Founded in 2011 and currently in its second season, The Irish Heritage Theater is a professional company dedicated to presenting and preserving the rich legacy of Irish Theater that has been created both in Ireland and during the long history of the Irish in American Theater.
In 2012 the theater premiered its fist play Philadelphia Here I Come! at the Walnut Street Theater in Philadelphia, staring Community College of Philadelphia students and staff.
This October the theater continues by bringing the three one act comedies of Irish playwright, Lady Gregory in A Night with Lady G! to the city. Once more, students and faculty of CCP will be involved.
"The best part about this is the whole experience and especially working in a professional theater as well," Keith Miller, former CCP student and one of nine actors featured in the play, said. "It's different, I've never played with an accent before especially in live theater. Of course in my own spear time with family and friends, but because this is the Irish Heritage Theater its very important to kind of get that solid."
Miller plays one of the lead characters in Spreading the News, one of the three one act plays. Without giving too much away, Miller described his character Jack Smith simply as an all around good person.
That is until a hearing impaired villager in the play fuels her small Irish town's love of gossip that unfortunately involves good ol' Jack.
"I think with any actor you always get that little nervousness before you go on," Miller said. "But once you're up there [on stage] it's like second nature. Everything kind of just falls to the side and becomes natural."
Miller graduated last year from CCP, receiving his Associates Degree in Theater. He became interested in acting during his senior year of high school while performing and singing on stage during a school play. It was at the second night of performing that Miller knew he wanted acting to be a part of his future.
Both Miller and others see the Irish Theater as a way to enrich themselves further in the art of acting by learning and working along with professionals of the field.
"I've been debating and looking to if I want to continue my studies, but right now thankfully Peggy has kept me busy acting wise, but one day I would like to get some more training," Miller said.
Peggy Mecham, who teaches theater at CCP, will also direct the one act with John Gallagher. She looks forward to working with Miller and other former CCP students in the production.
The Rising of the Moon, of which Miller is also involved in, is the story in the one act about a Sergeant searching for an IRA rebel who has recently escaped prison. The theater's final act is an "odd couple" of sorts called The Workhouse Ward, in which two old warring bachelors without any close relatives or financial help create their own private hilarious hell. When a mysterious woman arrives, the men have to make a surprising decision about their futures.
"Lady Gregory was one of the founders of the Abbey Theater and a major significant Irish playwright," Mecham said. "Many of Lady Gregory's plays tell an interesting slice of Irish life at the turn of the century, but because the playwright was under produced there may be plays that people have not had the opportunity to see."
Since 2009, CCP graduate Michelle Mercier has worked with the college in their theater department and has assisted Mecham in other CCP productions as well. Mercier started as a student at the Art Institute of Philadelphia and later attended and graduated from CCP.
As the costume designer for Lady G, Mercier is responsible for not only creating the look for the time period of which the one act takes place, but making sure each piece of clothing translates well on stage.
"Every time I do a different play I learn a lot about the history during that time period, the country, and its people," Mercier said. "You have to think about how the actors are going to move and what they are trying to communicate, so the clothing has to represent Lady Gregory, but also what the director and script writer want to communicate."
A Night With Lady G will run from October 9-25th at the upstairs studio at Plays and Players Theater in Philadelphia.
The show will have thirteen performances and curtain is at 7:00pm Wednesday through Saturday and 2:00pm on Sundays. Doors will open 30 minutes before. Tickets are $10-$25. Some discounts on certain performances will be made available through the Philadelphia Fun Guide. Seating is very limited, so advanced reservations are strongly recommended.