‘The Beauty Queen of Leenane’ Opens at Sweet Briar

| March 23, 2012

Molly Harper (seated) and Sarah Muth play Mag and Maureen Folan, a mother and daughter with a tragically dysfunctional relationship in Martin McDonagh’s “The Beauty Queen of Leenane.” Photo by Kylene Hayslett.

Sweet Briar Theatre’s spring production, “The Beauty Queen of Leenane,” will open at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 29, in the College’s Babcock Studio Theater. The performance follows a pre-show lecture at 6 p.m. during dinner in Johnson Dining Room in Prothro.

Tickets are reserved and limited. Admission for the March 29 performance is free for all students and teachers. For all other performances (March 30 – April 1), admission for non-SBC patrons is $10 for adults, $7 for seniors, $5 for students and free for children younger than 12 (although this show is recommended for mature audiences), as well as for Sweet Briar community members. Tickets go on sale Monday, March 19. Call (434) 381-6120 or email [email protected] for reservations. Credit card purchases can be made at www.lynchburgtickets.com.

Written by Martin McDonagh in 1996 and winner of a Tony Award, “The Beauty Queen of Leenane” tells the “darkly comic tale of a plain and lonely woman whose manipulative, aging mother interferes in her first — and possibly final — chance of a loving relationship, [which] sets in motion a train of events that leads inexorably toward the play’s terrifying dénouement,” according to the Sweet Briar Theatre season brochure.

The setting of the story is Leenane, a village in Ireland’s poverty-stricken Northwest. Deprived of opportunity or education, McDonagh’s characters attempt to solve their problems with violence, a common thread in McDonagh’s works.

“There is a sense that the Irish have been fighting for so long that they are desensitized,” said William Kershner, director and chair of the theater and dance department at Sweet Briar.

This doesn’t mean that the play isn’t funny. After all, McDonagh is “very interested in combining casual violence with humor,” Kershner said, adding that it was a pleasure to watch Sweet Briar students tackle their extreme roles.

“They get to show such depth of emotion, from romantic to anger to emotional instability,” he said.

The entire play takes place in a kitchen and features just four characters: 40-year-old Maureen (Sarah Muth ’14), mother, Mag (Molly Harper ’13), construction worker Pato, played by Lynchburg actor Omar Ott, and Pato’s brother, Ray (Caden John Campbell ’13).

Sweet Briar’s small studio theater offers the perfect setting, where the audience can see individual characters close up and be drawn into the action in a way that wouldn’t be possible on a bigger stage.

“I wanted it to be small and intimate,” Kershner said. “The audience even has to come through their house to get to their seats.”

After the big-stage production “Baby,” a concert musical performed during Sweet Briar’s Fringe Festival in February, “The Beauty Queen of Leenane” offers a welcome change of scenery, he added.

But the play doesn’t rely on intimacy alone. Based on technical director Cheryl Warnock’s design, Krista Franco, founding member of Endstation Theatre Company, is painting the set to provide a visual of Ireland’s stereotypical dreariness. Franco, a graduate of the Florida State University School of Theatre M.F.A. program who now lives in Connecticut, has been working with the theater department since 2006.

“It’s a really great partnership because I love to work with the students and help bridge the relationship between the school’s theater department and Endstation,” she said.

“Some of those students even wind up interning for Endstation over the summer, which is awesome.”

To complete their senior projects, Margaret Mason ’12 and Isabella Formento ’12, respectively, are in charge of costume and light design.

For more information, call (434) 381-6228 or email [email protected].


Contact: Janika Carey

Category: Performing Arts, Theatre Arts, Uncategorized