PICT’s Harvard-educated director, Aoife Spillane-Hinks, transports audiences to Ireland’s coast.
Pittsburgh, PA, June 25, 2015- July is peak vacation season, and for two hours, audiences can travel with PICT Classic Theatre to the wild southwest coast of Ireland. Sharon’s Grave, by Irish audience-favorite John B. Keane, runs July 16 – August 1 in the Henry Heymann Theatre inside the Stephen Foster Memorial. The play is directed by Harvard-educated and award-winning Aoife Spillane-Hinks, who marries her penchant for creating thought-provoking theatre with Irish folklore, making this a play that has something for everyone.
“Keane is an extremely important playwright in Ireland,” explains Sharon’s Grave director Aoife Spillane-Hinks, “He is done in all of the major stages all over the country, but he is also done in the very vast and important community theatre scene over there (‘amateur drama’), and that is where he was first embraced. He is from a town called Listowel, where he ran a pub. He was a pub owner, a playwright and a major fixture in the town.”
Keane is loved for his portrayal of the superstitious, pagan-based ideals found in the more remote places in Ireland— an attitude that has mostly vanished with the coming of the modern age. He does this in Sharon’s Grave by placing a mystical legend of his own creation at the center of the realistic story about a Kerry woman in 1925 who is trying desperately to hold onto her land after the death of her father.
“There is this mythic princess called Sharon with an evil handmaiden call Shíofra,” says Spillane-Hinks about Keane’s legend. “So basically, jealous Shíofra tricks Sharon into falling off of this cliff. As Sharon falls, she hangs onto Shíofra to save herself, and she pulls in Shíofra as well.” Interestingly, you never meet these mythical figures in the play, yet the legend has a very strong influence on how the events of the story unfold.
“I think it is really exciting that we are able to bring this play to Pittsburgh to make the case for why it would be a good play to do in any country,” expresses Spillane-Hinks, who first came to Pittsburgh in 2013 to direct PICT’s production of Our Class. She then returned last season to direct Waiting for Godot, which was the runner-up for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Play of the Year. PICT is delighted to welcome her back to direct Sharon’s Grave, as her experience with Irish culture will make for a highly authentic portrayal of the script.
“My great-grandmother came over from County Kerry exactly 100 years ago, and she met my great-grandfather, another Irish immigrant from a nearby village, in Boston,” revealed Spillane-Hinks, whose Irish heritage has had an incredible impact on her life. Originally from Connecticut, Spillane-Hinks studied folklore and mythology at Harvard, received her Master’s Degree at the National University of Ireland in Galway, and has been living in Dublin ever since, where she is the Co-Artistic Director of Then This Theatre.
“Sharon’s Grave is like popular entertainment,” says Spillane-Hinks. “It is rich and beautiful, but your average person would go see it, and they would love it because it is a great yarn. It is incredibly funny. It is dark and a little bit horrifying. And at the center of all of it is this gorgeous love story in a wild world of myth, of family wars, and of huge hungers waiting to be satisfied.”
PICT Classic Theatre is committed to the creation of high-quality, professional thought-provoking theatre of substance. We accomplish this mission by investing in and promoting the community and region, and by producing and presenting classics and the “modern” classics of Irish and world theatre. We continue to explore innovative ideas that showcase the emotional power of a play and its ability to stir the soul in unimaginable ways.
ABOUT SHARON’S GRAVE:
Current and past PICT Featured Artists are showcased in dynamic roles.
“We’ve got some great Pittsburgh actors in Sharon’s Grave,” says Spillane-Hinks. “I worked with Martin Giles and James FitzGerald last year on Waiting for Godot. So when Alan asked me to work on Sharon’s Grave, I was thrilled to see these two roles that will be perfect for them.”
Playing the colorful traveling medicine man is 2015 Featured Artist Martin Giles, who is in his fourteenth season at PICT Classic Theatre. He most recently directed How the Other Half Loves, by Alan Ayckbourn, and appeared in PICT’s 2014 Season in Great Expectations, Macbeth, Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme and Waiting for Godot.
James FitzGerald, a 2014 Featured Artist, returns after playing Mr. Detweiler in How the Other Half Loves to play the villainous role of Dinzie Conlee, who is trying to bully his cousin into giving him her land. Dinzie Conlee suffers from a disability that prevents him from walking, so he depends on his brother, Jack Conlee, to transport him on his back. Played by J. Alex Noble, who was last seen in PICT’s production of Macbeth, Jack Conlee brings his brother with him wherever he goes. Mr. Noble and Mr. FitzGerald are now working very closely, with the help of some creative costuming, on perfecting their collaborative stage movement.
The heroine of the story, Trassie Conlee, will be played by 2014 Featured Artist Karen Baum, who was last seen at PICT as Mrs. Detweiler in How the Other Half Loves and Clarinda in For the Tree to Drop. Trassie is a single woman caring for her dying father, played by John Henry Steelman, and her intellectually disabled brother, Neelus.
Alec Silberblatt will play Neeleus. Audiences may remember him as Mairtin from PICT’s 2013 production of A Skull in Connemara. Alec is a member of Middle Voice Theater Company, and he is currently working on a commissioned play for NYU’s Steinhardt School.
A handsome traveling thatcher, Peader Minogue, arrives in the Conlee household in the midst of the family feud. Byron Anthony, who recently made his PICT debut in Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme, returns to PICT to play Peader Minogue. Byron is a member of the Amoralists Theater Company in New York, and he is a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and the City College of San Francisco.
PICT is also pleased to welcome back Sharon Brady, who was last seen in PICT’s productions of Woman and Scarecrow and A Skull in Connemara. She will be playing opposite Jill Keating, who is making her PICT debut. Keating has appeared locally at The Pittsburgh Playhouse, Pittsburgh Public Theatre and bricolage, and she started her career as a ballerina with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre.
Aoife Spillane-Hinks will direct Sharon’s Grave, and the artistic team for this production includes scenic design from 2015 Featured Artist Johnmichael Bohach. Other designers include lighting design by Keith Truax, costume design by Joan Markert (PICT’s 2014 Anne D. Mullaney Award recipient), sound design by Elizabeth Atkinson and props by James Thome.
John B. Keane and Pagan Ireland:
John B. Keane’s Website:
Up Next for Aoife:
By John B. Keane
Directed by Aoife Spillane- Hinks
The Henry Heymann Theatre inside the Stephen Foster Memorial
July 16 – August 1, 2015
Opening Night reception following the July 18 performance at 8 p.m. at The Porch (Free to ticketholders for the July 18 performance.)
Post-Show Talkback: Discussion and Q&A will follow July 19 performance
Early Tuesday Happy Hour with free appetizers at Lucca Ristorante prior to the July 21 show (Free to ticketholders for July 21 performance.)
Pre-show lecture from 7:00 to 7:30 p.m. before the July 22 performance. (Free and open to the public.)
What’s the BIG DEAL… about Sharon’s Grave? A special package combining dinner at Lucca Ristorante, show-enhancing conversation and your seat at the performance on Thursday, July 30.