xx "Dancing at Lughnasa," Staged Nov. 8-12 at CSU, Chico

Publicity Photo

CSU, Chico will present a production of Brian Friel’s “memory play,”“Dancing at Lughnasa”, Nov. 8-11 at 7:30 p.m., and Nov. 12 at 2 p.m. in Wismer Theatre, Chico State’s intimate black box theater located within the Performing Arts Center.

A juxtaposition to CSU, Chico’s recent punk-rock production of “Green Day’s American Idiot,” the Tony Award-winning play “Dancing at Lughnasa” brings 1930s Irish spirit and valor to the stage.

Set in Ireland’s northernmost county in 1936, the fictional town of Ballybeg comes to life along with the main characters: five unmarried sisters and Michael, the 7-year old love-child of the youngest sister. When Uncle Jack, a Catholic priest and the elder brother of the sisters, returns from a 25-year mission in Uganda, he upends the household by promoting pagan tribal customs that he sees as little different than the homegrown bonfires and dances during the Festival of Lughnasa, the harvest celebration dedicated to the ancient Celtic god, Lugh.

As they strive to outlast the day, hold despair at bay or make their lives what they ought to be instead of what they are, the characters’ deep emotional struggle on stage will be readily apparent to audience members.

“Audience members will be left asking themselves if there is a breach between what seems to be and what is in their own lives,” describes director and music and theatre faculty member William Johnson. “And they will picture how they would dance today, if they knew how it all would end.”

Classified as a “memory play,” the production is narrated by the adult Michael Evans, highlighting his point of view throughout the entire story. The play is set against the backdrop of the Great Depression and the spread of fascism throughout Europe in the years preceding World War II. Throughout the play, he looks back on the events during the summer of 1936, when he was 7, that have haunted him ever since. The suspense brewing is palpable throughout the production, representing the longings and fears of the family members as they stand on the brink of World War II and a shift in their previous lifestyles.

A talented cast of eight CSU, Chico students will embody the characters as follows:
Kate—Danielle Gervais
Maggie—Alex Hilsee
Anges—Robin Tucker
Rose—Patrice Berry
Chris—Hannah Naditch
Jack—Aaron Bayless
Gerry—Nick McCollum
Michael—Tristan Knox

Not only are the character roles inherently challenging, but the cast also has had to study the difficult and unique Northern Irish accent to bring a feeling of authenticity to “Dancing at Lughnasa.” In addition, the student actors have spent hours practicing Irish step dancing and even some ballroom dancing.

Tickets, priced at $15 adults, $13 seniors, and $6 students and youth, are available at CSU, Chico’s University Box Office (530-898-6333), online at www.chicostatetickets.com, or at the door.

Wismer Theatre is located in the Performing Arts Center on Chico State’s campus. For those who need special seating accommodations, please call 530-898-6333. More information is available online at the School of the Arts website — www.schoolofthearts-csuchico.com - and Facebook page —www.facebook.com/ChicoStateSOA/.



Story by Ellen Falltrick
Photos by Daniel Michelson