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Cat in the Stax: Mysteries & Musicals from Past to Present

By Ethan Shea

"Curtains Poster"

On March 31, Villanova Theatre will put on the very first performance in the Topper Theatre of the new John and Joan Mullen Center for the Performing Arts. This show, Curtains: A Musical Whodunnit, will be directed by our very own Villanova University President Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA, PhD.

I was lucky enough to gain access to some memorabilia from past Villanova Theatre productions that inspired the upcoming performance. These flyers, photos, and programs were collected by Kimberly Reilly, Director of Marketing for Villanova’s Theatre Program, so this blog would not have been possible without her help!

To begin, the 1999 production of The Mystery of Edwin Drood was another mysterious musical directed by President Donohue. The photo below shows Demetrios Bonaros, Polly Donovan, Mark Gornto, John O’Conner, Susan Bolt, and Sara Macerelli in a scene from a performance of this show which ran from April 14 to May 2.

 

"Edwin Drood Photo"

 

City of Angels granted President Donohue yet another directorial credit in 2003. This play is also a musical, but it sets itself apart from others through its adaptation of film noir characteristics. The image below shows how the cover of the program for City of Angels encapsulated the theme of film noir.

"City of Angels Program Cover"

In 2013, Villanova Theatre performed a different play inspired by noir. This time, the production was Red Herring, a murder mystery about marriage and nuclear espionage during the Cold War.  The photo below shows how a flyer used to advertise this play made use of the comic art style indicative of the its setting, Boston during the year of 1952.

"Red Herring Flyer Cover"

Lastly, you can check out this poster for Something’s Afoot, a murder mystery musical directed by President Donohue back in 1986! As you can see, the theatrical “whodunnit” is truly timeless.

"Something's Afoot poster"

The latest production from Villanova Theatre will be showing from March 31 to April 10, so be sure to get your tickets now! You can find more information here. We hope to see you there!


Headshot of Ethan SheaEthan Shea is a first-year English Graduate Student and Graduate Assistant at Falvey Memorial Library.


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Help Solve A Special Collections Musical Mystery

Posted for Lisa Abra McColl, Digital Library Intern, Fall 2012

 

The first thing that struck me about the papers that were being pulled out of a pile from the special collections department was the artwork. Shapes with gold and silver metallic color, green leaves, and an orange face all decorated the first pages of each of the three thin booklets.

Zangetsu Azuma-Jishi Unknown

The second thing that struck me was the Japanese writing on the front cover. The third came when I opened it. This was sheet music. My task was to find out what this music is: who is the composer, what instrument is it written for, what is the name of it? Confident that my music background would guide me through this task I set out to find the answers.

Weeks later, having played the melodies on my clarinet, searched for the melody in Musipedia, and in ultimate desperation, tried the Japan Goggles app to read some of the writing, and gotten nowhere, I knew I needed human intervention.

A former clarinet student of mine, now living in Japan answered my call for help on Facebook. These three pieces are traditional Japanese music that were arranged by a man named Tozan Nakao (1876-1955), a famous Japanese shakuhachi player. The shakuhachi is a wooden instrument similar to the western flute. The first piece, Zangetsu (the moon seen in the morning), has a publication date of 1906 and the second, Azuma-Jishi, has a 1907 date on it.

I could still use more information. Were these pieces intended to be played by the shakuhachi, or by a stringed instrument as some of the bowing markings seem to indicate? What is the meaning of “Azuma-Jishi”? What is the title of the third piece? Is there any reason that Guillame de Machaut, a 14th century French composer, should be penciled on the back of the last piece? How did this music come to be part of the special collections at Villanova? After viewing this music in the Villanova Digital Libraries World Collection, please contact me or leave a comment if you have answers to any of these questions, or something to add about the music. Feel free to email me at lisa[dot]abra[dot]mccoll[at]gmail[dot]com.

Listen to a performance of Azuma-Jishi:


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Last Modified: October 25, 2012