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ND students make history with ‘Connemara Five’

Caelin Miltko | Thursday, November 14, 2013

A cast of six Notre Dame students will be making history Thursday night at Washington Hall. The 7:30 p.m. performance of Micheál Ó Conghaile’s “The Connemara Five” will mark both the play’s international and its English debuts.
For this occasion, the author has made the trip from Ireland and will participate in an interview with director Sean Cotter, a junior art history major.
“There is no precedent and yet at the same time, I am very much aware that I am setting a precedent. It’s so much fun to work with something that can be so original and yet make it conservative enough to be a standard,” Cotter said.
The play was translated for the first time two years ago from Irish into English. The National Irish Language Theatre in Galway, Ireland, originally produced the play one decade ago.
Apart from being a historic event on Notre Dame’s campus, the play’s storyline uses a dysfunctional family in Connemara to deal with important social issues. It’s a family that includes a transgender male character and another character that suffers Alzheimer’s disease.
“The female characters presented are very much tangential, and that in itself comments on how women are marginalized through their relationships with men. It comments on a lot of minority status people. It comments on how we imprison ourselves when we don’t fit into societal norms,” Cotter said of the play’s themes.
At its core, the show is family-oriented. Cotter said he wanted to portray the story in a manner similar to looking through a family photo album.
“I imagined staging it by creating a series of vignettes or snapshots, anything that the audience can look at and recognize as a moment that they would see in the photo album of the family. Being an art history major, I drew on a lot of different artists whose presentations of figures I really enjoyed,” Cotter said.
The stage is set up to convey this idea, with three isolated areas set off to create different snapshots of the family’s life.
The cast is made up of six students: freshman Cameron Hart as Danny, senior Derek Defensor as Darach, senior Robert McKenna as Coleman, junior Anna McGinn as Maggie, junior Katherine Dudas as Cynthia, and freshman Mary Patano as Katie.
After opening night Thursday, a panel discussion will be held discussing gender issues and contemporary Irish language and literature with Ó Conghaile and department heads from Film, Television and Theatre, English, Irish Language and Literature, and Gender Studies.
Working from the English translation, the cast and crew had to contend with the dialect change from Hiberno English (the kind spoken in Ireland) and the American dialect. The actors worked with Professor Tara MacLeod to develop the proper accent to maintain the show’s Irish character.
“Taking an American group of people and making them Irish has been the most challenging part because it’s not only an accent but it’s how you hold yourself, how you wear your hair men and women, how you sit, what you wear,” Cotter said.
The show’s primary themes translate across the Atlantic, dealing with issues people in many cultures struggle with.
“A lot of the motifs utilized in the script are about imprisonment, and about wrongful imprisonment specifically. So, really what we are presented with is a group of people who are innocent and who have individually, either through their own actions or through society’s actions, imprisoned themselves. There’s very much a moral to that story that says you don’t need to do this, that everyone can be their own person,” Cotter says.
The show’s production dates are November 14th, 15th and 16th at 7:30 at Washington Hall’s main stage. Tickets are $6 a piece and can be purchased at the door or at the box office in LaFortune Hall.
Contact Caelin Miltko at cmoriari@nd.edu