"Dancing at Lughnasa" evokes triumph over tragedy

Dancing at Lughnasa - dancingPreparing for an upcoming theatrical performance requires quite a bit of effort.  Lines and dialogue need to be memorized.  Sets and costumes need to be designed.   Tickets need to be sold.  But what happens when the curtain rises and there’s still homework to be done?

This is the case some NAU students face a few times a semester when working on the Department of Theatre’s productions.  This semester, performance art majors are bringing to life Brian Friel’s Dancing at Lughnasa, a play that tells the story of a boy and his reunion with his estranged father while living with his mother and his aunts.

Kathleen McGeever, the director of the play and the chair of the Department of Theatre, says production began during January, which is a remarkable turnaround for those involved with project designs and acting.

Balancing the time between work and play can be tough, especially when students are already rehearsing for the Department’s next play, Arsenic and Old Lace, well before Dancing at Lughnasa has finished its run at the Clifford E. White Theater.  However, the students who work on each play are rewarded with class credit and firsthand knowledge that their efforts are being recognized by the Flagstaff community as a whole.

For example, students who work on the set and costume designs can use the time they’ve spent creating background effects and outfits towards completing their capstone project, whereas actors are rewarded similarly with rehearsals. 

Sarah Goewey, a junior majoring in theatre with an emphasis in performance, says the time spent working on each production can be hard to manage at first, but the relationships built and the experience gained behind the scenes more than make up for it.

“The professors are extremely supportive and make sure you’re ready for the real world whether you’re in theater or another field,” Goewey says.  “We learn a lot about every aspect of theater, so we’re prepared for anything when we graduate.”

Compared to other universities, NAU provides freshman students the opportunity to be a part of productions immediately upon entering the university, which allows them to gain the opportunity to work and perform earlier than they would elsewhere.

“The students learn by doing; this is the lab, so what they’re learning in the classroom, they’re applying to the productions,” McGeever says.  “In science, if you’re not trying the theories out in a lab, you’re not going to grow, and it’s a same thing in the arts.  We try to make those possibilities happen for our students.”

Dancing at Lughnasa - group shot