Actor Kiana Duggan-Haas has one thing in common with the character she is preparing to portray: both girls are teens with dreams.
“Sive”is the title character in the Irish Classical Theatre Company production that will open Friday, November 2.
Duggan-Haas, the actor is a senior at Amherst Central High School and is thrilled to be part of this compelling drama. Having the title role, she says, “is not as glamorous as it sounds. I’m not the actor on stage the most, but when I’m not there, the other actors are talking about my character.”
Duggan-Haas has been involved in local theatre for 10 years, beginning in musical theatre camp, and continuing with roles in middle school and high school productions. She also performed in a Theatre of Youth production of “Madeleine’s Christmas” a few seasons ago.
“Sive” is her first paid stage role. “It’s truly incredible for me,” she says. “I’m the least experienced and trained performer in the room.” She’s surrounded by plenty of actor-educators who don’t shy away from sharing teachable moments. “They (the cast members) know I’m a senior in high school, and that means having a lot on my plate. They’re very encouraging. It’s a great opportunity for me to learn from this cast. They’re all incredible,” she says.
Duggan-Haas landed the role because director Vincent O’Neill says “She brought an innocence and freshness to the role which was not always present in the work of the more experienced actresses who auditioned. Since the play revolves around how young the girl is who is forced to marry an old man, the youthfulness of the actress was crucial in the final choice.”
Portraying Sive is an interesting learning experience for Duggan-Haas: she says her character has struggles with her identity (Sive’s mother was unmarried and died while giving birth to her), and with finding her place in an extended family that would prefer her to take a different life path. Kiana says Sive “fights back” when her aunt tries to marry her off to an older, wealthy farmer. Duggan-Haas says Sive is “fragile, with self-respect.” Mastering the Irish accent – with the intricacies of the County Kerry dialect – is something she is still learning, and she’s grateful for O’Neill’s patient direction and modifications. She says, “It takes time to get this into my system.”
In addition established ICTC actors, among them Josephine Hogan and David Lundy, there are two recent Niagara University alumni in the cast, also making their ICTC debut in this production, who with Duggan-Haas are part of the next generation for regional actors. O’Neill says, “It is reassuring to see a whole new generation of young actors who are ready to step in and maintain the high standards of performance in WNY theatres.”
Encouraging her peers to attend and participate in local theatre has Duggan-Haas’s interest, too. “I see as much local theatre as I can,” she says. “I’m often the youngest person in the room. A lot of kids my age don’t go to theatre if they haven’t heard of the theatre or know the show. Social media and internet marketing is the way to draw in younger audiences.”
For Duggan-Haas, her next theatre season will be in college, perhaps at Niagara University or Ithaca College or beyond. “I love Buffalo theatre dearly,” she says, “but I feel college should take me some place away for the next four years.”
Just come back, Kiana. Your local theatre community is waiting for you.
“Sive” opens at Irish Classical Theatre November 2 and runs to November 25. Find details and tickets here.