By Jan Creaser
During the holidays, many people nostalgically reflect upon their lives, remembering the good times, the hard times and ultimately, their personal journey filled with both difficult and easy decisions about what direction their lives should take. This year, the Cappucino Musical Theatre Group tries to capture those moments of reflection and the emotion of tough choices in their new production The Claddagh Ring.
Using a collection of Celtic songs compiled by director Elly MacKenzie to tell the story, The Claddagh Ring focuses on Kirsten-Ann–now ensconced in a Canadian nursing home near the end of her life–and her relationship with her granddaughter to whom she reveals the turning points of her life as a young woman in Ireland.
The show’s author, Anne-Marie Bruzga, had a complex task to perform while penning the script.
"It was my job as the writer to come up with a plausible story line to incorporate the songs that Elly had collected," she explains. "You have to remain true to the story, but also remain true to the songs."
A claddagh ring is an Irish promise ring that represents friendship, loyalty and love. All of these elements are incorporated into what Bruzga calls a "universal story of love and the journey towards it."
"It’s sentimental and emotional," says Bruzga. "It’s a love story in many ways: between family and friends, and about finding true love and holding onto it."
Bruzga loosely based the story on her own grandmother’s life, but with embellishments and liberties taken.
"First off, my grandmother was Hungarian, not Irish," laughs Bruzga. "But I feel I captured her spirit–the biggest difference is my grandmother ate cabbage rolls instead of drinking Guinness."
Bruzga says the biggest challenge she faced writing this piece was the Irish factor. Being of Hungarian descent without even a drop of Irish in her background meant she spent an immense amount of time gathering information, facts and first-hand accounts about Ireland and its people before commencing work on the script.
"Picking a name for the town where the story takes place was actually the hardest part," she explains. "I didn’t feel I could just steal the name of an existing town without having ever been there or met any of its people."
In the end, Bruzga settled on a fictional name for the town: Dachaidh. The Gaelic word means "home" and Bruzga feels that it best describes the story’s theme.
The play runs from Nov. 23 to Dec. 9 at the BurnsWest Theatre and will feature live music from members of the Scottish Traditional School of Piping.