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Kick up Your Heels: Dancing at Lughnasa Hits the Floor

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Rick Robinson (L), Photo by Lucas Blair, and Renee Hewitt (R), photo submitted by Renee Hewitt

Lughnasa is a Celtic Feast Day celebrated on August 1, so it is fitting that Medford’s Collaborative Theater Project would be opening its production of Dancing at Lughnasa in August. The play, written in 1990 by Brian Friel, starts August 22 and runs through September 15. Directed by Rick Robinson of Ashland’s Cabaret Theatre, this will be his third play for the Collaborative. Although he is usually directing comedy, he enjoys the opportunity to, “rip the pathos of human life out” as he puts it. 

“The production is a drama,” he says. “There are tragic things happening in the piece. I don’t think you can have tragedy without joy. But there is real beauty and humor in this piece. Certain things turn tragic, but we are going to enjoy the whole story,” he explains.

When asked why this play was selected Robinson said, “Susan (Aversa-Orrego) knew she wanted me to direct and I wanted to direct here again. She gave me a big stack of plays and I chose the one that spoke to me the most out of the pile. Last year, we talked about doing Translations also written by Friel, but I like Dancing better. In Friel’s Tony award-winning play, the narrator Michael recounts his experience of spending a summer with his Aunt and her sisters when he was seven. The story takes place in 1936 in the imaginary town of Balleybeg, Ireland, and although the play was written almost thirty years ago, it is amazingly relevant. The five unmarried women wrestle with their ideas of love, romance, mothering, and morality.” 

Robinson adds, “It is beautiful. It is authentic. It is like a dream. It is like you are being transported to this time period. It is a memory piece and when the actors are really in it, it is a beautiful piece.” 

Robinson has worked with almost everyone in the cast before, but both Paul Cosca who plays the role of Gerry Evans and Sarah Clausen who plays Rose Mundy are new to Collaborative Theatre Project. In order to get ready for opening night, they have been hard at work. Robinson states, “I think I learned my lesson for Lend me a Tenor. I made concessions for people’s schedule. It did not feel fully baked. I started my rehearsal very early for Dancing at Lughnasa and did a lot of table work.” 

One of the lead characters, Kate Mundy, is portrayed by Renee Hewitt. The Messenger asked Hewitt about her experience working on this production with Robinson. 

Rogue Valley Messenger: What is it like working with Rick as a director?

Renee Hewitt: Fantastic. Rick is wonderful. The way I work as an actress, I love a lot of back story and delving into subtext. He does a lot of table work and he is very collaborative. You will start on a certain page and everyone is reading their parts. Rick will stop you and say why did she say that and why is it important. And ask questions to get people talking and conversing and giving ideas. He will offer his ideas and be clear that he is not leading you to think his way but finding out what you think.

RVM: Being the main character in the play, do you feel extra responsibility to perform well?

RH: Well, it is such a real ensemble piece. There is really no one person, so I do not really feel extra responsibility in this case. I think it is a beautiful story about the relationships of these sisters. Typical relationships that are difficult but there is a lot of love. There is a lot of depth to the story and I like the depth.


Dancing at Lughnasa

1:30 and 7:30 pm, Thurs., August 22 through Sun., September 15

Collaborative Theatre Project, 555 Medford Center, Medford

$15 – $25


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