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.
Last week, David Dubov raised the idea of the narrator as active participant. Quotidian mainstay Steve LaRocque plays Father Jack in Dancing at Lughnasa, and here he guides us through pronunciation and rehearsal details.
KWAI-nine. Kwai-NEEN. KWIH-neen. Kwih-NINE.
Well, how do you pronounce the word for the age-old malaria medication?
More to the point, how did they pronounce it in County Donegal, Ireland, back in August 1936?
Donegal… the northwestern-most corner of the Irish Republic… towns with delicious names like Bundoran, Killybegs, Ballyshanon… and one that doesn’t actually exist: Ballybeg.
Doesn’t exist? Not in everyday reality (who needs that?), but most definitely in the mind of Brian Friel, the magnificent Irish playwright whose Dancing at Lughnasa we are now rehearsing for an April 20th opening at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda.
And that’s why we’re scratching our heads over the pronunciation of “quinine.” Our director, Craig Mummey, the cheery, relentless master of every last detail; our dialect coach Gary Sullivan, the master of accents, who has relatives in Ireland with email accounts. Oh, yes, the quinine issue has been across the Pond, and back.
And the cast — veterans of Quotidian’s Irish plays: Laura Russell (Dublin Carol, Shining City), Stephanie Mumford (The Weir), David Dubov (The Seafarer), and myself (The Weir and Port Authority). And others — introductions at a later time — good Irish accents all around.
We’re tuning the accents, working the details: what was the Spanish Civil War all about, and why would a good Welshman go to do “a spot of fighting” there? What are the ingredients for soda bread, and how do you lay them out when you make it? What did a British Army chaplain’s dress uniform look like in the Great War? Where do you get ostrich feathers? (It’s nice to be an actor and not to have to deal with that one — except, of course, that I have to wear the ostrich feathers. But more about that later.)
When we’re all done with the words, the soda bread, the ostrich feathers, and the dances — did I mention there was dancing? — lots of it — we intend to transport our audiences out of their 21st Century greater Washington D.C. existence and back to the world of the 1930’s Donegal, when life was hard — and about to get harder — when the battery in the radio was always conking out, and when all that you had to see you through the tough times were your faith, the love and loyalty of your family, and the humor of everyday life. There’s a lot of everything in this show — except for money — never enough of that. But we’ll get through. Stay with us.
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.