A! Magazine for the Arts

Kathie Barnes performs "Independence: The True Story of Dr. Mary Walker."

Kathie Barnes performs "Independence: The True Story of Dr. Mary Walker."

Contagious Irish energy plus historical theater

February 24, 2020

Historical American heroism meets contemporary contagious Irish music in March in separate events under the auspices of Mary B. Martin School of the Arts at East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, Tennessee.

The five-member Irish band Goitse starts off March with a blend of traditional and contemporary music, while the next week, the focus turns to American history as the Martin School features “Independence: The True Story of Dr. Mary Walker.” Tickets for the performances are $20 for general admission, $15 for seniors and $5 for students with ID.

On Tuesday, March 3, Goitse, which means “Come here” in Gaelic, brings from Ireland “the roots of tradition with the freedom of creativity,” says FolkWorld.

Under the vocal leadership and fiddle playing of Áine McGeeney, named Best Female Vocalist of 2016 by the Irish American News, the quintet has been praised for its “energy and creative zeal” by Irish Music Magazine, “scalpel-like rhythms” by The Irish Times and “scintillating, graceful, soaring music” by FolkWorld.

Goitse’s musicians trace their band’s roots to the University of Limerick’s Irish World Academy of Music and Dance and since their academy days, have become what Roots Magazine calls “a powerful force” in Irish music worldwide.

Performing a blend of their own more contemporary compositions interspersed with traditional tunes from the countryside of Ireland and abroad, Goitse nows tours the U.S. about three months a year, as well as on their side of the Atlantic. “It’s always good to broaden your horizons while keeping it relevant to the tradition,” accordion player Tadhg O’ Meachair tells TradConnect blog. “You can still hold true to the tradition and explore other directions.”

The band, which has released four critically acclaimed recordings, also features Colm Phelan on bodhrán, James Harvey on banjo and Conal Ó Kane on guitar. Phelan was the first World Bodhran Champion in 2006 and won the All-Ireland two consecutive years.

On Thursday, March 12, at 7:30 p.m., Dr. Mary Walker, the first female surgeon in the U.S., takes the Bud Frank Theatre stage in the form of actor Kathie Barnes. “Independence: The True Story of Dr. Mary Walker,” features not only the historic and heroic story of Walker, Civil War surgeon and prisoner of war, but the writing and creativity of Lloyd J. Schwartz, a co-producer of “The Brady Bunch” and “Gilligan’s Island;” writer for “Love: American Style” and “Alice,” and other TV classics; and a network executive at ABC.

Schwartz has had 34 produced plays, including two historical plays, “The Great Adventure,” about Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, and “An Evening with John Wilkes Booth.”

“Independence” had its world premiere in Seneca Falls, New York, the birthplace of the women’s movement, as part of the 100th anniversary celebration of women getting the right to vote in New York.

The one-person play focuses on Walker, an abolitionist, the first female surgeon, the second female doctor in the U.S., and the only woman to have been awarded the Medal of Honor. She was assigned to the 52nd Ohio Infantry in 1864 based in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and near the Union front lines after the Battle of Chickamauga. While serving near the front lines, Walker was taken prisoner, yet later traded, and finished her war service as a surgeon.

Further expressing her independence, Walker began to dress in men’s clothing, from top hat and bow tie to pants and shoes. She was arrested several times for “impersonating a man.” She attempted to register to vote in 1871 but was turned away.

Barnes, a 35-year veteran of the stage, screen and television who portrays Walker in the play, said her life has been greatly influenced by the role. “As women, we all stand on her shoulders,” Barnes tells Oswego News Now. “She’s actually made me a stronger woman. She has really influenced me and inspired me to never give in no matter how tired I am.”

For more information on Goitse, visit goitse.ie. For more on “Independence,” visit http://independencedrmarywalker.com.

For more information about the Martin School of the Arts events or tickets, visit www.etsu.edu/martin or call 423-439-8587. For disability accommodations, call the ETSU Office of Disability Services at 423-439-8346.