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8 Weeks in March with AIRE cover photo

8 Weeks in March with AIRE 2011

Recommended with reservations

Distributed by Folkfilms, 16 Chestnut Rd., Brunswick, ME 04011
Produced by Jim Sharkey
Director n/a
DVD, color, 88 min.

College - Adult
Theater, Storytelling, Irish Americans

Date Entered: 04/14/2011

Reviewed by Linda Frederiksen, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA

For a city of its size, Portland, Maine, has a robust arts scene, characterized in part by a large number of local playhouses and regional theater companies. New Yorkers Susan and Tony Reilly left city jobs to join this growing community of artists, musicians, and performers and founded the American Irish Repertory Ensemble (AIRE). Beginning in 2004 with John M. Synge's The Tinker's Wedding and Other Tales, AIRE has presented high quality theatrical productions, focusing on classic and contemporary Irish and Irish American works. Each play takes approximately 6 weeks to plan and rehearse, followed by a 2-3 week run. In this short documentary, filmmaker and Maine resident Jim Sharkey follows the preparation for one of the company's 2010 offerings: Juno and the Paycock by Sean O'Casey.

Short interviews with the Reilly's, along with Juno's director and actors demonstrate the enthusiasm and passion these local artists have for the work they're doing, From the first meeting and read-through of the script to scene blocking, from raids on the local college theater department for stage props to the excitement of opening night, the camera follows the work that goes into a production of this sort. Viewers interested in small, local, community or regional theater will enjoy seeing how the play progress from the written word to a full-scale production.

Because of issues with copyright, a final staged production of Juno and the Paycock by the AIRE company could not be used in the film. Sharkey fills this gap with photographs and home movies of his own Irish heritage, hoping to show a connection between the play's production, the preservation of Irish culture and tradition and personal history. It is a tenuous link, however. The narratives never really mesh, however, resulting in a whole that is made weaker by its separate and disjointed parts. Recommended with reservations.