Guns of Ireland

20150509_192002[1]If the purpose of a play is to capture a bit of life on stage, I would congratulate  the cast and crew of Guns of Ireland on a job well done. I was proud to be a part of this production, even if it was just as a part of the audience.

It’s not every day that a small town gets to host the WORLD premiere of a play, and it’s not everyday that you know half of the cast, but that was the experience I got when I went to see Guns of Ireland yesterday at the Columbia Basin College Theater. On my way in, I ran into a woman who said, “One more performance.” She had a proud smile on her face, so I asked her if she knew anyone who was a part of the production. “My son plays Fr. John Murphy.”

She beamed with pride. Her son had one of the lead roles, and her pleasure was without a doubt, shared with half of the people in the auditorium.  Guns of Ireland was written and produced right here in the Tri-Cities, and juxtaposed the 1798 Wexford Rebellion with the 1916 Easter Rising.

At a time when turmoil and conflict still exist, I have to wonder if anything has changed since 1916 or even 1798. People still struggle to be free. Citizens still fight oppression from authority.Women still have to say goodbye to their men, knowing they may never see them again. Children are left orphans as a result of armed conflict.

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The music was what moved me the most.  Mixing traditional and well known Irish music with an original song titled “Statue of Me,” the cast made almost entirely of high school students from Tri-Cities Prep (the only exception is 8 year old son of the play’s writer) sang and danced their way into my heart. Especially moving was a tender moment shared by John O’Donahue as he bid farewell to his son Patrick O’Dohanue with the song O Danny Boy and a poignant performance of original song “Statue of Me,” which echoed the lament of women left behind while their husbands went away to fight. The lyrics “They’ll never build a statue of me” resonate with anyone forgotten after losing a loved one to war. I tip my hat to the musical team behind this production.

As I watched the history of Ireland unfold before me, I was impressed by the talent of these young actors and actresses. From the sassy Moll Doyle to the sweet Grace Gifford and the brave Fr. John Murphy, the cast’s hard work definitely showed.  I have to admit, too, that I may be a little biased since I’ve known many of these kids for several years, but as they performed, my heart also soared with pride at the masterpiece they brought to the stage.

More important than the artistry was the message that these youth and their leaders brought to the community. Long after the spotlight has been dimmed and the costumes and set have been put away, we will echo the lyrics from U2’s song Sunday Bloody Sunday

And the battle’s just begun
There’s many lost, but tell me who has won
The trench is dug within our hearts
And mothers, children, brothers, sisters
Torn apart
Sunday, Bloody Sunday
Sunday, Bloody Sunday
How long…How long must we sing this song
How long, how long…’cause tonight…we can be as one

Thank you, Tri-Cities Prep and thank you Guns of Ireland for reminding us of what lies ahead when we face conflict. Thank you for bringing a slice of history and a slice of life to the stage.

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