Theater Emory to present premiere of `American Wake'

Theater Emory will present the world premiere of American Wake, a new work recounting the Irish emigration to America (beginning in the mid-19th century) as a result of the Great Famine of 1845 in Ireland. Written by Emory resident actor/director Tim McDonough, the work is the result of a summer of research in Ireland chronicling the Irish immigrants of the 1930s. It first appeared as a staged reading at Emory last spring and will run March 29 through April 13 in the Mary Gray Munroe Theater, Dobbs Center.

"Isn't it God's truth that they need us to go? It's emigration that's been keeping the country alive," says a character in American Wake. Researched in Ireland by McDonough and Janice Akers and developed from the stories of Irish emigrants in the 1930s, American Wake chronicles the hard choices that were required in a land too poor to provide a living for its children. McDonough and Akers will serve as co-directors of the production.

The lure of America's streets paved with gold, the lack of opportunity at home, the economics of families sustained by infusions of money sent back home, the political oppression--these and other factors contributed to a culture of emigration.

Set in the midst of an American wake--the farewell party given by friends and relatives to those whose emigration to America meant that they would not be seen again--the play reveals the variety of passions that music, dance and drink all tried to mask. The wake of McDonough's story is one given for four young people who are off to America the following morning. All have different reasons for going, different responses to the pressures of leaving and connections to those who are being left behind or who chose to stay.

Cast members include professionals Theresa O'Shea, Pat Hurley, Jim Peck, Teresa DeBerry, Alan O'Reilly and Sandra Sparks. Students include Dan Coleman, Matt Huff, Park Krausen, Anna Bahney, Allyn Dennis, Barry Carman, Adam Richman, Matthew Pomerantz and Katherine Orr.

McDonough's regional theater credits include Trinity Square, the American Repertory Theatre, the Sacramento Theatre Company, The Alliance Theatre, Georgia Shakespeare Festival, Horizon Theatre, Theatre in the Square and Theater Emory. An associate professor in the theater studies department, he teaches acting, but also has written and adapted a number of works for Theater Emory. As an outgrowth of his work, begun in 1980 as co-founder of Theater Works in Boston, McDonough is especially interested in using material outside the traditional theatrical texts as resources for the theater. Since his arrival at Emory in 1990, work in that direction has produced Once in Europa (from a novel by John Berger), The Things They Carried (from Tim O'Brien's novel of the same name) and Georgie Nobody (from a case study in Jules Henry's Culture Against Man).

Production design for American Wake includes lighting by Emory instructor Judy Zanotti, set by Emory assistant technical director Mark Erbaugh, and costumes by Emory senior Terese Rabbitt.

Show times are 7:30 p.m. on Friday, March 29 (opening night) and 8 p.m. March 30, April 4, 5, 6, 10, 11, 12 and 13, with a 3 p.m. matinee on Saturday, April 13.

Tickets are $10 general admission. For ticket information, call the Emory Box Office at 727-6187.

-- Joyce Bell

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