As a drama student at Catholic University, Brianna Letourneau had the good fortune to spend the summer of 2007 studying theater in Ireland. Hearing plays by Brian Friel, John Millington Synge and other Irish dramatists performed by actors in their native accents was euphoric for a collegiate thespian. But perhaps more inspiring, on a practical level, was the night she sat in Galway’s Town Hall Theatre watching Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company perform Cormac McCarthy’s play “The Sunset Limited.”
“Seeing American actors performing an American play on that stage — that was something that sounded like a fabulous, never-gonna-happen-to-me experience” as an actress, Letourneau recalled.
This summer, that never-gonna-happen thing happened to her when the District’s Keegan Theatre Company opened its 2014 tour to Ireland with a three-day run of “A Few Good Men” at the Town Hall. Letourneau was onstage playing Jo. The 16-person contingent returned home happy from the Emerald Isle on Sunday afternoon, about 24 hours after the final curtain came down in Kilkenny.
From 1999 until 2011, touring Ireland was an annual pilgrimage for Keegan, a small non-Equity troupe based in Dupont Circle. Then the company’s main overseas contact died, and it took two years of networking for artistic director Mark A. Rhea to arrange this year’s five-city tour. Keegan’s repertoire varies wildly, but each season includes work by at least one or two Irish dramatists. When traveling abroad, the company sticks to American classics; past exports have included “A Streetcar Named Desire,” “The Crucible” and “Fool for Love.” Aaron Sorkin’s “A Few Good Men” was a riskier choice, given the dense, rapid-fire dialogue and a plot that hinges on American military machinations.
Director Jeremy Skidmore traveled with the ensemble for the first week, and the actors quickly realized they were going to have to change their approach. Specifically, they had to slow down and use clearer diction to deliver expository dialogue during the opening scenes. Watching from the wings, stage manager Nikki Hoffpauir became convinced that patrons were listening carefully and enjoying the play.
“We picked the right show,” Hoffpauir said. “Not knowing how it was going to translate was a concern, but afterward, people wanted to stay and talk at the theater bars. People sat and just gushed.”
The show is not going on, but a high-stakes Livestream conversation about Euripides is set for Friday night at Georgetown University.
As the Post reported last month, Georgetown had to scrap its ambitious plan to stage “Syria: The Trojan Women,” after the State Department denied visas for the 12 amateur Syrian actresses cast in an adaptation of Euripides’s classic. The production had been organized by journalist-screenwriter Charlotte Eagar; her husband, filmmaker William Stirling; and Syrian stage director Omar Abu Saada. Georgetown was to offer the outside-of-the-Middle East premiere, and Columbia University had planned to add an additional performance in New York.
Now, because of State Department concerns that the women would not return home, none of those plans has come to pass. Instead, Georgetown has organized “Voices Unheard: The Syria: Trojan Women Summit.” Abu Saada will speak to the audience from Damascus, Syria, while as many actresses as are able will gather at the Makan Arts Space in Amman, Jordan. HowlRound, an online forum that supports new play development, will provide technological assistance. After the Livestream conversation and a selection of clips from the play, a panel of experts will discuss the Syrian refugee crisis. The summit is set for 7:30 p.m. at Georgetown’s Gonda Theatre. Tickets are free but must be reserved.
Arena Stage artistic director Molly Smith wed her longtime partner, Suzanne Blue Star Boy, on Sunday. The two met in Alaska, where from 1979 to 1998, Smith founded and ran the Perseverance Theater in Juneau. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who has become Washington’s go-to jurist to officiate at artsy same-sex weddings, conducted the ceremony. About 180 guests attended the event, which included a ceremony in Arena’s Kogod Cradle, followed by hors d’oeuvres and cocktails on the outdoor terrace overlooking the waterfront on a gorgeous sunny day.
Dancing in the rehearsal hall followed, although guests had to compete with an impressive list of performer-well wishers that included E. Faye Butler, Erin Davie, Maurice Hines, Nehal Joshi, Brad Oscar, Glenn Pearson and Nicholas Rodriguez.
Ritzel is a freelance writer.