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The Return of Broadway

By Ethan Shea

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It goes without saying that just about every industry, from retail to restaurant, has been devastated by the COVID-19 Pandemic. With regard to the arts, some film studios were able to make use of in-home movie releases, while musicians occasionally put on socially-distanced concerts. Although those in the theatre industry have managed to put together stunning virtual performances, the traditionally in-person nature of theatre has made the pandemic especially tough on this branch of fine arts.

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“Slaphappy: A Covid-Era Commedia” Poster

Villanova knows this well, as our theatre program was forced to go virtual for the 2020-2021 season. The success of Slaphappy: A Covid-Era Commedia proved the arts are incredibly resilient, but I have no doubt that everyone is looking forward to the upcoming in-person performances.

I think we all need to hear some good news every once in a while, which is why I want to call your attention to this week’s Broadway performances. After a long 18 months of silence, Broadway’s biggest musicals are finally back! On Sept. 14, The Lion KingWicked, Hamilton, and Chicago all made their pandemic debuts.

It’s worth noting that these are not the first Broadway performances since the pandemic shut down all 41 Broadway theatres on March 12, 2020. The musicals Waitress and Hadestown have been putting on shows for over a week, and there were even showings of Springsteen on Broadway as well as Pass Over earlier this summer. Nonetheless, the return of Broadway’s box office juggernauts is a huge step forward for the theatre industry as it slowly recovers from the financial havoc COVID-19 wreaked.

It is mandatory that all who attend these Broadway performances are fully vaccinated and remain masked throughout the entire show. With these restrictions, the theatres will be operating at full capacity.

Falvey Library provides Villanovans with access to a wide array of resources related to theatre. With the help of our subject guide, I encourage you to check out some of the provided content, including films of contemporary stage performances.


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


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Slaphappy Delivers Pitch Perfect (Inspired) Show

By Shawn Proctor

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Unprecedented. Challenging. Socially distanced.

If you thought I was talking about living through the pandemic, then you haven’t seen Slaphappy: A Covid-Era Commedia, streaming from Villanova Theatre until May 30.

To these terms I would also add joyful, sly, and triumphant.

“Why triumphant,” you ask?

Because to create new art in a time when performance is so very rare, to discover new methods and inspirations and collaborators in order to bring it to audiences is a triumph.

Full stop. No debate.

Slaphappy proves the play is the thing.

Conceived and directed by Valerie Joyce and filmed by Hezekiah Lewis III, Slaphappy eludes easy definition. It’s one part The Office, two parts Pitch Perfect, and a splash of Ru Paul’s Drag Race. Oh, and yes, instead of a cappella competitions, the college groups vie for top commedia dell’arte troupe in the country.

Emma Poley, second-year graduate student, who made her Villanova Theatre acting debut as “Kathy Brown, PhD,” in the show explained Slaphappy follows in the commedia tradition of devised theatre. “The actors were free to improvise within a structured outline,” she says. From that four-hour rough cut, the production team edited down to a two-hour film.

Within this almost-too-wild-to-be-conceived premise, the entire cast shines, showing their growth from novice commedia players to seasoned actors within the traditional Italian dramatic style. The result holds the attention through backstage and onstage meltdowns, smack-downs, jaw-dropping revelations, and power plays that underpin the efforts to bring their performances to the regional, then national competitions.

Kirsten Sughrue’s muscadet-dry wit as competition coordinator “Penny Hollis” and Ryan Henry’s hilarious turn as uber jock “Julia Wrong” stood out among a large and delightful cast. And perhaps the biggest delight of all was hearing a crowd reacting to a play in Villanova Theatre’s new John and Joan Mullen Center for the Performing Arts, just one of many performances to come.

Complimenti to all!

 


Shawn Proctor is Communications and Marketing Program Manager at Falvey Memorial Library.

 

 

 


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Last Modified: May 26, 2021