116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Home / Arts & Entertainment / Theater
Music anchors ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’ on Coralville stage
City Circle production continues through May 14
May. 9, 2023 6:30 am
CORALVILLE — “Dancing at Lughnasa” isn’t a musical, but music weaves a thread throughout this City Circle Theatre Company show, continuing May 12 to 14, 2023, at the Coralville Center for the Performing Arts.
“There is music in just about every scene,” said Tara McGovern, a cast member who also is serving as the play’s music consultant. “Someone is always singing or getting swept off their feet to dance.”
Music also helps anchor the players.
Life isn’t easy in 1930s rural Ireland, but five unmarried sisters laugh, argue and dance together as they eke out a living. Widely regarded as playwright Brian Friel’s masterpiece, “Dancing at Lughnasa” won the 1992 Tony Award for Best Play.
If you go
What: “Dancing at Lughnasa”
Where: Coralville Center for the Performing Arts, 1301 Fifth St., Coralville
When: Continues May 12 to 14; 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: $30 premium, $25 adults, $22 ages 65 and up, $20 students, $17 ages 10 and under; coralvillearts.org/255/Dancing-at-Lughnasa or (319) 248-9370
When director Elizabeth Tracey was looking for music for the end of the show, McGovern introduced composer Dan Vaughn, who then wrote an original composition for the production. Vaughn, an Irish whistle and flute player based in Iowa City, has performed with bands such as Gaelic Storm and Flook, and is a member of Blame Not the Bard.
As the daughter of Irish immigrants, director Tracey finds a personal connection as well as universal relevance to the story.
She described “Dancing at Lughnasa” as “a memory play,” adding that “as Brian Friel casts his mind back to the summer of 1936 in Donegal, Ireland, he is not only evoking the interior landscape of a group of women trapped by their sense of duty, morality and responsibility, but the opposing exterior forces of music, dance and fantasy.
“These sisters may be from rural Ireland, but their struggles are worldwide,” Tracey said.
Audiences have several ways to engage with the Ireland depicted in the show. The lobby is transforming the lobby into a Pop-up Pub for an immersive experience one hour before each performance. Audiences can gather to hear live tunes from traditional Irish musicians — including composer Vaughn — and a selection of Irish beers, as well as usual concessions.
Tracey also has worked with dramaturges Jacob Kilburg and Emil Rinderspacher to create lobby displays that set the stage for the audience and explain what life in Ireland was like in 1936, as industrialization was taking hold of the country.
“Learning about specific cultures enhances our understanding of humanity and sheds light on the human condition,” Tracey said.