A dance along the Irish countryside

Published 8:00 am Thursday, November 8, 2018

TLT to debut next show of season Thursday

TRYON — Local theatergoers will take a trip back in time to the rural countryside of 1930s Ireland — and into the lives of a colorful group of sisters — during Tryon Little Theater’s next show of the season.

The community theater will debut its production of Brian Friel’s “Dancing at Lughnasa” Thursday at its workshop, located at 516 S. Trade St., Tryon. The show will run from Nov. 8-11 and Nov. 15-18, with performances beginning at 7:30 p.m. for Thursday, Friday and Saturday shows and at 3 p.m. for Sunday matinees.

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Set in the fictional Irish town of Ballybeg — the location of several of Friel’s works — “Dancing at Lughnasa” is a memory play told from the perspective of the narrator, Michael (Joel Perkin), who recalls childhood stories from a memorable summer of 1936, when he lived with his mother (Mallory Pellegrino) and four aunts (Rosalind Ashford, Lori Corda, Tara Sweeney and Michelle Fleming) in their small cottage.

Actress Tara Sweeney (Maggie) rehearses a scene Monday. The play will debut Thursday and run the next two weekends at the TLT Workshop. (Photo by Ted Yoakum/Tryon Daily Bulletin)

Set around the time of the annual Lughnasadh Celtic harvest festival, the story focuses on the lives of the five impoverished Irish women, who, in addition to taking care of 7-year-old Michael, also must tend to their brother, Jack (Mark Monaghan), who is suffering from severe memory loss after his return from his missionary trip to a leper colony in Uganda — as well as deal with the fallout from a visit from Michael’s father, Gerry (Chris Tinkler), a traveling gramophone salesman who plans to fight in the Spanish Civil War.

The drama that unfolds is, at times, funny, poignant and “very sweet,” said Catherine Gillet, who is directing the TLT production.

“It’s a play that has it all,” Gillet said. “It will make you feel so many different emotions. It’s not a one-note experience — it’s very layered.”

Gillet — who helmed another Irish-themed play, “Outside Mullingar,” last year at TLT — said she initially saw “Dancing at Lughnasa” during a run in New York, and immediately fell in love with the play, especially for its cast of strong women characters.

She was excited to direct the TLT production of the play, as it gave her the opportunity to work with a larger cast and more powerful themes than last year’s “Outside Mullingar,” she said. The director said it has been a “blast” to work with the production team and cast over the past five weeks to put the show together. 

“As director, my job is to interpret the text of the play, to make it ‘sing’ to the audience,” Gillet said. “This has been a wonderful, wonderful learning experience for me. Thankfully, I’ve had a wonderful cast to help me along the way.”

Those interested in learning more about the play may call 828-859-2466 or visit tltinfo.org.