Arts & Entertainment

‘Carnaween’ Brings Irish Folk Tale to Life

carnaweenAs the holiday season gains momentum, the crew at the Creative Cauldron is busy putting the finishing touches on “The Christmas Cabin of Carnaween,” a production based on an Irish folk tale set during the Great Potato Famine, that begins a three-weekend run on the third of December.

carnaweenAs the holiday season gains momentum, the crew at the Creative Cauldron is busy putting the finishing touches on “The Christmas Cabin of Carnaween,” a production based on an Irish folk tale set during the Great Potato Famine, that begins a three-weekend run on the third of December.

“This is my first year doing this play, and a few of the other cast members are new this year. I actually just got the call about this two Sundays ago,” said actress Katie Culligan, who plays the lead part of Oona Hegarty, a gypsy’s daughter who lives to care for the young, enfeebled and elderly while dreaming of having a cabin of her own. This dream goes unfulfilled until a group of fairies decide to work some magic and help out.

Culligan has appeared off-Broadway in Golden Fleece Ltd.’s Madame workshop; as Mrs. Fred’s Sister at Ford’s Theatre in A Christmas Carol (2007-08), with a special performance at The White House for former President George W. Bush; at Arena Stage in Legacy of Light; as Magenta in The Cumberland Theatre’s The Rocky Horror Show; with The Washington Savoyards as Leila in Iolanthe (Leila); at Imagination Stage as Lena in The Dancing Princesses; and in the Kennedy Center’s Page-to-Stage Festival as Jennifer in The Essential Theatre’s Sampson and Ms. Delilah.

“The rehearsals have been going pretty well, but there’s always a little room for improvement,” she added.

The play is accompanied by traditional Irish music played by Tir Na Nog (roughly translated as Land of Youth in Old Irish), a duo consisting of Rosemary Gano on flute and Keith Carr on the bouzouki, a traditional eight-string Irish instrument.

“Except for ‘The Christmas Cabin of Carnaween,’ which was written specifically for the play, all of the songs are traditional Irish songs that have been played for years,” said Carr.

Narrating the production is Judy Butler. Butler teaches at Marshall Road Elementary in Fairfax County, where she leads a program teaching drama to students from kindergarten through sixth grade. She also has a BFA in Theatre from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro and studied at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City. Her characters serve as the source for almost all of the plot development and cues for other actors, the musicians, and the stage crew.

Several young actors are part of the cast and each plays an important part in helping the audience see what families in mid-1800s Ireland may have been like. The ensemble consists of Creative Cauldron summer camp participants Coulter Adams, Anna Brotman-Krass, Emily Chewning and sibling duo Caroline and Sean Hamilton. Adults Jim Lynch and Maris Wicker complete the group and provide supporting roles that can range from a young man in love to an old woman on her death bed in a matter of seconds.

The play, now in its second year, is a tribute to Falls Church citizen and community activist Cay Wiant, who passed away last summer.

“My mom’s life was enriched by elements of symbolism,” said Meg Wiant. “She wrote enthusiastically and extensively of the fairy world. My mom would have loved this program based on an old Irish folktale about a tinker’s daughter who longs for a home of her own,” she added.

“Cay wrote enthusiastically of the fairy world. As with other elements of the fantastical realm, fairies represented to Cay the joy to be found in wonderment and the power of belief. We are thrilled to have her spirit guiding us as we bring this enchanting Irish fairy tale to the stage once again this year,” said Laura Conners Hull, the producing director and founder of Creative Cauldron.

“We’ve been steadily working on this for the past few weeks. I’m really impressed with the progress and little things on stage that some of the younger cast members have been doing,” she added.

Fittingly, the production is being sponsored by Ireland’s Four Provinces and has Irish stepdancing to accompany the music early on in the play. The set, designed by Margie Jervis, faithfully recreates the scene of an Irish peat bog.

Michael Toscano of The Washington Post praised the 2009 production as “poignant and bracing…a reminder of the season’s rich ideals.” With hard work and practice from the cast and crew, the 2010 production is sure to earn similar praise.

Tickets for “Christmas Cabin of Carnaween” are $15 for adults and $12 for students and seniors. Performances are Friday, Dec. 3, 10 and 17, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 4, 11 and 18 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, Dec. 5 and 12 at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.; and Sunday, Dec. 19, at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. at ArtSpace, 410 S. Maple Ave., Falls Church.


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