‘Dancing at Lughnasa’ tells powerful story of family

“Dancing at Lughnasa” tells the story of five sisters struggling to keep their family together while their world spins madly on. The show will run Jan. 31-Feb. 5 and will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are already on sale for $20 each and can be purchased at http://www.baylor.edu/theatre/. Feb. 3 is sold out, but all other shows have tickets available. Photo credit: Courtesy Photo

By Kassidy Woytek | Reporter

Tickets are on sale for Baylor Theatre’s production of “Dancing at Lughnasa,” an Irish drama that tells the story of five sisters struggling to keep their family together as the world around them rapidly changes.

Charlotte, N.C., graduate student Heidi Breeden is directing the play and writing her thesis on the show as part of her master’s program.

Breeden said “Dancing at Lughnasa” stuck out to her when she was deciding on a play because the show focuses on the five strong female characters.

“I really wanted to have a play where I could cast a lot of great women who just don’t fit the roles that typically occur in university productions,” Breeden said. “And this play certainly does that.”

Rockwall junior Halley Platz said she feels honored to play one of those female roles. Platz described her character, Kate Mundy, as a stern matriarch dedicated to keeping her family rooted in their Catholic beliefs.

“For my character, it’s a constant balance between being an impatient, hard woman and a woman who loves her family fiercely,” Platz said. “All her actions are driven by love, but they sometimes don’t come across that way.”

Platz said she has begun to think of her cast members as a family of their own. Before being cast in “Dancing at Lughnasa,” she said she thought starring in a show with four other strong female roles was something she could only dream of.

Jasper sophomore Carson Shofner plays Michael Evans, the narrator of the play. He said he wanted audiences to leave the show with a deeper appreciation of their own families.

“Treasure the time you have with your family because you don’t know how long they’ll be there,” Shofner said.

Shofner’s character tells the story of “Dancing at Lughnasa” as a memory of one summer he spent with his mother and four aunts. Although he’s acted in many plays before, Shofner said he faced new challenges in the role of Michael.

“Almost all of my lines are monolougues to the audience, which is very different from having scenes with other characters,” Shofner said. “That was probably the most challenging part of playing this role.”

Another challenge for all of the actors involved was learning to speak in a Northern Irish dialect. Shofner said cast members met individually with a dialog coach who helped give their lines more authenticity.

Platz said she learned more about her own Irish heritage by being a part of “Dancing at Lughnasa.”

“This play kind of is Ireland,” Platz said. “It’s a constant tug of war between tradition and freedom, and I feel like that is very much the culture and the tradition of Irish people.”

Platz added that even though the culture of Ireland is foreign to most Americans, she has no doubt that Baylor audiences will still find the characters familiar and relatable.

“It’s about family, and that transcends any culture. It transcends all nations,” Platz said.

For her thesis, Breeden said she spent a lot of time researching Irish history and the life of Brian Friel, who wrote the play.

Breeden said, “Dancing at Lughnasa” has a different tone than most shows performed at Baylor, and she hopes audiences will be open to seeing something new.

“We’re doing certain things onstage that haven’t happened much onstage at Baylor,” Breedan said. “So I think that will be exciting for students to see.”

The first performance is at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 31, in the Mabee Theatre in the Hooper-Schafer Fine Arts Center, and the shows will run until Sunday, Feb. 5. Tickets cost $20 and can be purchased on the Baylor Theatre website. The performance on Friday, Feb. 3, is sold out, but tickets are still available for every other day.