Last night I experienced the most magical kind of dinner theatre. At the westside home of some friends of hers, my colleague in Anthropology at SFU, Dara Culhane, gathered together a mixed group of additional friends--some of whom knew each other, many of whom didn't--to watch and listen to her perform her one-woman show Uabhar, which she has been workshopping for some time under the direction of Noah Drew.
Uabhar, we learned, is an Irish Gaelic word that has some 25 different meanings, ranging from vainglorious pride to loneliness. It is also, we further discover, what links Dara, willful daughter, to her father, Garry, a largely absent (and, for that, impossibly large) presence in her life. Over the course of two acts, using a mix of textual documents (including a wonderful trove of letters from her father that serve variously as mnemonics, props, and narrative prompts), and adopting an extraordinary range of voices, Dara has crafted a beautifully intimate piece of memory-theatre that asks, among other things, how we can achieve reconciliation without forgiveness.
Dara is not a professional performer, and so it was incredibly brave of her to not just share this work with us, but also perform it herself. On top of that, following the two very emotionally intense and likely exhausting acts, she made herself available to receive our critique. Which we duly gave in one of the more spontaneous and generous and constructive examples of a performance talkback I have ever witnessed. Responding seriously to Noah's questions about what worked, and what we felt didn't, we had much to say. But the gist of it can be boiled down to this: it's an extraordinary show, and one that is already production-ready. Watch for it soon on the local stage.
And on top of all of this we got dinner--a feast of salmon and salads and desserts that fed the conversation around Dara's piece for some time after the performance proper. Now that's my kind of theatrical experience.
Thank you Dara.