Steamboat Springs What better way to celebrate the Irish holiday weekend than Irish music and an Irish play?
"It's really an evening of Ireland," director Stuart Handloff said. "The choice of an Irish play on St. Patrick's Day weekend it all coincided. But this is not just a coincidence."
Handloff left his actors on stage Wednesday night as he praised the teen-agers' ability to play such mature roles in "Dancing at Lughnasa," which premieres March 15, 16 and 17. Music from the local Celtic folk band the Shenanigans will precede the performances.
"Meryl Streep played this role in a movie. A dramatic production like this with high school students is really challenging," Handloff said, adding their aptitude has far exceeded his expectations.
The group of high school actors stood on stage at Steamboat Springs High School rehearsing their parts with eloquent Irish accents and a comfort that even amateur adult actors could not fake.
Handloff even brought in an Irish man who lives in Steamboat to assist the young actors with their accents.
Sophomore Rory Clow said the class listened to Irish CDs and students would take turns around the room practicing their new dialect.
"He would make us say it over and over again," Clow said of Handloff.
Students said Handloff enjoys giving them challenging scripts and that he chooses eccentric plays for the spring performance.
Although the students had never heard of the original playwright, they said Friel is well known in Ireland.
Alex Handloff, who plays Michael, narrates "Dancing at Lughnasa." Michael recollects various conversations from his childhood over a three-week period during the Festival of Lughnasa in poverty-ridden Ireland in 1936.
"Dancing represents the last moment of happiness, joy and excitement in their meager lives before the family completely disintegrates," Handloff said.
The family is on the edge of surviving in the midst of depression
"It's about the family connections made and then they're torn apart," said sophomore Holly Dye, who plays Christina.
Junior Beth Ludwig said her biggest challenge is trying to play a developmentally disabled person.
"But it's all in good fun," Ludwig said.
Ludwig and Clow both play Rose. Handloff acquired two casts for this play a swing cast and an opening cast not only to watch his back in case of an emergency but also to get as many students involved as possible.
"(Stuart) likes to make the spring play more vanguard so it's challenging to high school actors," said junior Ian Noyer, who plays Uncle and Father Jack.
Handloff's drama students produce a play every semester a musical in the fall and a dramatic play in the spring.