Dancing at Lughnasa
by Brian Friel
Ralph Wilson Theatre
September 28 - October 1, 2022
(in order of appearance)
Michael Mundy - Jack Casey
Christina Mundy - Isabella Markoska
Maggie Mundy - Jessica Downing
Agnes Mundy - Tessa Plueckhahn
Rose Mundy - Jazmin Skopal
Kate Mundy - Andrea Garcia
Father Jack - Maurice Downing
Gerry Evans - Robbie Haltiner
Directed by Chris Baldock
The home of the Mundy family,
two miles outside the village of Ballybeg,
County Donegal, Ireland
A warm day in early August, 1936
Three weeks later
There will be a 20 minute interval between Acts One & Two
Lighting and Sound Design - Neville Pye
Set Concept - Chris Baldock with cast
Set Realisation - Theo Honing-Wassenburg and cast
Costumes - Sophie Holland and cast
Furniture and Props - The cast
Photography and Videography - Robbie Haltiner and
Alex O'Brien, Ingrid & Tim Plueckhahn
and special thanks to Isabella's Baba!
Also a very special thanks to Maurice Downing
for stepping in with only a few days notice
A warm welcome to Mockingbird Acting Studio's first Advanced Student showcase under the banner of MuSE (Mockingbird Student Ensemble).
Mockingbird Acting Studio is now in its sixth year. We started with one class of 10 students and now, not including one-on-one classes, we have 4 classes with over 60 students.
I realised last year that I had a number of students who were very loyal and passionate about Mockingbird and my approach to acting but they were getting to the stage where they needed to be pushed and stimulated further. Thus the Advanced Acting class was born - a class that a student can only get into via audition or invitation.
A MuSE actor needs to possess more than talent and potential. They need to think about more than just themselves, they need to know how to work as a team - to support and stimulate their fellow actor. They need to have a capacity and a hunger to learn and to continue to grow as an artist. The people you see tonight all possess these qualities. I have pushed them hard and will continue to do so as they strive to reach their full potential.
Many of these students had never done a production before so what better way to help realise that potential was to actually perform in and produce their own productions.
To say that this has been a steep learning curve for all of them may be an understatement as we've navigated students leaving, illness + Covid, students having to go away and life getting in the way in general. But, like the life of an actor, these wonderful souls kept believing in the play and each other, have pushed through all the challenges and here we are.
We truly thank you for your support and hope you enjoy this wonderful play. Yes, we have a real Irishman in our midst. And yes, we have a Colombian doing their best Irish accent. The joys of a student production! We can do anything!
About The Play
Winner of The Tony Award, The Olivier Award, The Evening Standard Award and The New York Drama Critics Circle award for Best Play.
A stirring and lyrical celebration of life, Dancing at Lughnasa is set in the summer of 1936 during the Celtic harvest festival of Lughnasa. Five unmarried sisters — Kate, Maggie, Agnes, Rose and Chris — live in the rural Irish countryside outside the tiny village of Ballybeg. Loosely based on the lives of Friel’s mother and aunts, Dancing at Lughnasa is a rich and deeply moving portrait of their everyday lives, as remembered through the eyes of Chris’s seven-year-old son, Michael, now an adult.
It is a play about love and loss and family, about dreams and disappointments and desire. A play in which magic is still possible in the face of life’s harsh realities. Where the lives of simple, flawed characters struggling to survive are ennobled by something greater than their personal successes or, more often, failures — ennobled by their passionate desire to live, to connect with each other and to remain human.
“...the most elegant and rueful memory play since The Glass Menagerie” —Time
“...a play of true greatness” —The Daily Telegraph
“...this is no way a play to be missed—simply a wondrous experience. Experience it.” —NY Post
“...a masterpiece” —The Independent
About the Cast
Jack is an actor born and raised in Dublin, Ireland. Before moving to Australia at the beginning of 2020, Jack had appeared on the screen and stage, from the TV series Vikings to a number of shows with the DIT Drama Society, of which
Domhnall Gleeson is a noted alumnus, representing the society in 2015 in the Irish Student Drama Awards (ISDAs) with The Shadow of a Gunman (Dir. Brian Whitney) follower by Punk
Rock (Dir. Iain Herbert), and Two (Dir. Steven Masterson). Jack made his Canberra theatre debut in 2021 with Beatrix Christian’s The Governor's Family (Dir. Tony Llewellyn-Jones) at Canberra Rep, shortly after beginning at Christopher Baldock’s Mockingbird Acting Studio. Since then, Jack has been a member of the Mockingbird Student Ensemble (MuSE) and is
delighted to bring a treasured piece of Irish theater to life in his new home alongside an amazing creative team.
From an early age Jessica has had a love of the stage, which has continued into adulthood and led her to study a Bachelor of Theatre (specialising in Musical Theatre) at CQCM. Dancing at Lughnasa will be Jessica’s first show back in Canberra after returning to the bush capital a couple of years ago. Since the end of 2020 Jessica has continued furthering her study of the art of acting at the Mockingbird Acting Studio and is extremely honoured to now be a part of the MuSE Ensemble. Prior to joining Muse this year, Jessica has performed in The Addams Family, City of Angels, Guys and Dolls, The Mikado, Carousel, Catch Me If You Can, Annie Get Your Gun, Fame and West Side Story. Being a part of this production of Dancing at Lughnasa has been a true passion project for the cast and Jessica can’t wait to return to the stage alongside her MuSE family as Maggie Mundy.
Maurice came to acting about 8 years ago after watching his younger children in a number of local productions and thought, “umm, that looks scary but a lot of fun, why not”. Maurice was surprised and thrilled to get a call to help the cast and crew present Dancing at Lughnasa and is really looking forward to playing Father Jack and exploring how he manages his return to Donegal after 25 years in Africa. Maurice was last seen in the just completed Our Country’s Good where he relished playing two key roles at opposite ends of the authority spectrum. He also played Pa Joad in the classic The Grapes of Wrath in early 2020, as part of a wonderful cast and production. Other roles have included Charles in Trelawney of the Wells, a number of short plays in the Short and Sweet Festival and a massive 15
minute monologue in Blokes Don’t Talk back in 2014. Maurice continues to develop his acting chops with Mockingbird Acting Studio.
Andrea’s love of theatre and acting started when she performed in school plays in her native Colombia. In the United States she completed a Master of Arts in Theatre at Hunter College of the City University of New York and the Two-Year Acting Conservatory at The Acting Studio - New York, where she performed in productions of the Studio's resident acting company Chelsea Repertory Company. Since moving to Australia, Andrea has been a member of the tech crew at Canberra REP Theatre supporting the backstage lighting and sound operations of various productions. She has also continued pursuing her passion studying at Mockingbird Acting Studio. As a member of the inaugural Mockingbird Student Ensemble (MuSE), Dancing in Lughnasa is Andrea’s first on-stage performance in Canberra.
Robbie Haltiner is a Canberra-based filmmaker who began acting in 2019 through Mockingbird Acting Studio. Since then, he has taken to the stage as Al Joad in Canberra Rep's production of The Grapes of Wrath, and as Gerald Mountgarret in Rep's The Governor’s Family. In his third role to date, Robbie is delighted to bring audiences something a little more light-hearted, as Gerry Evans in Dancing at Lughnasa.
Bella has always loved performing, having started at the age of 4 through dance, she was heavily involved in theatrical productions during her time at high school, including studying drama as part of her senior secondary studies. Having only danced on stage in recent years, Bella will finally get to put the beloved Irish accent to great use in Mockingbird Acting Studio’s Student Ensemble (MuSE) debut performance Dancing at Lughnasa. Rounding out her second year of study at Mockingbird, Bella is indebted to Mockingbird for helping her rediscover her love and passion for the dramatic arts. Bella is absolutely honoured to be performing alongside her MuSE family as Chris Mundy, in what will be a warm and vibrant welcome back to acting.
Tessa has harboured a lifelong love for the performing arts. As a schoolgirl she sang in every choir, every musical or school play and carved herself a niche as the school orchestra’s resident glockenspiel and xylophone soloist. As a uni student she performed experimental German theatre with the Melbourne University Germanic Players, and sang mediaeval music with the Humboldt University Choir in Germany. She also spent 8 years teaching and performing swing dance, charleston and improvisation, and performing with Body Electric Dance Studios in Melbourne before focussing on just being a lawyer.
Seven years of being a nerd, a global pandemic and two years’ of sporadic lockdowns taught Tessa that life is too short and it was time to get back on the stage. In 2021, Tessa took up acting lessons with Mockingbird Acting Studio and NIDA Open, and her world opened up again. She has also reignited her passion for singing, taking lessons with the Bec Taylor Music School, performing as a soloist with the Canberra Qwire and with ANU's LGBTI Community Rock School at Smith's Alternative. She is delighted to be part of MuSE and experience the magic that comes from being part of a group of dedicated, passionate and talented performers.
Jazmin discovered Mockingbird acting classes in 2020 and was soon hooked. She was awarded a Mockingbird Student of the Year award in 2021, with a one year scholarship, and was thrilled to be chosen to be a part of the very first MuSE ensemble for 2022. Having studied history, international relations and psychology, she is fascinated by people’s experiences of life in different places and times in history. So, she has adored immersing herself in the lives of the very special Dancing at Lughnasa characters in 1930s rural Ireland. She has enjoyed the unique opportunity MuSE provides to act and be involved in many aspects of the production at once, such as props and costumes. She is excited to bring Rose Mundy to life alongside her wonderful classmates.