The lights of the Troutt Theater will illuminate an Irish cottage as Belmont’s theater department opens its season Sept. 30 with a 1990 drama, “Dancing at Lughnasa.”
The setting for the play is the fictional Irish town of Ballybeg in August 1936, during the festival of Lughnasa, when harvest is welcomed. The play is told from the perspective of Michael Evans, who narrates events from that summer when he was 7 and lived in a cottage with his mother and her four sisters. It was a summer of trials and tribulations for the family as they dealt with poverty, plus the returns of both Michael’s unreliable father and the sisters’ missionary brother, Jack, who is ill with malaria.
“We’re kind of like outcasts. We have all of this against us,” said cast member Gina D’Arco, who portrays Christina, Michael’s mother.
“It’s a story about our lives and that summer,” she said, “and why that was so vital to Michael’s development, shaping who he is a person.”
D’Arco said the characters are still able to find joy that summer, though, especially through scenes of Irish step-dancing.
“We let go of all our inhibitions and are able to share that moment of joy and life with each other,” she said.
The sisters have their own distinct personalities and
issues, but it is their spirit that drew Director Bill Feheely to choose this show.
“It’s a beautiful play about strong women with beautiful language,” he said.
This is not Feehely’s first time directing “Dancing at Lughnasa.” He directed this show in the Belmont Little Theatre 15 years ago.
“It is really nice to come back with this new cast and theater and do it again,” he said.
Feehely also thinks the play addresses Belmont’s theme of “Wealth and Poverty” this year. He hopes those who see the show can feel empathy for the characters.
“Empathy means when we step into it, we don’t look at these people as the others, but look at them as us,” he said.
The actors said they have found the challenges of this show to be worthwhile, from performing with Irish accents to portraying characters of such depth.
“It’s so fulfilling that I’m able to create something with people I care about,” said cast member Luke Hatmaker.
Miles Gatrell, the narrator, said telling the story is the most significant part for him and that he hopes he can convey that to the audience.
“A lot of things happen, but if they feel like they heard a good story, that’s what’s important,” he said.