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Dancing at Lughnasa Says Farewell

Mills College Weekly

Set in 1930’s Ireland, the play Dancing at Lughnasa depicts old
traditions and new demands which are at a dramatic crossroads in
light of social and political changes. The resulting upheaval in
the lives of the central characters, the Mundy sisters, answers the
question of who pays the price in a battle of cultural values.
Here, at Mills in 2004, it is the loss of our Dramatic Arts dept.
that begs the question of how that change will affect the

The play is narrated by Michael, played by Jim Colgan. Now
grown, Michael recollects on the last summer his five aunts spent
together before changes tore them apart. His mother, Chris, played
by junior Mary Morales, is a gentle figure in love with an
unreliable man, yet too practical to give in to false hope. Agnes,
played by sophomore Morgan Brady, is the solid and practical
sister, while Rose, played by sophomore Sara Laufer, is the simple
and childishly joyful figure.

The stern Kate, played beautifully by senior Olivia Mora,
struggles to keep the household intact through discipline. Her best
moments are when she decries the “Paganism” of nearly everything
that gives the other sisters delight, from their cravings for men,
to the radio and for dancing. Mora’s portrayal is skillfully
nuanced, revealing Kate’s earnest desire to help her family and her
essential kindness, despite all her screaming and biblical

However, it is Maggie, as played by senior Sarah Lambie, who
provides the emotional core of the play. Without her constant wily
smile, love of fun, and willingness to bare her own desires and
hopes, the other sisters would wither as caricatures. It’s her
riddles that cause the sisters’ long faces turn to smiles, and in
her dancing footsteps they follow.

Lambie impressively animates the essence of her character,
letting both Maggie’s joy and regret play candidly across her face.
Such sensitivity makes her not a clown, but a noble figure fighting
to save her family.

Director Gemma Whelan chose Dancing at Lughnasa as the final
Mills play for its themes.

“It’s about the ending of an era,” she said. “Within the
historical connection to the Industrial Revolution in Ireland,
there’s the breakup of a home and the end of innocence. Not that
our department is entirely innocent,” she added with a smile. The
play was also chosen for its more practical qualities.

Whelan said, “The play has five roles for women, and that’s
about the number of majors we have left.”

Other theater students were busy behind the scenes, such as
Florence Lee and Winifred Wallace controlling light and sound.

Yet in the end, it was the play’s ability to speak to the heart
of Mills’ creed and the strength of women that made it the perfect
end to an era. Throughout heartache and loss, the sisters
persevere. Whelan confirms, “This play highlights the individual
voices and spirit of strong women.”

This play is the final performance that the Mills Dramatic Arts
dept. will produce on the main stage at Lisser. The show runs April
9 thru April 11.