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Inis Nua Theatre Company

Arts

A Look at the Past and the Future at the Immigration Center

(Photo by Tom Reing)

Young people and those who’ve been around a lot longer have a lot to learn from each other, and a good deal to share with the rest of the world.

That’s the general idea behind “How I Got Here – Where I’m Going,” a series of monologues to be presented Monday night at 7:30 at the Irish Immigration Center of Philadelphia, 7 South Cedar Lane in Upper Darby.

The monologues will be presented by three actors from Philadelphia’s acclaimed Inis Nua Theatre Company, and the material is drawn from both the senior and youth programs at the Immigration Center.

Tom Reing, the theatre company’s founder, is directing the presentation.

“It’s an intergenerational piece where we have some immigrants who became Americans, and some first-generation people,” says Reing. “Then we have some young people who have connections to Ireland as well and are part of the youth group—they’re the next chapter of the story.” Continue Reading

Arts

Definitely Not the Whole Truth

A scene from "The Walworth Farce."

A scene from "The Walworth Farce."

Tom Reing, artistic director of the Inis Nua Theatre Company, recalls the moment when the curtain came down on one of the earliest performances of Enda Walsh’s dark comedy, “The Walworth Farce.” He looked at his four actors and thought to himself, “it looked like they had just run a marathon.”

“The Walworth Farce” is a study in complexity. It is a play within a play in which an Irish father and his two sons, who left Cork for a dismal life in a London council flat, daily re-enact the stories behind that flight … stories that are not all true. This bizarre performance is interrupted by the arrival of a supermarket employee toting a bag of groceries one of the sons left behind at checkout.

To hear Reing tell it, it’s easy to understand why this play exacts such a toll on the actors. Bill Van Horn plays Dinny, the father; the sons are played by Harry Smith as Blake and Jake Blouch as Sean. Hayley is played by Leslie Nevon Holden.

“‘Farce’ is very quick. If it’s slow, the comedy doesn’t work. And you have these eruptions in the play within the play. There’s very high emotion, and very high-tension themes. The actors are running around and moving from room to room to do different scenes. One of the actors (Harry Smith) has to play all three women, and he has conversations with himself.”

Even the set is complex, he says.

“It takes a lot of work to make their flat look decrepit. These guys don’t clean… it’s three men. The set has a working sink and a working refrigerator. It has a tape recorder that they use on stage. There is a wireless signal in it, and it’s connected to the computer that is connected to our light board and sound.”

There are plenty of props, too, courtesy of Reing and a March trip to Dublin. While there, he packed a bag with Tesco (a supermarket chain) bags, spreadable cheddar, Mr. Sheen (a floor and furniture polish), and Pink Wafer biscuits.

Reing regards “Walworth” as a natural for Inis Nua, which presents contemporary works from Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales. The company previously presented Walsh’s harrowing “Bedbound.”

“Enda Walsh is really hot right now,” says Reing. This play seemed like another great example of his work. It happened serendipitously. He (Walsh) was just nominated for a Tony for his stage adaptation of ‘Once.’”

Reing finds the theme of “Walworth” fascinating. We all tell ourselves stories about our lives, but those stories don’t necessarily reflect the whole picture. “You embellish,” he says. “You tell the story so it’s favorable to yourself.”

So maybe it isn’t the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The complete, unvarnished truth about ourselves might just be too hard to live with. One line from the play sums it up best for Reing:

“‘It’s my truth, and that’s all that matters; it’s what you do to keep going on.”

The play runs through May 27 at First Baptist Church, 1636 Sansom St., in Philadelphia.

Tickets here:
http://inisnuatheatre.ticketleap.com/walworth-farce/#view=calendar

Arts, Music

Craicdown 2011

Martyn Wallace, your emcee.

Martyn Wallace, your emcee.

The upstairs stage at World Cafe Live regularly shines the spotlight on talented musical artists. The actors, singers and musicians who headlined the 2011 Craicdown benefit for the Inis Nua Theatre Company on Tuesday night had to have been among the most creative.

Inis Nua presents plays from Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England. The performers who took the stage Tuesday night were in one way, shape or form associated with the theatre company.

Some of the musicians, like actors Jake Blouch and Damon Bonetti, seized the opportunity to claim rock star status, replete with shredding guitar solos. Others, like New Zealander Rosie Langabeer, took a much more theatrical approach, at times verging on cabaret. (The Proclaimers’ “I Would Walk 500 Miles” on accordion—whoda thunk it?)

Presiding over the night’s festivies was actor Mike Dees in the guise of character Martyn Wallace from “Dublin by Lamplight.”

It was all good. Sorry to say we couldn’t stay for the whole show, but we’ve captured many winning moments.

Arts

Help the Inis Nua Theatre Company Get to NYC

Jared Michael Delaney as "Frank and others." Photo by Katie Reing

If they can make it there, they can make it anywhere.

At least that’s what the folks at Philadelphia’s Inis Nua Theatre Company are hoping. But they’re going to need help from you.

More specifically, they’re hoping to take their acclaimed production of “Dublin by Lamplight” to the Big Apple as one of the featured plays in the 1st Irish Theatre Festival, which runs from September 7 to October 4. (See our review. We loved it. Or as we theatre reviewers say: It was “boffo.”)

“Dublin by Lamplight” is booked to run four weeks—24 performances in all— at the prestigious off-Broadway 59E59 Theatre.

Inis Nua, an extremely creative bunch, produces plays from Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales. Their talent has not gone unnoticed, certainly not by local theatre goers. But someone else pretty important also noticed.

“Elysabeth Kleinhans, the artistic director of 59E59, came and saw the show (Dublin by Lamplight) during its last week,” says Tom Reing, Inis Nua’s founder and artistic director. 59E59 is one of the participating venues. “That’s when she offered us a slot. I think she had an idea we were interested in doing this, but I had no idea she was coming. She e-mailed me the day before. The last time we were in New York, we were in an off-off-Broadway house, but 59E59 is much more of a destination point for people.”

All pretty exciting. But before they get to New York City, the theatre company needs a little traveling money—$40,000 to be exact, of which they have raised $26,000. Moving the play to New York for an extended run is a costly proposition, involving everything from travel and housing costs for the cast and crew to piano rental.

What’s more, they need it no later than September 1. Inis Nua continues to raise larger amounts through some of the traditional non-profits, but just important are the smaller-scale grassroots efforts.

“We’re doing a multi-pronged way of raising money,” says Reing. “We’ll also be doing things like happy hours and other events. We’re basically taking a leap of faith that our supporters will help us out and we’ll be able to do this. It’s such a great opportunity.”

Reing is especially eager to present this particular play. “It’s one of the reasons I started this company,” he says. “When I first saw this play in Dublin in 2002, I was blown away by it. I would love to have directed it, but I didn’t have the money at the time. This past spring, I had the money to do it justice.”

You can help Inis Nua do the play justice in New York City. Navigate on over to the Kickstarter Web site to make a pledge. The company is attempting to raise $5,000 on Kickstarter, which bills itself as “a new way to fund and follow creativity,” of which $2,470 has been pledged as of today.

It’s easy to make a pledge, and it’s all in an extremely worthy cause. Please pledge today.

Arts

Review: Inis Nua Theater Company’s “Dublin by Lamplight”

Jared Michael Delaney as "Frank and others." Photo by Katie Reing

 

Delight (noun):

1. Great pleasure; joy

2. Something that gives great pleasure or enjoyment.

3. Inis Nua Theatre Company’s current production of “Dublin by Lamplight.”

Take a little vaudeville, throw in a little silent film comedy the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, and Harold Lloyd, sprinkle liberally with cheap gags, commedia dell’arte makeup, and, because it’s Irish, a smidge of Republican sentiment (and we’re not talking the GOP here), and you have the recipe for one delightful evening at the theater. Even if the theater is a century old gothic church on Philadelphia’s Broad Street.

In Inis Nua Theatre Company’s production of the Michael West wild “Dublin by Lamplight,” six actors play 30 to 40 parts in white face, the only prop is a chair, and the painted backdrop plays a role for about six minutes. Still, your imagination takes you through the streets of Dublin, on stage and back stage at a turn-of-the-century theater, a dingy garda station, and the catwalk of a bridge, led by the actors who use broad gestures and a physicality just short of mime to bring everything you can’t see to life. The story is told in third person, with the actors describing each scene as they jump into it. Composer John Lionarons sits stage left at a piano, playing accompaniment, adding to the silent film ambiance of the play.

The story: In the early 1900s, Willy Hayes (Charlie DeMarcelle) is the proverbial starving artist (really starving) who is attempting to launch a new theater company, the redundant Irish National Theater of Ireland. To produce the debut play, “The Wooing of Emer,” he must woo the wealthy and the Republican-leaning feminist, Eva St. John (Megan Bellwoar), who is promised a starring role in both the play and Willy’s life. Willy’s brother, Frank (Jared Michael Delaney), is an actor and a drunk, not necessarily in that order. He is also a patriotic Republican who is only slightly torn between loyalty to his brother’s theater company and exploding a load of gelignite under the limo of the King of England who is visiting Dublin. Frank has been carrying on an affair with a young maid, Maggie (newcomer Sarah Van Auken), who is also erstwhile seamstress for the company. She is much coveted by Jimmy (Kevin Meehan), a young man with a rolling gait that suggests a birth defect or many years before the mast. Though the play needs no comic relief, if it did, it would be ably provided by Martyn (Mike Dees), an effeminate actor who is given many of the best lines.

As Willy and several other characters, Charlie DeMarcelle is a wonder. He brings impeccable timing and strong comic physicality to the part—slipping and sliding on the stage as precariously as if it were coated in ice.  He would have made Buster Keaton jealous. Jared Michael Delaney transformed himself so well and so often (Frank, a British undercover man, and several others) that it was hard to remember that one actor was playing many different roles. It takes more than a quick wardrobe change to pull that off—it takes acting, and Delaney acted the hell out of those characters. Mike Dees’s Martyn is hilarious, and Sarah Van Auken, as the maid who plays Eve to Megan Bellwoar’s Margo Channing (see: Bette Davis’s “All About Eve”) when Eva St. John is jailed for demonstrating in the streets, was just delightful.

And, I’m happy to say, so is this play. I’d see it again.

“”Dublin by Lamplight,” by Michael West, is directed by Tom Reing, artistic director of the Inis Nua Theatre Company. It runs until May 14 at the Broad Street Ministries, 315 South Broad Street, Philadelphia. To order tickets, go to the Inis Nua website. You can also call 215-454-9776.

 

Arts

The Roar of the Greasepaint

Actor Jared Michael Delaney, in character. Photo by Katie Reing.

Can six actors play 40 characters while wearing painted-on masks?

We’re about to find out. The Inis Nua Theatre Company’s production of the ground-breaking play, “Dublin by Lamplight,” opens on April 27 at Broad Street Ministry on the Avenue of the Arts in Philadelphia.

The play is set in 1904 when the King of England is paying a visit to Dublin where Republican sentiment is high and the atmosphere volatile. At the same time, a group of actors in the “Irish National Theatre of Ireland” are trying to put on a play called “The Wooing of Emer.” While the company producer is doing a little wooing himself—of a local rich woman who is leading protests against the British and whom he hopes will fund the play—his brother is gathering explosives to protest in his own way.

Inis Nua Artistic Director Tom Reing has been waiting a long time to bring the play to the US. He first saw it in 2004 when he was training at England’s Corn Exchange Theatre Company. Written by Michael West, whose “A Play on Two Chairs” was Inis Nua’s debut play, “Dublin by Lamplight” was directed at the Corn Exchange by Chicago-born Annie Ryan, who is also West’s wife. It wasn’t until Reing was able to get funding (and not by wooing any local rich women) that he was able to afford to produce a play with six actors. (And he’s not saving money by making them play 40 parts—it’s in the play.)

“It’s a dream come true for me,” Reing says. “This is the play that inspired me to start Inis Nua and we’re finally doing it.”

There’s more than a hint of Commedia dell’arte about “Dublin by Lamplight.” In the Italian style, the actors’ faces are painted to look like masks, so their characters and emotions are revealed instead by their voices, facial contortions and physical movements. It’s also true to Corn Exchange Theatre Company’s mantra, says Reing: “dancing on the razor’s edge between the grotesque, the heartfelt, and anything for a cheap gag.”

Funding for the play, which came from the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage through the Philadelphia Theatre Initiative, the Wyncote Foundation, the Charlotte Cushman Foundation and the Independence Foundation, also allowed Reing to bring in musician and composer John Lionarons to provide an original score.

“The music underscores the entire piece. It makes it feel like a silent move soundtrack but obviously we have dialogue,” Reing says.

Though Inis Nua’s season of Irish, English, Scottish and Welsh plays are usually staged at the Adrienne Theatre on Sansom Street, “Dublin by Lamplight” will unfold in the Sunday school room of the Broad Street Ministry which now occupies the Chambers Wylie Presbyterian Church, a Gothic Revival Church built in 1901, right across from the Kimmel Center. The setting couldn’t be more apt.

“There are six archways on two floors where all the classrooms were and the center of the room where they used to have choir practice is what we’re using for the performance,” says Reing. “Since the play takes place in 1904, we’re getting a lot of mileage out of the setting. We knew we couldn’t use the Adrienne because the style needed depth and height. We use only one chair, our only set piece, with a backdrop. The physicality transforms the stage. There’s a lot of ambiance.”

And, like many Irish plays, it is “riotously funny,” Reing says, “and then at the very end. . .well, I’m not going to tell you.”

You won’t have to wait for it for too long. Preview night is April 26, and the play officially opens April 27 and runs till May 14. Tickets are $20, $25 and $30 and can be ordered online or by emailing the box office at boxoffice@inisnuatheatre.org.

The play stars Jared Michael Delaney, Mike Dees, Kevin Meehan, Charles Delmarcelle, Megan Belwar, and Sarah Van Auken. Makeup by Maggie Baker.

See more of makeup artist Maggie Baker’s magic here. Photos by Katie Reing. And go behind the scenes at Inis Nua’s blog.