News & Notables

Act 1 Opens Spring Season with “Dancing at Lughnasa”

by Roseann Damico Schatkowski | Jan 21, 2015

“The poetry of this play…like the most fragrant music, strikes deep chords that words cannot begin to touch.” –The New York Times

Act 1 DeSales University Theatre will open the second half of its 2014-2015 season with the award winning “Dancing at Lughnasa.” This extraordinary Irish drama will be presented February 18 to March 1, 2015 on the Main Stage of the Labuda Center for the Performing Arts, Center Valley, PA.

Written by Brian Friel, “Dancing at Lughnasa” is a memory play about the five brave Mundy sisters as told by the grown son one of the unmarried sister’s. Set in the autumn of 1936, in the high grass of County Donegal, Ireland, the sisters prepare to celebrate the harvest festival of the god Lugh. Their older brother Jack has just returned home from Africa, changed after 25 years as a missionary priest at a leper colony in Uganda. A radio nicknamed “Marconi,” which only works intermittently, brings 1930s dance and traditional Irish folk music into the home at rather random moments and then equally randomly ceases to play. This leads the women into sudden outbursts of wild dancing.

“‘Dancing at Lughnasa’ is a play that deals with the themes of memory and change,” says John Bell, head of the DeSales University Division of Performing Arts. “In the play, technology in the form of a newfangled Marconi radio enters the Mundy family’s lives and brings both excitement and fear: the excitement about new opportunities, and the fear that their cultural legacies will slip away. It is the tension between these two emotional forces that gives the play its dramatic power.”

The play was originally presented at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin in 1990. It transferred to London’s National Theatre in 1991, winning the Olivier Award for Best Play, and subsequently to Broadway where it won the Tony Award for Best Play as well as a Drama Desk Award nomination for Outstanding Play.

Chair of Theatre and Artistic Director Dennis Razze directs the production. “‘Dancing at Lughnasa’ is considered one of the greatest modern plays in the English language,” says Razze. “Brian Friel’s poetic language is powerful, poignant, and often humorous—the five Mundy sisters are all unique and wonderfully realized characters. We also plan to have live Irish music before the show and at intermission to help transport the audience to Brian Friel’s Ireland.

The Irish countryside comes to life with sets and costumes by Act 1’s resident creative faculty team: scenic designer Will Neuert and costume designer Amy Best. Guest artist Solomon Weisbard designed the lighting. Sophomore theatre major Leah Nodalski serves as stage manager.

“A play like ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’ is a great challenge for our student actors,” says Bell. “It asks them to work in a time period that is far removed from their own and it challenges them to master the Irish dialect. And, it’s one of the few plays out there that offers a bounty of strong female roles. Here at DeSales, we have such a large contingent of really talented young women, it’s nice to be able to produce a play that will showcase them.”

The production runs February 18 to March 1, 2015 on the Main Stage of the Labuda Center for the Performing Arts. Performances are Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8:00 PM and Sundays at 2:00 PM. There is a morning matinee on Tuesday, February 24 at 9:45 AM, followed by a talk back with the director and cast. A talk back is also scheduled for Sunday, February 22 after the 2:00 PM performance.

Ticket prices are $20 for adults and $18 for students and seniors on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and $24 for adults and $22 for students and seniors on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Group discounts are available for all performances. Tickets may be purchased by calling the Labuda Center box office at 610-282-3192 or by visiting the web site at

On Sunday, February 22 at 4:30 PM, enjoy a hearty traditional Irish meal and behind-the-scenes conversation with “Dancing at Lughnasa” Director Dennis Razze and Director of Development Deb Walter The cost for the dinner is $32 per person and includes a full bar featuring Irish whiskies and coffees. Reservations may be made online at through the box office at 610.282.3192.

In an effort to improve accessibility for all patrons, the Thursday, February 19, 8:00 PM performance will feature Open Captioning for patrons who are deaf or hearing impaired and Audio Descriptions for patrons who are blind or visually impaired. During Open Captioned performances, all dialogue and sound effects are presented in real-time on an LED screen that is adjacent to the stage. During Audio Described performances, all action and physical appearances are described live through a headset.

The Labuda Center is fully accessible and equipped with a listening enhancement system. Special seating is available for our patrons using wheelchairs or requiring other assistance. Please inform the box office of your needs when ordering tickets.

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