A Northsider-led theater group is making its international debut this June.
The Carlow University theater class, which has a partnership with Carlow College in Ireland, will travel to the city of Carlow for 10 days during its annual Eigse Carlow Arts Festival to perform a play.
Allegheny West resident and Carlow Theater Manager Steve Fatla came up with the idea a few years ago when Carlow University first partnered with Carlow College, but it didn’t become a reality until this year.
“I guess it’s the ‘all things in time’ principal,” Fatla said.
The trip to Ireland is organized as a residency class, which Fatla teaches. Unlike a normal class, it meets every other week for two hours, and the performance in Ireland is part of the grade.
Another thing that makes the class unusual is the demographic. Out of 16 students, 11 are current Carlow students, four are Carlow alumni and one is the theater’s technical director, Bill Holman.
Holman, who lives in the Central Northside, had to enroll as a student in order to travel with the group because only professors and students can go. Even though he’s a “student,” he will still be the group’s technical director in Ireland.
“I would have preferred to get paid,” he said. “It was an opportunity to take a show overseas. It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”
As of now, Fatla and Holman said they hadn’t chosen a play to perform.
“There are a whole bunch of ideas being floated among the students,” Fatla said, but because it will be a traveling show they are limited in what they can pick.
Holman said, “Given that we’re going overseas we can’t take a lot of lights, a lot of props, a lot of set pieces. You need to make sure you do something freeform, much more acting-based.”
Another challenge is that the group does not know where they’ll be performing yet, and they may not know before they have to pick a show and begin rehearsing in April and May.
In addition to performing at the festival, the students will see performances at the Abbey Theater in Dublin and attend a lecture by a Carlow College professor.
In class, Fatla is teaching them about Irish theater, and students read four to five plays plus essays and criticism for each class period.
“[The students] understand the need for preparation and the group mentality,” Fatla said. “[It shows] a true functioning educational principal, which is ‘Read this because you want to.’”
Holman’s favorite play so far is Cathleen Ni Houlihan, a nationalistic one-act play about Ireland’s struggle for independence written by William Butler Yeats and Lady Gregory in 1902.
Although they haven’t yet chosen a play, Holman said they will most likely pick an American play. “As we are going over there to learn about their culture, we owe it to them to present our own culture.”
Carlow is not paying for the trip, so the students have to do their own fundraising, Fatla said. Whatever they don’t raise, they have to pay out of pocket.
“They have to work or hit up Grandma or steal it or however they get it,” he said.
So far, they’ve had basket raffles, shoveled snow and held a successful flee market with donated items. Fatla said another flee market is in the works for April or May. Anyone who would like to donate items can email Fatla at firstname.lastname@example.org.