The University of St. Thomas’s theatre, drama, and dance departments performed “The Voyage of the Orphans” Nov. 14-16 and 21-22, and will hold its last performance of the play tonight, Nov. 23, at 7:30 p.m. in Jones Theatre.
The play tells the story of the arduous journey of a group of hard-working Irish orphan girls, who were taken from workhouses all over Ireland and shipped to the colony of Australia to work as servants and populate the colony through marriage. About 4,000 Irish girls and women ages 14-19 made the journey between 1849 and 1851.
“The Voyage of the Orphans” starts with a chilling statistical breakdown of the Irish workhouses of the 1800s, a place where people, mainly children, who had no family or means of support would be offered room and board in exchange for workhouse labor done. The workhouses were known for grueling workdays, small food rations, and corporal punishment for disobeying the rules.
The play also tackles contemporary social justice issues such as migration and racial prejudice. In the play, the orphaned girls are considered morally corrupt because of their social status and ethnic background. Nonetheless, this group of girls, all with different personalities, work together on the journey to Australia and hold on to hope of a better life.
“The Voyage of the Orphans” is acted out by a refreshing all-female cast.
Memorable performances include junior science education major and theatre minor Cat Farrior as Margaret Murphy, the oldest of the three Murphy sisters; sophomore biology major and drama minor Duyen Nguyen, who plays the youngest Murphy sister, Bridget; and senior liberal arts major with a concentration in drama Madison Kiekel, who plays the part of Kathleen Murphy.
Senior drama major Mariah Harmony acts the part of Ellen Sheedy, the toughest of the bunch and a girl equipped with sharp wit.
Sheedy, Harmony’s character, also provides comic relief throughout the otherwise-heavy subject matter.
“The Voyage of the Orphans” was written by Fiona Quinn from the County Limerick Youth Theatre and is masterfully directed by the Chair of the Fine Arts, Drama, and Dance Departments, Claire McDonald.
Reserved seating tickets can be purchased online.