Performances to Showcase Students’ Experience in Ireland

Pensacola – In what has become an annual affair, the University of West Florida’s Irish Experience study abroad program participants will share their summer work in several events over three days at the Center for Performing Arts on the UWF Pensacola Campus.

Everything begins with a musical recital at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. It will include Irish folk songs and a piece by Irish composer Liam Lawson called “Far Beyond.”

An art gallery exhibition, which runs through Oct. 1, opens at 7 p.m. Friday, and theater students will perform plays at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

“You will see two very different shows,” said Scott Hudson, assistant professor of acting and directing. “The first, ‘Riders of the Sea,’ is a tragedy. The Irish love their tragedy. It’s very much a part of their culture as is a sense of survival. You will see these sensibilities coming out in the play in terms of the language and its metaphors. The other show, ‘A Pound on Demand,’ is a high comedy, a physical comedy that you could even call screwball.”

Called “The Emerald Coast Meets the Emerald Isle,” the month-long exchange program, now in its third year, lets UWF theater, music and art students experience another culture in what program coordinator Howard Reddy, associate director for the Office of Community Engagement in the Division of University Advancement, called “a triumph in cross-cultural exchange programming, delivering excellence in education, primary research, creativity and performance.”

A total of 19 students participated in this years’ program at Carlow College in Carlow, Ireland. All students attended workshops relevant to their fields, as well as an Irish studies course designed especially for them by Dr. Eric Derr, coordinator of the International Office at Carlow. Classwork was integrated with field trips supporting their discussions, including the Carlow Arts Festival and the acclaimed Borris House Festival of Writing and Ideas, a literary event that showcases writers, artists, film-makers, political commentators, musicians and architects.

Included in the experience was a UWF student performance of Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town,” directed by Hudson and produced by theatre department Chair Charles Houghton.

“Overall, the experience was wonderful. You saw so much of the culture,” said Kira Houser, a senior majoring in theater. “Being in such a different place definitely taught us how to be more flexible in handling our schedules and in how we approached our acting.”

Music students under the direction of assistant professor Blake Riley presented recitals at the Carlow Cathedral and the Royal Academy of Music in Dublin.

“I was enthralled with the music experience I received with my colleagues,” said Amy Irby, a senior majoring in music. “Our trip was filled with gorgeous music from the locals, learning Irish ballads in our Irish music course, and working with professionals from Ireland. It was a truly immersive experience.”

Visual art students took a master class with Irish artist Jacinta Crowley.

The Department of Art students were able to practice their craft and challenge themselves in ways not possible without visiting a new environment, said Nicholas Croghan, director of The Art Gallery at UWF.

“This included critiques, workshops and demos by professional Irish artists from within their studio spaces and galleries,” Croghan said.

Included in the art show that opens Friday at The Art Gallery inside the Center for the Fine and Performing Arts are drawings, watercolors, and photographs that were created while in Ireland during the study-abroad course. The show also includes paintings, etchings, mixed-media work and ceramics that were inspired by the travels and finished in the studio upon return.

“The trip definitely influenced my work,” Jasmine Holmes said.

Holmes, a senior who is studying for a bachelor’s degree in fine arts, said the landscape in Ireland had the biggest impact on her.

“The different rock formations and all the distinctive lines and textures we encountered were amazing. There were so many patterns in nature and such intricate lines that we were exposed to as we were exploring. I tried to incorporate all that natural beauty into my portraiture.”

All of the culminating Irish Experience events are free and open to the public. Due to limited seating, tickets are required for the music recital and the theater productions. Call 850.857.6285.