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Villanova Theatre’s 2022 Season Debut: Men on Boats

On Sunday, Sept. 25, I attended the 2 p.m. showing of Villanova Theatre’s 2022-2023 season opener Men on Boats in the John and Joan Mullen Center for the Performing Arts. The show ran for approximately 90 minutes and included a post-performance talk-back with the Director, Kristy Dodson; the Production Dramaturg, Hannah Deprey-Severance; and Melinda Daniels, PhD, a research scientist at the Stroud Water Research Center who specializes in fluvial geomorphology, hydrology, and river ecosystem ecology. The talk-back reflected on both the impressive successes and the devastating impacts of Powell’s expedition and revealed insights on the creative process behind the production.

Men on Boats, written by living playwright Jaclyn Backhaus, is a historical satire of the real-life 1869 Grand Canyon Colorado River expedition of John Wesley Powell and his rag-tag crew. Adapting historical records into a script and portraying an excursion that only included cisgender, heterosexual white men, Backhaus created a satire that could succinctly depict an important historical event to audiences across the country while poking fun at the men who set sail in 1869 (and maybe even more modern figures).

As Dramaturg Hannah Deprey-Severance emphasized in the talk-back, Backhaus’s vision was to find a cast of performers that included everyone but cis-het white men. Villanova’s production stayed true to this vision and featured a diverse cast of talented non-male performers who brought the minimalistic yet beautiful set (created by Stefanie Hansen) to life.

Taylor Molt as Bradley (in particular), Reagan Venturi as John Colton Sumner, Genevieve “Eve” Windbiel as Hawkins, and Sara Buscaglia as Hall provided hilarity to the show and all kept me laughing out loud for the 90-minute duration. The brothers, often mistaken for twins (a joke Victorious fans will appreciate) O.G. Howland, played by Noelle Diane Johnson, and Seneca Howland, played by Abigail Little, portrayed a comedic yet compelling sibling relationship on stage. The tense and complicated friendship depicted by Alison Hyde Pascale as John Wesley Powell and Olivia “Liv” Morgan as William Dunn was grounded and gripping. Old Shady, performed by Crys Clemente, served as the crew’s resident slightly odd lone-wolf, who, of course, always had a song for every situation. Finally, Teya Juarez gave a truly endearing portrayal of Frank Goodman (with a seemingly well-practiced British accent).

A truly worthwhile production, the show runs until Sunday, Oct. 2. Tickets are available here.

More information about Men on Boats:

If you want more information on the performers and creative team who made this production possible, check out the online Playbill.

If you want a brief synopsis of Powell’s expedition and other key context for the show, check out the Educational Guide.

If you are interested in learning more about the play’s content information and advisories, check out the content guide for the play.

If you want to learn more about John Wesley Powell, check out Aton’s biography of Powell available online through Falvey (of course).


Annie Stockmal is a graduate student in the Communication Department and graduate assistant in Falvey Library.

 

 

 

 

 


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Liz Roche Company’s “Yes and Yes!” Performance

By Ethan Shea

Yes and Yes by Liz Roche Company

On Tuesday, September 13, Liz Roche Company put on the first professional dance performance in the John and Joan Mullen Center for the Performing Arts. This performance, titled “Yes and Yes!”, is inspired by the 18 sections of James Joyce’s magnum opus, UlyssesThe show ran for a total of 70 minutes with no intermissions and was met with a standing ovation.

Formed in 1999, Liz Roche Company is an Irish contemporary dance group led by choreographer Liz Roche. In 2020, Roche herself was elected to Aosdána, an affiliation of artists whose work has contributed significantly to Ireland’s creative arts. Among other achievements, Liz Roche Company has produced more than twenty original productions and performed in several nations, from China to the United States.

Regarding Tuesday’s show, there were a total of four dancers who took on the demanding performance (Diarmuid Armstrong, Sarah Cerneaux, Grace Cuny, and Mufutau Yusuf), and each of them left everything on the stage.

The performance managed to fit an immense amount of material from Ulysses‘s lengthy body of text into the relatively brief performance. In a post-performance Q&A with Dr. Joseph Lennon, Villanova’s Director of Irish Studies, Roche explained that she was taken aback by how clear Joyce portrays location throughout the piece. “Yes and Yes!” strives to maintain that quality of the text through Roche’s choreography.

Liz Roche Company would not have graced the stage of the John and Joan Center for the Performing Arts without the help of the Center for Irish Studies. With study abroad opportunities, Irish language courses, and classes offered in seven different disciplines, Irish Studies at Villanova is full of exciting academic opportunities.

If you’re interested in learning more about Irish Studies, check out the Irish Studies Research Guide on Falvey Library’s website.

Moreover, Falvey grants access to ample amounts of information on contemporary dance. For example, you can learn all about contemporary dance with Marc Strauss’ book Looking at Contemporary Dance: A Guide for the Internet Age, available for viewing online.

Keep an eye out for more Irish events planned for the Fall Semester, including a musical performance by Ian Lynch of the Dublin folk music group “Lankum” on October 20.


Headshot of Ethan SheaEthan Shea is a graduate student in the English Department at Villanova University and Graduate Assistant at Falvey Memorial Library.


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Cat in the Stax: What are you listening 2?

By Ethan Shea

"Woman Listening to Music and Reading"

Nearly a year ago I wrote a “Cat in the Stax” blog titled “What are you listening to?”. At the risk of recycling old ideas one too many times, I’ve decided to bring the topic back for a “What are you listening 2?” if you will. 

This blog is especially fit for this week because nothing pairs with music like dance, and in a matter of days, Villanova will be welcoming a highly acclaimed dance company to our campus. Specifically, on Tuesday, September 13, the Liz Roche Company will put on the first professional dance performance in the John and Joan Mullen Center for the Performing Arts. 

"Liz Roche Company"

Photo Credit: José Miguel Jiménez

This performance, titled “Yes and Yes” celebrates the centennial of James Joyce’s Ulysses. The performance will lead the audience through the eighteen episodes of Ulysses, which are based upon Homer’s epic poem, The Odyssey.  You can learn more about Joyce’s Ulysses from this blog. 

On another tangentially related note, at the beginning of the year, it’s important to get acquainted with Falvey’s subject guides, so I recommend any and all audiophiles check out the guide dedicated to music. Here, you’ll find contact information for Falvey’s Subject Librarian, Robert LeBlanc, our First-Year Experience and Music Liaison Librarian. Especially if you’re interested in researching music in a more academic sense, Falvey has your back. 

However, at its core, this blog isn’t exactly academic. It’s a brief reflection on the music I’ve been enjoying lately, so without further delay, here are a few recently released albums I’ve been listening to! Don’t be shy, and share your favorite 2022 releases in the comments below!

"Gemini Rights"Gemini Rights – Steve Lacy 

Alternative R&B and pop artist Steve Lacy is a multi-talented musician who got his start as a high schooler by producing viral hits on his iPhone. This sophomore solo album from Lacy is indicative of his eclectic taste. From the latin influence that drives the song “Mercury,” to the lovable, boyish hit “Bad Habit,” Lacy has a little bit of something for everyone. A personal highlight is the song “Amber,” which delivers Lacy’s storytelling skills over a charming piano medley. A crescendo occurs throughout the entirety of the track, culminating in a wailing guitar solo that cries in unison with Lacy’s falsetto ad-libs, perfectly encapsulating the regret this song portrays.

RENAISSANCE – Beyoncé "RENAISSANCE"

I don’t think anyone saw this stylistic shift coming, but per usual, Beyoncé delivered with her latest release “RENAISSANCE.” Almost every song has an irresistible groove, and the transitions from track to track are incredibly smooth, so the party never stops during the album’s 62-minute runtime. In addition to the record’s electronic and funk influences, Beyoncé’s vocal performances, especially on the song “PLASTIC OFF THE SOFA” are top-notch. In spite of what might seem like a chaotic groove, you can tell this album was meticulously crafted, and each vocal inflection is calculated. If you’re looking for music to play at the gym or something to give you an energy boost in the middle of a long work day, I recommend giving this album a listen!

"Upstate"Upstate – Almeda 

I’d like to introduce everyone to Almeda, a band formed five years ago by a group who were undergraduates at Georgetown University at the time. Since then, the band’s members have gone their separate ways, but the music they recorded during their time together has been thoroughly mixed and mastered over the past few years. It wasn’t until recently that Almeda’s debut album, “Upstate,” was finally released after five years in the making. This R&B rock band features Adaeze Eze, an incredibly talented vocalist with a silky voice that glides over a range of catchy tunes. Danny O’Brien is both a guitarist and keyboard player for the band, and Dan Sheehan is featured on the drums.

One of my favorite songs, “Artificial Wings,” is one of the project’s jazzier cuts. It features a groovy bassline performed by bassist Nick Quirk and an impressive tempo change that highlights the band’s ability to perform complex rhythms in unison. If you’re into alternative rock and R&B, or even if you’re a fan of cover music (this album features a jazzy cover of Kendrick Lamar’s hit “Swimming Pools”), check this record out!


Headshot of Ethan SheaEthan Shea is a graduate student in the English Department at Villanova University and Graduate Assistant at Falvey Memorial Library


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Last Modified: September 7, 2022