by Kate Heaney
A TROUPE of American actors who will perform Brian Friel’s Dancing at Lughnasa in Georgia next month made a special trip across the Atlantic to Donegal to perfect their accents for the performance.
The group of performing arts students are from LaGrange College in Georgia where they enjoy a thriving theatre programme, which includes the work of the Irish playwright.
Such was their determination to authentically replicate the Donegal accent for their performance, they came to visit Glenties where the play and movie were set.
It is now 25 years since Glenties hosted Meryl Streep and Michael Gambon as well as a cast of other famous names.
The week-long trip was made partly possible by some generous donations and saw the group immerse themselves in Donegal culture.
The group travelled to Glenties where they met and were welcomed warmly by locals.
The group began at Siopa Lughnasa for fresh scones, then it was off to ‘The Laurels’ – Friel’s family cottage to get a sense of the play’s setting.
They were also treated to a fantastic piece by Helen Power from Friel’s play ‘Faith Healer’ at the new Lughnasa Creative Art Centre, then on to St Connell’s Museum for a chat with curator Anne McLoone.
The drama troupe’s seven-day program was hosted by the Bundoran-based Institute of Study Abroad Ireland.
Their curriculum for theatre studies was designed and delivered by multi-talented actor, director, and playwright Maura Logue.
Maura, who is also founder of Dark Daughter Productions and Costume Hire, connected with the group in advance of their tour, and had workshops, interviews, exchanges and experiences all prepared for the players.
Maura and ISAI instructor Aidan Given worked with the students on history, cultural context, dialect and accent, costuming and rehearsal, and the actors were also blessed with fabulously clear and sunny weather, so they were more than satisfied with their visit to Donegal.
Kim Barber Knoll, Program Chair of the Theatre Department at LaGrange College and director of the Dancing at Lughnasa production said their visit is something they will never forget.
She said: “This experience in Donegal has not only prepared us for our performance in February, but it has also changed all of us. Donegal is more beautiful and friendly and rich in culture than we could have imagined, and being guided so masterfully by Maura through the text was an enrichment our students will never forget.”
On the last day, the troupe, dressed by ‘Dark Daughter’ costumes and photographed by Aidan Given, posed for a publicity shoot on the Fairy Bridges in Bundoran.