Just opened at the Seattle Children’s Theatre, Into the West, tells the story of Ally and Fin, poor children of Irish Travellers, whose lives are changed forever when the duo meet a mysterious white horse. Through the legend of Tír na n’Og and equal parts love, loss and bravery, this lively, suspenseful drama is proving to be a hit with older kids. And not only for its enchanting story and its three actors who play a myriad of roles, but for its musician who accompanies them with traditional Irish music.

into-the-west-actors-accordian

photo: Elise Bakketun

The Story
Siblings Fin and Ally are grieving the loss of their mother and struggling to understand why she died. Older brother Fin remembers her, but Ally doesn’t and tries to imagine what she looked like. Their Pa, once known as the “Traveller King,” has left the nomadic life behind and moved the family of three into a run-down Dublin tower block. Not used to being settled folk, Pa slides into alcoholism and the children stop going to school, preferring to spend all day watching the telly. But when a mysterious, otherworldly horse comes to them from the sea, filling their lives (and their tiny flat) with happiness and a bit of trouble, the pair escape into the west where their real journey begins.

into-the-west-father

photo:  Elise Bakketun

Into the Wild West
While Fin and Ally’s Grandpa is walking on the beach, a white horse canters out of the surf towards him. Since she appeared to come from the sea, Grandpa names her Tír na n’Og, after the land of eternal youth beneath the sea. Tír na n’Og follows Grandpa to Dublin, where Ally falls in love with her. Soon horse, kids, and Pa are all squeezed into their tiny flat and trouble is not far behind.

It’s not long before Ally, Fin and Tír na n’Og are on the run from the police and a rich man who wants Tír na n’Óg to be a champion show jumper. They head west to the coast (that’s the west of Ireland, of course) but because the children have watched too many Westerns on the telly they get it confused with the American Wild West. It might as well be, as they are like cowboys on the run from the law and the bad guys. Scary, but fun, adventures ensue.

into-the-west-telescope

photo:  Elise Bakketun

On Stage
Costume designer Melanie Burgess researched Irish Travelers from the last fifty years to come up with the costumes for Ally, Fin and Pa. It’s a contemporary play but the costumes and characters make it seem timeless.

into-the-west-costume-sketch

artwork: Melanie Burgess/Seattle Children’s Theatre

Set Designer Carol Wolfe Clay was inspired by the industrial colors and feel of Dublin, and the green hills, cliffs and open sea of western Ireland. She also took inspiration from Irish Travelers, their homes and carts and their beautiful mixing of color and textures. The playwright, Greg Banks, makes it clear to the audience that the locations should not be precisely created, leaving the actors and music to tell the story—and your imagination to fill in the details.

into-the-west-play

photo:  Elise Bakketun

The Score
A musician shares the stage with the actors, playing traditional Irish music on the accordion and guitar. Each location in the play has a particular musical motif, helping the actors take you there in your imagination. You will go from noisy Dublin to the busy police station and through the countryside to the sea. “The accordion is a folk instrument heard the length and breadth of Ireland, and is also a brilliant theater instrument as you can play a tune and an accompaniment at the same time,” says composer Thomas Johnson. The guitar strings are tuned to a special Irish tuning called DADGAD which has a mysterious sound, perfect for the mystery of Into the West.

into-the-west-horse

photo:  Elise Bakketun

Good to Know
1. Into the West deals with the death of a parent and a family’s grief. However, there are still quite a few laughs in this heart-warming story, and it really is a fun performance for older kids.

2. If you would like more information on the play, a complete synopsis is available online. Of course, there are spoilers aplenty, but if you’re not sure this play is right for your child, we recommend reading it first.

3. The Active Audience Guide also provides a great behind-the-scenes look into every aspect of the production, so check it out before or after you see the show.

Stick Around After the Show
As with all Seattle Children’s Theatre productions, the Into the West actors and musician are happy to take questions from the audience after the play, and stay to sign your program and take a photo with you. Psst! The actors especially love to hear questions from young theatregoers.

More Details
The Seattle Children’s Theatre recommends this play for ages nine and older.

Total run time is 75 minutes, with no intermission.

ASL Interpreted Dates: Public – March 11 at 2 p.m.; Schools – March 9 at 10:30 a.m.

Seattle Children’s Theatre
201 Thomas St.
Seattle, Wa 98109
206-441-3322
Online: sct.org
Tickets: sct.org/Tickets/Buy/Production/16012

Dates: Now through March 19, 2017
Times: Thurs.-Fri. at 7 p.m.; Sat.-Sun. at 2 p.m. & 5:30 p.m.
Cost: Thurs., $22/Adults & Kids; Fri., $27/Adults & Kids; Sat.-Sun., $40/Adult, $33/Child. Tickets can be purchased through the SCT Ticket Office or online.

Have you seen Into the West? What did you think of the play? Tell us in the Comments below.

— Helen Walker Green