Northwestern College theatre to present Irish comedy-drama

A play set in 1930s Ireland, “Dancing at Lughnasa” by Brian Friel, will be presented by Northwestern College theatre March 31 and April 1, 6 and 7 at 7:30 p.m. and April 8 at 2 and 7:30 p.m. The comedy-drama will be performed in the Allen Theatre of the DeWitt Theatre Arts Center.

“Dancing at Lughnasa” is a memory play, narrated by Michael as he remembers a summer when he was seven years old and living with his unwed mother and four unmarried aunts. The sisters enjoy listening to Irish folk music on their radio and dream of dancing at Lughnasa, a Celtic harvest festival.

Poor and with few prospects, the sisters’ burdens are compounded by two events that summer: Michael’s father returns, and the sisters’ Catholic missionary brother has come home from Uganda, where he seems to have lost his faith and maybe his grasp on reality.

Director Dr. Robert Hubbard, theatre professor at Northwestern, says the play has a particularly Irish theme of laughter through tears. The characters, he says, lead difficult and disappointing lives, but they are quick to laugh and “surrender to unexpected moments of beauty and joy.” When their faulty radio begins playing music seemingly of its own accord, the sisters dance with abandon. “The scene is an almost holy, worshipful moment,” says Hubbard.

After originally premiering in Dublin, “Dancing at Lughnasa” was performed on Broadway, winning the Tony Award for Best Play in 1991. It was made into a movie in 1998, starring Meryl Streep as the oldest sister, Kate.

The sisters will be played by seniors Carolyn Hopkins, Clinton, Iowa; A.J. Stoscher, Modesto, Calif.; Caroline Trewet, Atlantic, Iowa; and Julia VanDyk, Ames, Iowa; and sophomore Hannah Wamhoff, Papillion, Neb. Junior Warren Duncan, Urbandale, will play Michael, and sophomore Blake Mulder, Allison, Iowa, will play his uncle, Father Jack. Freshman Lucas Sander from Newton, Iowa, has the role of Michael’s father, Gerry.

Tickets for “Dancing at Lughnasa” are $8 for adults and $4 for students and are available starting March 20 for Theatre Patrons and March 21 through April 8 for the general public.

Tickets can be reserved at or by visiting the DeWitt Theatre box office between 5 and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday or between 1 and 4 p.m. on Saturday. The box office can also be reached by phone, 712-707-7098, or e-mail,