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Villanova Theatre’s 2023 Debut: Chrysalis

By Ethan Shea and Annie Stockmal"Chrysalis"

On Feb. 17, Graduate Assistants Ethan Shea and Annie Stockmal attended a performance of Villanova Theatre’s latest production, Chrysalis, and you should do the same!

The tradition of transformation narratives dates back thousands of years, most famously to Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Since then, insects and the chrysalis have been used as transformative metaphors in a diverse array of art, from Franz Kafka’s 1915 novella The Metamorphosis to Kendrick Lamar’s 2015 album To Pimp A ButterflyChrysalis, written by Kathryn Petersen, is a fresh take on the transformation story that will not disappoint.

The production tells the story of Maria Sybilla Merian and her daughter Dorothea. While Maria struggles as a budding scientific mind in a male-dominated field, Dorothea must come to terms with her family’s history and choose a path for her future. With aspirations of discovering something so extraordinary it demonstrates the wonders of God, Maria dreams of standing, as a “lowly woman,” before the Royal Society of London to present her research.

Here are Annie and Ethan’s unique takes on the play:

Annie: This play is a loving ode to the driven mother-rebellious daughter dynamic that is pushed to the edge by the mother’s over-ambition and discipline and the daughter’s desire to break the chain and follow her own path. In aspiring to achieve her goals, Maria inadvertently steamrolls her two daughters, the malcontent Dorothea, who begins to question the strict religious teachings that she feels have caused a rift in her family, and even the pious Johanna, who wants to branch out to non-insect-related work. It is only through a dramatic metamorphosis that Maria’s mistakes are revealed to her.

With compelling dialogue and standout performances from the entire cast, including Sydney Curran, Margo Weishar, Reagan Venturi, Taylor Molt, and Joshua Peters, Chrysalis is therapeutic art.

Ethan: The attention to detail in Chrysalis makes every moment worth your while. All aspects of the production, from set to costume design, enrich Dorothea’s transformative journey. I especially admire how smoothly the production team handles a dramatic change of setting and the script’s ability to convey a relatively complex backstory without being didactic.

At its core, Chrysalis tells the story of a family struggling to overcome their unique differences in a tumultuous and oppressive society. The production does not stray from the heart of its story, which is what makes it such a compelling production.

To learn more about the writing process behind Chrysalis, check out this virtual playbill. Fittingly, this transformation story was transformative even for its writers.

In the education guide for Chrysalis, you can find prompts useful for reflection after attendance. For example, one prompts asks, “What stage of metamorphosis do you think you are experiencing currently? How are you preparing for the next stage?”

Tickets for Chrysalis are available for purchase here. Get yours now!

Headshot of Ethan SheaEthan Shea is a second-year graduate student in the English Department and Graduate Assistant at Falvey Library.





Annie Stockmal is a graduate student in the Communication Department and Graduate Assistant at Falvey Library.



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Last Modified: February 20, 2023

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