Actress Caitríona Ennis describes Sean O’Casey’s DruidO’Casey as partaking in “a religious experience” and a “marathon.” Through a partnership between the University of Michigan’s Musical Society and Druid Theatre, the Power Center will be hosting the plays from Oct. 18-21.
“There’s nothing quite like it and I think there’s a real communion between the audience and the actors on those trilogy days because we all go through something together,” Ennis said. “There is something about these plays that individually there’s something to be had from everybody but it’s personal. There’s so much that happens and there’s so much heart that they’re a very individual experience as well. What you’ll take from it could be totally different from what I’d take.”
DruidO’Casey is the collection of three performances “The Plough and the Stars,” “The Shadow of a Gunman” and “Juno and the Paycock.” Ennis is within a cast of 18 and serves in the roles of Minnie Powell in “The Shadow of a Gunman” and Maisie Madigan in “Juno and the Paycock”
“[Sean O’Casey] has such an incredible rhythm that he writes that it trains your muscles as an actor,” Ennis said. “I really appreciate how he plays comedy and tragedy off each other so really [these parts] are an actor’s dreams.”
All three plays focus on the experiences of people during different moments in Ireland’s history, tastefully mixing together tragedy and comedy. The Plough and the Stars are set a few months before and during the Easter Rising from November 1915 to April 1916. The Shadow of a Gunman is set a few years later during the Irish War of Independence in May 1920. Juno and the Paycock’s backdrop is the Irish Civil War in 1922.
“They’re brilliant characters but they’re so human, they’re so flawed but so brilliantly truthful,” she said. “To play comedies so brilliant and really leans into the farcical, energetic, beautiful world and then to torture them with such tragedy of the human condition and the human spirit.”
Although there are dates to see all three of the productions performed together, individual tickets are available for different dates.
“There is this energy inside the theater at the end of trilogy days that is otherworldly,” Ennis said. “We’ve all experienced something but it’s different every time. To commit to a full day, I think you take the characters to heart because you live that day with them. You live in that tannament world. You live in that Sean O’Casey world for the day.”
Ennis is from Dublin so she treasures the opportunity to show the world these stories, but also recognizes the privilege of playing “fierce, bold and brilliant” female characters.
“There’s some sort of magic that I think theater is still touching on that we’re all craving day to day which is connection,” she said. “[Theater] holds up a mirror to the world, a mirror that we can gently look at ourselves and reflect on our own lives or the world that we’re living in.”
Ann Arbor is the last stop on the DruidO’Casey tour, which started in Galway, Ireland at the beginning of July.