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Exhilarating, poignant “Dancing at Lughnasa” opens at ASU Herberger CollegeExhilarating, poignant “Dancing at Lughnasa” opens at ASU Herberger College


ASU Herberger Mainstage Theatre presents Dancing at Lughnasa, Sept. 23-Oct 2. Photo by Tim Trumble.
Candice Howden as Christina and Daniel Charms as Jerry Evans


Photo courtesy of Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts

September 07, 2004

Tempe, Ariz - ASU Herberger Mainstage Theatre presents, “Dancing at Lughnasa,” written by Brian Friel and directed by Barbara Acker. Simultaneously exhilarating and poignant, this classic of the modern stage takes the audience to the author’s Irish home and his memory of his mother and four maiden aunts, living within the confines of rural life until their spirits are unleashed in a frenzy of dance.

The play runs Sept. 23-25, Sept. 30 and Oct. 1-2 at 7:30 p.m.; Sept. 25-26 and Oct. 3 at 2 p.m. at the Paul V. Galvin Playhouse, 51 E. 10th St. on the ASU Tempe campus. Tickets are $5-$20 and are available at 480-965-6447 or http://herbergercollege.asu.edu/mainstage/.

This touching performance recounts two days in the life of the five Mundy sisters and the youngest sister’s illegitimate child, Michael. Now a young man, Michael recounts the story of the summer of 1936, when he was seven years old. He remembers the thrill of their first radio, the return of his hero, Uncle Jack, and the sight of his father and mother silently dancing in a wordless ritual of love.

The play takes place during the Festival of Lughnasa, a pagan harvest festival celebrated in honor of the Celtic sun god Lugh. How they dance in this show! There are the wild, uninhibited dances of the sisters; their memories of dances past; the Ryangan dances, sensual dances, the methodical steps of a ritual hat exchange.

“Dance symbolizes the emotional and spiritual outpouring of energy the sisters cannot openly express, trapped in a chilling, puritanical society,” Acker says.

“The first time I read the play, I fell in love with it,” she continues. “While there is displacement and loss – it is the Depression, and many men of their generation emigrated overseas – no matter what trials and hardships the family faces, their love for each other brings them joy and comfort.

“That is why this play is important today and always: it reinforces how love can transform lives. Just as the Mundy household does, we too can tap into reservoirs of spiritual strength and goodness to refresh our own spirits.”

“Dancing at Lughnasa” was first performed at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin in April of 1990. The production moved to the National Theatre in London, where it won the Laurence Olivier Award (the most prestigious award in London theatre) for Best Play in 1991. In 1992, it won three Tony Awards, including Best Play, for its Broadway production.

In conjunction with this production of “Dancing at Lughnasa,” the Herberger College Department of Theatre is sponsoring a free public lecture by noted scholar of Irish literature John Paul Riquelme on October 1 at 2 p.m. in the Lyceum Theatre on the ASU Tempe Campus. For more information on the lecture, call 480-965-5337.

In addition, the department is sponsoring a free symposium on October 2 at the Irish Cultural Center, 1106 N. Central Ave., Phoenix. For more information on the symposium, call 602-329-7850 or visit www.azirish.com.

The Department of Theatre is a division of The Katherine K. Herberger College of Fine Arts at Arizona State University.

Media Contact:
Mica Matsoff
(480) 965-0478
Mica.Matsoff@asu.edu