An enthusiastic crowd of thirty-five filled the Killaloe Hagarty and Richards Township Hall on the evening of August 16 to attend an Opeongo Reader’s Theatre performance sponsored by the Killaloe and District Public Library. Pictured above with Librarian Nicole Zummach are the Opeongo Reader’s Theatre performers: (from left) Mark Woermke, Zummach, Linda Shulist, Jane Corbett and Kris Marchand.
Librarian Nicole Zummach, serving as MC, welcomed everyone and explained how pleased the library was to host this literary and historical show featuring Irish literature, humour and historical documents which gave insight into life in Killaloe and environs in the 19th and early 20th centuries. These included:
- the 1852 journal of Charlie Thomas the Hudson’s Bay factor at Golden Lake
- an 1874 school inspection report on Hagarty School Sections 1 and 2
- three selections (Christmas in Killaloe, Killaloe law enforcement and Killaloe Picnics) from the writings of Killaloe’s poet laureate, Martin Garvey.
In addition to the history, the ensemble consisting of Jane Corbett, Kris Marchand, Linda Shulist and Mark Woermke, regaled the audience with laugh-laden selections read with a good deal of the brogue. In these, the audience learned just how far a dirt-poor Irishman would go “fer a foin pair of boots”; how Dennis took the pledge; how Father O’Flynn addressed gambling from the pulpit; and how Daniel O’Connell waxed geometric. But all was not laughter, as more serious and reflective pieces about love and loss, fleeting youth and exile from one’s homeland rounded out the evening.
Producer Barry Conway was very pleased with the show, the group’s third and largest to date. He said,
We had an excellent, enthusiastic crowd turn out; proof that people new and old are very much interested in the rich cultural history this area has to offer.
Audience at the Killaloe and District Public Library for Irish literature, humour and a good dose of Killaloe history.
This he suggests, has implications for the future of the group:
… [W]hether it involves listening to those ancient Irish voices as we did here in Killaloe tonight or the upcoming Whitney show centred on 19th Century Algonquin Park explorers, the future of the Opeongo Reader’s Theatre looks very promising indeed, if only because we know that local history matters as much as the great ideas found in classical literature.
Local historians Tom Connolly and Shirley Mask Connolly found the show to be a good balance between interesting Irish and local material. Mask Connolly said,
The talented readers were superb with dramatic and moving renditions.
Jane Stack Gutoski who attended with her sisters was enthusiastic in her praise for the show:
The Stack sisters all agree, it was spectacular. Thank-you to the Opeongo Reader’s Theatre for the best kick-off to the Irish Gathering ever!
Performer Linda Shulist felt this performance was magical:
I think we all hit a milestone on this journey. I am so happy to be doing this…. I shall always treasure these memories.
KHR Councillor Brian Pecoskie enjoyed hearing the stories and poems about local and Irish history and said that he and his wife, Elizabeth Burchat, look forward to future Opeongo Reader’s Theatre shows based on other local historical themes. He said,
Thank you for researching, planning and presenting such an entertaining program. Thank you for coming to Killaloe to open the Irish Gathering.
Editor’s note: If you missed the performance, you can listen to the podcast. Just search for Opeongo Reader’s Theatre on iTunes or click on the links below: