Sunday, October 30, 2005

Yolland(Erik Rhea) is the British soldier changing
the names of Irish places in the HSU production
of TRANSLATIONS. All production photos by
HSU Graphic Services.Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Rave Review!

Barry Blake in the Eureka Times-Standard:

"...this is the best production I have seen in years from the HSU Theatre department. See for yourself."

Last weekend! Thurs, Fri and Sat at 8 (Oct. 27-29) Gist Hall on the HSU campus.

More from Barry Blakes' review:

"Upon entering the theater, the audience is immediately struck by Jody Sekas’s magnificent set. Gist Hall always presents gut-twisting challenges for any scenic designer. For this production the set and the theatre space are uncompromisingly cohesive; they don’t seem to be battling each other. Massive, two-foot thick stone walls reach high into huge, roughhewn timber support; well-trodden stairs without rail climb to the loft. Set props are thoughtfully chosen, primitive, poor; everything breathes 19th century rural and, at the same time, aesthetically and visually supports the stout, solid tradition that will be threatened by change. "

On Bob Wells as Hugh: "...nobody has a better look, or nails his part like Bob Wells as the father of Owen and Manus and Hedge-school master, Hugh.

Damn, he looks great. And it’s not just the muttonchops. He got all of it: the handling of the language, the grace and smoothness that -- suddenly filled with rusty dread -- can barely make it up the stairs, the underplaying, the arrogance, the doubt. Wells finely captures the complexity of Hugh, a man teetering on the rail of ambiguity -- a clown, a sage."

"As Sarah, Emily Blanche gives the tiny but critical role a fine going over and a great look."

"Owen (very convincingly played by Stephen Godwin, who fills Owen with charm and guilt)"

Eden Nelson as Maire: "a strong performance"

"Jimmy Jack, the drunken classics scholar (beautifully played with gusto and fresh physical choices by the bald and astonishing James Floss) "

You have to admire director Bernadette Cheyne for even thinking of performing “Translations.”

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Historical Note

The night before TRANSLATIONS opened to a full house in Gist Theatre, the local PBS station KEET in Eureka broadcast a program on 19th century immigration. In the section on Ireland, the program described the dire events foreshadowed by this play.

The potato blight that has several characters worried, spread in subsequent years until by 1845, what has become known as the Irish Potato Famine began. But as the PBS program pointed out, there was not a true shortage of food in Ireland in those years. Other food crops were not affected, but they were for sale and export. By then most of the farms and land were owned by British absentee landlords, who also owned the crops. Potatoes were the staple of the Irish diet, of those who worked the land. Surrounded by food, the Irish starved. When they were unable to farm, they were evicted. If they owned their land, it was seized and sold.

In London, the British government did little to ease the suffering of the Irish people, believing that the workings of the marketplace should be unfettered by state intervention. Some even suggested that the famine would help correct what they regarded as overpopulation in Ireland.

Up to a million died as a result of the famine in the next six years. Many left their homes in Ireland for other parts of the world, perhaps two million. A million of them came to America in this period. Like Maire in the play, though they loved their homeland, they saw their future elsewhere.

TRANSLATIONS continues at the Gist Theatre on the HSU campus on Thursday, October 27 at 8 pm. Final performances are on Friday and Saturday nights.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Eureka Reporter

Here's a link to the Eureka Reporter article on TRANSLATIONS at HSU.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Blog Entry: Calder

Production Update! We've all managed to survive Tech Weekend, against all odds. ;) Tempers were surprisingly sedate all round for the most part, considering that we were in there from 9 until 6 on Saturday,with another tech run-through on Sunday. And that's just us spoiled actors, the tech crew were pushing hours I don't even want to thinkabout...

Speaking of, this'd be an excellent time for me to give a big old shout of appreciation to our truly awesome tech and stagecrew. The amount of work you folks have put into this show and what'scome out of that is really pretty amazing. :)I always get a major kick out of the rush of excitement in the weekleading up to opening. The additions to the set and design keep rolling in, and there's a palpable sense of all this activity buildingup to something swiftly approaching. And on the topic of 'swiftlyapproaching', I have a make-up appointment in 5. First dress rehearsal, 7 pm tonight. It's coming down to the wire... =)-Calder

Friday, October 14, 2005

Blog entry: Bob Wells (plays"Hugh")

Tis really a beautiful play..but very difficult an actor to American Irish actor would probably sail right thru it..but, nobody said acting was easy and I guess that is why we is lovely to be working with a tech staff , from Stage manager(s) thru costume, makeup, lights,.etc..who seem to get things done and are caring for talent's welfare..which is most important because actors do usually have fragile egos..and to be tended to so tenderly is most more week and we will be audience bound and I am still struggling to find Hugh...He will be there opening nite.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Blog entry: Calder Johnson (plays "Doalty")

Hey there! Checked out the site. Very cool. And the posters are truly hella wicked awesome!

Anyway, figure I'd start doing my part, so here's a brief history of me and the theater... This production feels like coming full-circle in some ways. Not so long ago, after hanging out far too late into the night with a few friends, I was convinced to sign onto HSU's production of Camelot (which also happened to be directed by Bernadette) as Sir Colgrevance, a.k.a. Misc. Chorus Knight #3. I had a kickin' enough time of it that I decided to keep at it, and ended up involved with several other local productions. These have included Cabaret at the North Coast Rep, along with Voice of the Prairie and Romeo and Juliet back here at HSU.

Being a first year grad student, I was initially unsure if putting the time required into a production was really all that wise, but working on Translations has been one of the more rewarding things I've done for for quite a while. The script is full of depth and character, the cast is all spot on and a real crack to be working with, and it's a pleasure to be directed by someone as talented and well-intentioned as Bernadette. All in all, it's one bang-up experience.


Sunday, October 09, 2005


It is a time of transition, when rural Ireland is being dragged into the modern world of British dominance. The potato blight is beginning that will soon cause a famine, leading to mass emigration to America.

“The play is about the absorption of one culture into another,” said author Brian Friel. It includes a crime, a manhunt and a central love story between star-crossed lovers, one of whom wants to seek her fortune in America.

It has been called Friel’s masterpiece, for its drama, intelligence, humor and emotion.

Hugh (Bob Wells) is the traditional schoolmaster tutoring
Manus (James Gibbons) in the HSU production
of TRANSLATIONS. Posted by Picasa

The play takes place in the country village of Baile Beag, soon to be renamed Ballybeg. It’s the summer of 1833, in and around a “hedge school”---one of the traditional and fiercely Irish private schools that taught the Greek classics in the Irish language (also called Gaelic.) Most of the population speaks Irish, and few even understand English---which leads to many complications in this play.

Though the Irish and English characters don’t understand each other, the actors portraying them all speak English in the play. This leads to humorous and touching moments---and Friel won high praise for his skillful use of this device.

Manus (James Gibbons) helps Sarah (Emily Blanche) find her voice in the HSU production of TRANSLATIONS. Posted by Picasa

Two changes are being introduced as the play begins: England is establishing free schools throughout Ireland, but subjects will be taught in English. And British soldiers are conducting a survey of Irish land, changing Irish place names to English. Historically, the survey was used to make British military operations easier in Ireland. Both actions were the beginning of the end of the Irish language.

The characters of Hugh (played by Bob Wells, one of Humboldt County’s best known actors) and Jimmy Jack (played by James Floss, another well-known local performer and director) represent the older generation, and the rich tradition of rural Ireland. In the midst of magical landscapes and the threat of poverty, they integrate the classics of western civilization into their daily lives.

Hugh (Bob Wells) helps Yolland (Erik Rhea) with the Irish language in the HSU productionof TRANSLATIONS. Posted by Picasa

The younger generation responds to changing times in various ways. Yolland (Erik Rhea) is the British soldier in charge of the survey, enamoured of the Ireland he is helping to transform. Owen (Stephen Godwin) is the Irishman with a foot in both worlds who unwittingly speeds the destruction of his home. Manus (James Gibbon) is trapped between the worlds, but Maire (played by Eden Nelson), a young and independent woman, is a pivotal character. She is torn between the well-loved landscape but crippling isolation of Baile Beag, and the beckoning vistas of Brooklyn and Boston. She is the character who is able to act decisively for her future.

Along with young Sarah (Emily Blanche), Lancey (Kato Buss), Doalty (Calder Johnson) and Bridget (Sharah Truett), they are caught between the identity of the traditional and mythic past, the privations of the present, and the newly uncertain future. Together they are introduced to the modern world---and modern brutality.

Sarah (Emily Blanche) offers flowers of gratitude to Manus
(James Gibbons) in HSU production of TRANSLATIONS. Posted by Picasa

TRANSLATIONS at HSU: For an American Audience

“It is about language and culture,” said Bernadette Cheyne, Professor in the HSU Department of Theatre, Film and Dance, and this production’s director. “It’s about how language defines and signifies culture and cultural identity, when a language becomes threatened, or as in this play, when one language is being replaced by another.”

“I particularly like this play because [playwright] Brian Friel isn’t on a soap box making a statement. He creates a context that raises a lot of questions, and asks you as an audience member to consider all the issues, and what they might mean.”

For Cheyne, directing Translations has been a long quest. “I have wanted to do this play for almost ten years.” In 2001, she traveled in Ireland collecting dialects, including those in the region where Translations takes place. Dialects are one of her specialties as an acting teacher, and audiences will be treated to the lilting sounds of authentic Irish accents in this production.

Though the play is most directly about the relationship of Ireland and England, the impact of its events are felt in today’s America. The younger generation in this play represents the ancestors of many Americans of Irish heritage, including those in Humboldt County. (In the county’s white population, Irish ancestry is the second largest, comprising between 12% and 15% of the total county population and in the Eureka-Arcata area.)

“There have been a number of political Irish plays done here since I’ve been here,” Cheyne said, “and they’ve been well attended and received. There seems to be a large audience out there with Ireland somewhere in their background. There’s a thirst for making the kinds of connections that audiences can make with the Irish plays.”

But all audience members can find resonances as well as entertainment in this tale of a variety of rich characters in an isolated village facing the unknown impositions of a larger world, forced to cooperate in the replacement of their language with another.

“Part of what we are doing with Translations, “director Cheyne said, “is translating it for an American audience.” Among those efforts are special lighting effects to provide a sense of the Irish landscape beyond the hedge school location. “We want to include some subtle references to the outside world, that perhaps audiences in Ireland or England didn’t need.”

Bob Wells, one of Humboldt County's best known actors, plays the central role of Hugh in the HSU production of TRANSLATIONS. Posted by Picasa


ERIK RHEA, Yolland

Seen here in his celebrated one-man show, "The Traveller,"
James Floss plays Jimmy Jack and is assistant director in
the HSU production of TRANSLATIONS. Photo by
Pamela Lyall. Posted by Picasa

TRANSLATIONS at HSU: Production Credits

JASON MOHATT, Technical Director
JODY SEKAS, Scenic Designer
GRETA WELSH, Lighting Designer
NEYLA RIORDAN, Costume Designer
JAMES FLOSS, Assistant Director
DELAYNE MEDOFF, Assistant Stage Manager
KATO BUSS, Dramaturg
MIMI MACE, Costume Advisor
JIM MCHUGH, Lighting Advisor
GLEN NAGY, Sound Advisor
JAYSON MOHATT, Technical Advisor

playwright Brian Friel Posted by Picasa

Playwright Brian Friel

Brian Friel is generally considered the foremost Irish contemporary dramatist, and “Translations” has been called his masterpiece. With its first production in 1981, Friel was hailed as the heir to the great Irish playwrights of the past, Sean O’Casey and John Millington Synge.

Like his great-grandfather (master of a hedge school) and his father before him, Brian Friel became a teacher. But after a decade in the classroom, his short stories published in the New Yorker allowed him to pursue writing full time in 1960.

His first play were “This Doubtful Paradise” (1959) and “The Enemy Within” (1962.) Then he was invited to Minneapolois by Tyrone Guthrie in 1963 to observe the process of regional theatre in the United States. Shortly afterwards, he wrote “Philadelphia, Here I Come!”— set in the same village as Translations, about a young Irishman considering emigrating to the U.S.--- which was produced on Broadway in 1966, and became the longest-running Irish play in Broadway history, a record not broken until 1979 and Hugh Leonard’s Da. (It was revived on Broadway in 1994.)

His most famous play in the US is Dancing at Lughnasa (1990), which won a Tony Award for Best Play and was the basis for a feature film (1998) starring Meryl Streep.

Friel has had nine of his plays produced on Broadway so far. His most recent play, The Home Place, premiered in 2005 at The Gate in Dublin, starring Tom Courtenay. Ralph Fiennes is scheduled to appear in Friel’s Faith Healer in Dublin, and on Broadway in 2006.

Friel has lived most of his life in Derry or just across the border in County Donegal, in the region where Translations takes place.

Meryl Streep in the film version of Friel's "Dancing at Lughnasa" 1998 Posted by Picasa

A Brief History of TRANSLATIONS

"I suppose I became interested in this theme because my great grandfather was a hedge school master, and my grandparents were Irish speaking," said playwright Brian Friel.

Translations was the first production of Field Day, a theatre group playwright Brian Friel formed with actor Stephen Rea, partly to produce plays for an Irish audience, and partly because having a theatre was necessary to get grant money to produce Translations. It premiered at the Guildhall Theatre in Derry in 1980.

The reception for that production was described as “euphoric,” “electric,” “triumphant,” and “a watershed in Irish theatrical history.” The Irish Press compared Friel to O’Casey and Synge, proclaiming he had “become the heir apparent to the throne of those literary giants.” David Nowlan wrote in the Irish Times that Friel “has now overtaken John Millington Synge as the prime writer of dramatic literature from Ireland this century.”

After its sold-out run in Derry, the Field Day production then moved to Belfast and Dublin (where it was a huge hit), and then a tour through other Irish towns.

Translations opened in London in 1981, where it was called “a national classic,” the most eloquent Irish play since The Plough and the Stars: possessing “a grace and conviction rarely encountered…”

Translations was produced on Broadway in 1995, starring Brian Dennehy, Dana Delany and Rufus Sewell who won a 1995 Theatre World Award for his performance.


Friel Bio

Bio with links

Friel playography

Friel on Broadway


Translations with links

playwright Brian Friel Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Coming Soon!

TRANSLATIONS---a tale of old Ireland---by acclaimed Irish playwright Brian Friel, will be performed at Humboldt State University's Gist Hall Theatre on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, October 20-22 and October 27-29.

Curtain at 8p. Tickets are $8, $5 seniors and free to students. Come by the Box Office or call 826-3928.

TRANSLATIONS is directed by Bernadette Cheyne, and presented by the HSU Department of Theatre, Film and Dance.

Much more about this play, this production, playwright Brian Friel and the performers at HSU coming soon in this space.