Irish-themed “Dancing at Lughnasa” marks return of public plays to Saint Michael’s

Professor Peter Harrigan '83 directs a "memory play" by Brian Friel set in summer 1936, with strong roles for four women and "rich poetic language"

October 18, 2021
Faculty/staff report

Dancing at Lughnasa, a bittersweet memory play set in a fictional Irish town of Ballybeg in summer of 1936 – is the fall Mainstage play at Saint Michael’s College, running from November 4-6, in the first public theater performance in McCarthy Arts Center since November 2019.

Swope play promo

Clockwise from center: Sadie Chamberlain, Madeline Shanley, Mckenzie Rowbotham, Ava Magoon, and Yamuna Turco
Photo Credit: Jerry Swope

Director Peter Harrigan ’83 of the Saint Michael’s Fine Arts/Theatre faculty calls playwright Brian Friel’s 1990 Oliver and Tony Award winning play “a sort of Irish version of The Glass Menagerie.”  In it, the main character Michael Mundy reflects on the summer of 1936, during which his family came together and fell apart. Harrigan said Lughnasa is a late summer Celtic harvest festival, “which adds a sense of possibility and fun, as well as risk and disappointment to the proceedings.”

This presentation by the College’s Fine Arts/Theatre Department is scheduled to run each evening from November 4-6, 2021 at 7 p.m., and, though admission is free, reservations should be made at

“Currently we are hoping to welcome off-campus audience members to live Theatre performances for the first time since November 2019!” Harrigan said. “Spectators are required to wear masks, and provide proof of COVID19 vaccination, or a negative COVID19 test administered within 72 hours of the performance date.” He said the Eventbrite website will be used to communicate any updates if College or State of Vermont policies change.

“I chose the play because of Friel’s rich poetic language, and the great opportunities Dancing at Lughnasa provides for five female actors who play Michael’s mother and his four aunts. It is wistful and funny – with so much of the joyful human interaction we have been missing over these many months of the pandemic,” Harrigan said.


Peter Harrigan

The play is underscored by a temperamental “wireless” radio set that provides raucous traditional Irish folk music and period pop standards to which the sisters dance – but then goes silent at unpredictable intervals, leaving the characters with their regrets about the past and worries for the future, the director said. The action is set on a vast impressionistic Irish set designed by John Paul Devlin, also of the College’s Fine Arts Theatre faculty and the actors have been learning Irish dialect under the energetic instruction of Vermont actor Alex Hudson, who studied and lived in Ireland for several years.

For Harrigan, it is a “memory play” of a different sort personally.


Cathy Hurst

“I actually acted in an earlier production of the play, directed in 1996 by my beloved colleague Cathy Hurst, who retired in 2017 and died suddenly a year later,” he said. “I hope that Cathy’s spirit of invention and fun will spark this production 25 later.”

The cast of characters and Saint Michael’s students in the roles: Michael Evans – Art Resch ’24; Chris Mundy – Mckenzie Rowbotham ’24; Maggie Mundy – Madeline Shanley ’23; Agnes Mundy – Yamuna Turco ’25; Rose Mundy – Ava Magoon ’22; Kate Mundy – Sadie Chamberlain ’25; Gerry Evans – James Murphy ’24; Fr. Jack Mundy – Gabe Kelsey ‘24

Production Team: Director and Costume Designer – Peter Harrigan ’83; Scenic and Lighting Designer – John Paul Devlin; Sound Designer – Abra Clawson; Choreographer – Nicole Dirmaier ’24; Dialect Coach – Alex Hudson; Production Stage Manager – Matthew Tupaj ’23; Assistant Stage Manager – Corban Ridlon ’22; Set, Costume, and Run Crews: Students of Theatre 161, 162, 163 classes.

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