By Harry Keaney
In the play "Moonshine," currently running at the Irish Arts Center at 553 West 51st St. in Manhattan, "Bridget," played by Jacqueline Kealy, is infatuated with "McKeever," played by Cavanman John McConnell. But while "Bridget’s" passion goes unfulfilled in the drama on stage, reality, it seems, is somewhat kinder.
"Bridget is a schoolgirl who has a major crush on McKeever, and Johnny and I are going out," Kealy said, adding that she met McConnell about three years ago during their performances in a play entitled "The Lobby," which was written and directed by Dubliner Don Creedon.
"We both were attracted to each other in that we had colorful pasts," Kealy said. "Both of us were coming out of broken marriages and we had sympathy for each other — and understanding."
Kealy, 31, a business manager at an investment management company called Dietche & Field Advisors, has performed in Irish Repertory Theatre Productions of "Da" and "Yeats Plays," and the award-winning "Ourselves Alone" at the Here Theatre, on Spring Street in Manhattan. She has also starred in "Without Warning," "Rinty," and was last seen playing Maud Gonne in "Poet Pass By."
But while actors and actresses are usually concerned with reviews of their performances, Kealy, as the producer of "Moonshine," finds that she is now beginning to think like a business manager in the theater too.
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She discovered "Moonshine" about four years ago. "I never dreamed when I found it that I would ever produce it," she said. "I took it to a number of theaters but none were interested and so I decided I would do it myself.
"It’s been a hard slog, especially financially," she added. "I never looked at this as a business. But now we have to get people on seats. It would be so easy to just go in and say my lines, but now I have responsibility for the crew and cast members, and there’s the financial responsibility."
Kealy said it costs about $95,000 to put on a play like "Moonshine," which, she points out, is an Equity union production.
Kealy has been on the stage since she was about 19. She was born in Birmingham but returned while a baby with her parents to Tuam, Co. Galway. There followed six younger sisters, including a set of triplets.
"I always loved movies, but I never thought of myself as an actress," she said. "I was very friendly with a group in Tuam, the Tuam Theatre Guild, and the director asked me to do a part in the play "Many Young Men of Twenty." Another director saw me doing it and offered me a part in another play and from there it went on and on. It’s a great outlet, and an entertainment alternative to just going out to the pub."
Kealy came to the U.S. nine years ago. For two years she attended acting classes in HB studios in Manhattan. Her first New York performance was as Pegeen Mike in "The Playboy of the Western World."
Kealy admits that when she first arrived in the Big Apple she found it somewhat daunting. "I wanted to be independent, I didn’t want to depend on my family if I was acting," she explained.
As a working actress, Kealy said, she "would love" to see other people creating their own work. "There’s isn’t that volume of Irish plays to accommodate the number of actors out there," she said.
Although she would like to act full time, Kealy acknowledges the reality that there are thousands of actors seeking work in New York. "Are they all going to make it?" she wonders.
Right now, however, Kealy is absorbed with making a success of "Moonshine," a title taken from Shakespeare’s "A Midsummer Night’s Dream."
"Now I find, especially with reviewers coming, that I do not have time to be concerned with my own personal review but that the play as a whole will do well," she said. "We were lucky to get a cast that gels so well and that Jim Nolan, the playwright, from Waterford, could come out and help us for the last week."
Despite the opportunity that New York has to offer, Ireland still tugs at Kealy’s heart. "I think I would like to move home some time," she said. "I miss my family. Every time I see my nephews in Ireland they are a year older."
After "Moonshine," Kealy and McConnell hope to "go away together" for a while. By then they will have well earned the opportunity to relish their own personal midsummer night’s dream — make that a midfall night’s dream.