TREADING the boards is a well worn tradition in the village of Coon and the hills that surround this magical part of North Kilkenny.
The Kilquan Players celebrate their 21st anniversary this year and will take to the stage later this month with John B Keane’s Many Young Men of Twenty.
One of the original members of the group, Patsie D’arcy from Coon explained how the group was formed. “There was a development committee here back in the early 90’s and they suggested that one of the ways to make some money for the local community was to bring a cast down from Dublin and someone else suggested that we start up our own drama group. Mike Tunstead, Ann Healy and Martin Healy, to name but a few were all there at the start,” he added.
The first production was staged in April 1992 with two one-act plays The Homecoming and The Marriage Plan and since then there has been one production a year.
Last year the group performed The Wake in the West which ran for seven nights in total - including performances in Slieverue and Moneenroe. “I act in most of them, I really enjoy the acting and when we come together for the two or three months before the show there is always great fun. We are all friends as well as being members of the drama group and most of us live in a few miles radius of the village. There is a great community element to it,” he added.
Director of Many Young Men of Twenty Michael Casey explained how he got involved with the group. “This is my fourth production with them. At the time their director had gone somewhere else and they asked me if I would get involved and that was the beginning of the story,” said Michael who founded KATS in Kilkenny city some 25 years ago. The Cork man has been involved in drama since school and was heavily involved in the Kildare Drama Group before moving to Kilkenny.
Rehearsals for their current production, which has a cast of 16 started in late October. “Initially it was two nights a week and then it went to three. There is great dedication and co operation and that makes the job of a director easier,” he added.
Michael Somers was only a boy when he attended the first ever meeting of the Kilquan Players and has been bitten by the bug ever since. “I was in primary school when they had their first meeting and is now PRO of the group. “This is my fifth production with the Kilquan Players. I am also involved in the Barn Owl Players and I am also involved in the Little Theatre Group in Carlow,
“I am from Coon and this is home. It is local and there is no place like home. All the cast are from ten minutes from here and we all know each other well,” he added.
The Kilquan Players have done trojan fundraising work for the community since they were founded and they raised monies for a new kitchen in Coon Hall. “Every cent that comes from the drama group is given to local charities. We raised €14,000 for the carpark in the village and in total €170,000 has been raised for various local charities. We always have great support through word of mouth. Last year we sold out every night and we had to turn people away on the Sunday night,” said Michael.
“There is a great team involved in the production including Brian Williams who does the Set. He is a Welshman who has been involved in the group since 2004 and was involved in set design in London in the 1960’s.
According to director Michael Casey the subject matter of the current production is as relevant now as it was when it was written. “It deals with rural emigration and that is just as relevant now as when it was first put on the stage in the early 60’s. People are leaving the country now due to the failure of institutions. It deals with rural communities and how they are affected by this and how it affects the people living in them. It deals with the cynicism which is as present now as it was then. Despite the tough subject matter there is great humour in the play. There are lessons in the play that should have been learned but are being spelt out again. It is not only a good night’s entertainment but an education for people as well,” he added.
Many Young Men of Twenty runs from January 25 to 27 at Coon Hall at 8pm. Tickets are priced at €10. For more information call (087) 222 8911.