

“You’re giving a lot, so I’m just going to keep asking for more,” she said to one of the show’s actors.

Cowie said she is proud of all the hard work that everyone is putting into the show and how much of themselves and their time they are giving to the production. She also said that she is eager to see how it will all come together.

“I’m definitely looking forward to the finished product,” said Cowie. “But also seeing all these relationships grow between the characters and even just the actors themselves and the production team. And getting to know everybody and just growing as a family.”

“Dancing at Lughnasa” was written by Irish playwright Brian Friel and was published in 1990. The show itself takes place in a fictional town in Ireland in the 1930s. It tells the story of five sisters, their brother whose memory is fading and their young nephew as they struggle to make ends meet. It is a memory play told by the nephew, Michael, when he is an adult as he recalls what life at his mother’s and aunts’ house used to be like during this time.

“This is the way the dysfunctional family originated,” said Israel.

Tickets for the upcoming performances can be purchased at the door for $10 for general admission and $5 for students, seniors and military. As there is limited seating, it is recommended to reserve tickets online before the show. To do this, email umlplaytix@gmail.com and leave your name, number of tickets and the show date.

“It’s a play about human relationships,” said Israel. “That’s why I adore it.”

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