Dancing at Lughnasa

Mainstage Production
Dancing at Lughnasa by Brian Friel
Directed by Barbara Brennan
Location: Vegas Theatre Company, 1025 S. 1st St., Las Vegas, NV 89101
April 12-29, 2024 

Las Vegas’ theatrical maven, Barbara Brennan, directs Brian Friel’s beloved paean to the intricacies of life in rural Ireland, Dancing at Lughnasa. Set in the summer of 1936, this haunting play tells the story of five unmarried sisters living in a small, desolate Irish village.  Poor as poor can be, the family navigates their lives with love, passion and an unbreakable connection to each other.  When their quiet lives are interrupted by the return of a beloved but troubled brother, the foundation of the family is cracked forever.  With its lyrical language, evocative music and joyful lust for life, Dancing at Lughnasa will grip your heart and won’t let go. 

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DRAMATURG’S NOTE – A Word from the Dramaturg

Dancing at Lughnasa is outwardly quiet but brimming with roiling subtext; being a Chekhovian play, everything is couched with layers of meaning. Friel took inspiration from his real-life aunts, but it is also a commentary on Anglo-Irish relations. This play was written in 1990, during The Troubles – a violent conflict between the Irish who wanted to remain part of England and those who wanted to separate – and it reflects the same essential conflict through our characters’ interactions. Ireland was the first country to be colonized by England, and Kate, without knowing it, parrots English attitudes wrought by 700 years of spiritual and cultural subjugation when she condemns paganism and refuses to allow the Mundy girls to dance. Because, at the time, to dance was a political act. In 1935, Catholic bishops pushed for the Public Dance Hall Act, restricting gatherings to licensed dance halls; our setting is 1935, so to dance anywhere else would literally be to break the law. Friel stands among the ranks of Irish resistance fighters by crafting a play that subtly illustrates the Irish character. As author Seán Ó Faoláin said, the greatest curse of Ireland “has been the exaggeration of the Irish virtue […] our power of resistance, our capacity for taking punishment, our laughter, our endurance.” The English attempt to plant the seed of an idea that it is lawless to dance never fully takes hold because it was planted in the soil of Irish minds. Because to be Irish is to resist.

– Leah Flowers, Apr 2024

Click on the links below  to learn more about Dancing at Lughnasa

Basic Information
Summary of Dancing at Lughnasa
About the Playwright: Brian Friel
A Word from the Playwright: Donegal in the Thirties
Music of Dancing at Lughnasa
Lughnasa and Irish Identity
Brian Friel: The Irish Chekhov
Maeve Binchy: The Magnificent Mundy Girls
Explore Further: Additional Resources

Scenic Design