Prior to the opening of Quotidian Theatre Company’s next play, Brian Friel’s Irish drama Dancing at Lughnasa, several actors in the cast are writing here about various experiences they have during the rehearsal process. All previous posts can be found here.
My last post for this blog focused on memory and how this particular play allowed my character, Michael Evans, to participate as an active member of that memory.
But participating in a memory, especially on stage, presents unique challenges to an actor. It is different than participating in an action.
In most plays as an actor, I interact in a physical way with the other actors (and even, sometimes, with the audience): making eye contact, touching, responding in non-verbal ways to the action going on around me. This physicality is an integral part of the experience of being on stage.
In Dancing at Lughnasa, however, I am stripped of that physicality; alone in my own world, in my own space, separate and apart from my fellow characters. But this non-interaction isn’t like doing a one-person show, where the only action on stage emanates from a single character. It isn’t even like being blind on stage where visual interaction is completely removed, leaving physical and auditory response intact. (If you get a chance to talk to Steve Beall, who portrayed the blind Richard Harkin in Quotidian’s 2010 production of The Seafarer, please do so. He can describe that far more eloquently than I ever could.)
I am left only with my emotions; my reactions to what is, essentially, in my character’s own head.
Maybe the best description of it is like looking (as the Biblical phrase from 1 Corinthians 13:12 would have it) “through a glass, darkly.”
And that, I think, is precisely the point Friel asks actor and audience alike to dwell on – we can participate in our memories, but we cannot take part in them. We can remember the emotions, the sights and sounds, but we cannot change them.
We can call up the images and words, but are left forever in some place between the real and remembered worlds.
Brian Friel’s masterpiece Dancing at Lughnasa is a drama about five unmarried sisters eking out their lives in a small Irish village in 1936. It won the 1992 Tony Award for Best Play, and Time Magazine called it “the most elegant and rueful memory play since The Glass Menagerie.” Our production opens April 20. Tickets and further information are available here.