Inis Nua Theatre Company will team up with Drexel University’s Mandell Professionals in Residence Project (MPiRP) to present a revival of Dublin by Lamplight by Michael West. Inis Nua’s breakout hit from 2011 will be remounted with some familiar names, a grand two-level stage, and the talents of co-op students working side-by-side with the professional actors. Using commedia dell’arte make-up stylings and Storytellers theatre, the cast of six will portray 40 different characters in the fast-paced tale about the launch of the Irish National Theatre. Dublin by Lamplight runs November 9 to 20th at Drexel’s Mandell Theater (3201 Chestnut Street).
Come back to Dublin, 1904, as the Irish National Theatre of Ireland is ready to burst into life in a city teeming with poverty and political unrest. As the Irish are struggling for independence, we are gripped by many stories: Will the show go on? Will the King of England be assassinated? Will the laundry girl get her big break? Our cast of six portray 40 different characters in this fast-paced tale. The play takes place in the course of a single day and its styling is a mixture of Vaudeville, American Story Theatre (in which the characters narrate their stories directly to the audience in third person), and Commedia dell’Arte (though the traditional masks of Commedia dell’Arte are replaced here with stylized makeup). Fading stars, whores, rebels and romantics irreverently expose their strange and lurid world.
Nominated for three Irish Times ESB Irish Theatre Awards 2004, Dublin was originally staged by The Corn Exchange in Dublin. Michael West has collaborated with The Corn Exchange many times, including A Play on Two Chairs (also staged by Inis Nua). Inis Nua Artistic Director Tom Reing studied at The Corn Exchange and immersed himself in their signature style. Reing says that he “loved the mix of stylized physical acting and strong storytelling in the Corn Exchange style. The style also creates a hyper, dream-like world that I'm happy to play in and explore." He knew he wanted to bring this unique play to Philadelphia. When he did, it became the largest-selling production in Inis Nua’s history.
The North American premiere of Dublin by Lamplight was presented by Inis Nua in April 2011 andreprised in September 2011 at 59E59 in New York City as part of the First Irish Theatre Festival. Inis Nua won the First Irish award for best ensemble and the New York Times commended them for “fully commit[ting] to the play’s broad physical comedy.”
Dublin by Lamplight is directed by Tom Reing and features Mike Dees from the original 2011 production. Joining Dees is Rachel Brodeur (from Inis Nua’s Hooked) as well as four Drexel University students (Jacob Kemp, Marlyn Logue, Drew Sipos and Joey Teti). The production team includes Maggie Baker (costumes and makeup) along from the original 2011 production, along with Inis Nua regulars Meghan Jones(set design), Andrew Cowles (lighting) and John Lionarons (music).
With the revival, Inis Nua adds a fourth show to their traditional three show season. The show also means the company is playing double duty, as Radiant Vermin by Philip Ridley will first open this Friday, October 21st at the Louis Bluver Theater at the Drake.
The additional show, overlapping schedules and short three-day turnaround in between is quite the contrast from Inis Nua’s early days, when the company had no stage, no set and no money.
“We started telling our stories in art galleries, abandoned warehouses, bars and clubs,” said Reing. “I never expected to have full seasons or the following we have. I thought I’d do just one show a year at the Philly Fringe and that would be it. But we built a following, won critical acclaim and attracted donors along the way. We went from having a full season of main stage shows, to adding a fourth production and expanding our special event roster.”
From starting off in 2004 with nothing but two chairs and two actors in an art gallery, to last year’s milestone year with record audiences, a new home, two sold-out shows and seven Barrymore nominations, the journey has been long, winding and certainly rewarding. For the Drexel students that will work with Reing and his team, they will have the unique opportunity to soak up those 13 years of lessons learned along the way.
“For many years I have been looking for an opportunity to collaborate with Inis Nua,” said Nick Anselmo, director of the theater program in the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design. “The playwrights from Ireland and the United Kingdom that they produce are some of the best storytellers in the world. Fascinating stories performed or told in amazing ways. I know our students are getting a lot out of learning this style of acting and I’m looking forward to seeing this hilarious award winning production.”
Reing added, “We now have the resources to do the shows I want to their fullest potential. Moreso, we have the opportunity to share what we’ve learned with the city’s next generation of theatre artists. I am so thrilled about our growth in recent years, and this is truly another way we can leave a last- impression on the city’s theatre scene.”
Dublin by Lamplight opens on Friday, November 11 at 8:00pm, with previews on Wednesday, November 9, and Thursday, November 10, at 8:00pm. Dublin by Lamplight runs for a total of 10 performances, through November 20, 2016. All shows are at Drexel’s Mandell Theater at 3201 Chestnut Street. Tickets are on sale for $10 (Drexel students, faculty and staff), $15 (students) and $30-35 (general admission). Tickets are available by calling 215-454-9776 or visiting www.drexel.edu/performingarts. The Mandell Professionals in Residence Project (MPiRP) is supported in part by a grant from the Samuel P. Mandell Foundation.