Tara Players celebrate 25 years of Irish drama

By Jason Westman

Centretown’s Tara Players kick off their 25th season of theatre this weekend with an evening of song and dance.

The non-profit theatre group has been presenting audiences with a unique atmosphere for the last quarter of a century at St. Patrick’s Community Hall behind St. Patrick’s Basilica.

Theatre manager Kay O’Hegarty describes the planned ambiance for the opening night in charmed Irish tones that indicate her roots: “It’s our first Irish evening, ‘The Land of Hearts Desire’ is a one-act play by William Butler Yeats, the kick-off to the season. We usually have some Irish musicians and dancers, and of course there’ll be Irish food and a bar.”

Henry Beissel, director of “The Land of Heart’s Desire,” says the play is “very poetic, and poetic plays are not usually seen in our theatres today, with the exception perhaps of Shakespeare. The Irish have a very strong lyrical note [in their plays] and almost all Irish playwrights are very poetic – it’s a wonderful way to get in touch with Ireland and its traditions.”

Since 1976, the Tara Players have presented Irish plays and culture at St. Patrick’s Hall.

John O’Keefe, an occasional actor with the troop and their marketing director, says this is due to “the rising popularity of Irish culture, the fact that Irish playwrights are renowned for using language in a beautiful way, and the continuing support of audiences drawn from Centretown and beyond.”

“The group’s longevity can be directly linked to the remarkable dedication of its staff.What is astonishing is the amount of competence and dedication which all the people involved bring to this event without remuneration,” says Beissel.

O’Hegarty says since the group is non-profit, it is dependant on a steady supply of those enthusiastic enough to donate their spare time to collect tickets, serve drinks or assemble sets. One man bakes fresh Irish soda bread for each production.

O’Keefe says people find volunteering rewarding.

“I like the camaraderie and nice people involved with Tara. A whole variety of skills are required to stage a production from make-up to costume design, carpentry, sound and lighting.

“The thrill of performing in a play that is going well and bringing the desired reactions from audiences is hard to beat. It is addictive!”