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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 Memorial Library.

 

 

 

 

 


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Bess Rowen, PhD, To Teach Inaugural Introduction to LGBTQ Studies Course

By Kallie Stahl 

Headshot of Bess Rowen, PhD, Department of Theatre, Villanova University.

Bess Rowen, PhD, Department of Theatre, Villanova University.


Bess Rowen, PhD, Department of Theatre, will teach the inaugural Introduction to LGBTQ Studies course at Villanova University during the spring 2023 semester. The course (GWS 2060), offered through the Gender and Women’s Studies (GWS) program, will provide students the opportunity to learn about representative objects of study and methods in the interdisciplinary LGBTQ+ Studies field.

In addition to GWS 2060, Dr. Rowen also teaches (GWS 2050) Introduction to Gender Studies; (Theatre 3030) Gender, Performance, and True Crime; (Theatre 7150) Vision and Form; and (Theatre 8200) Staging Gender and Sexuality. Dr. Rowen received a BA in English and Theatre from Lehigh University, a MA in Performance Studies from New York University, and a PhD in Theatre and Performance from The Graduate Center at CUNY. She recently gave a Scholarship@Villanova lecture at Falvey Memorial Library focusing on her newly published book The Lines Between the Lines: How Stage Directions Affect Embodiment.

I had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Rowen about her plans for developing the Introduction to LGBTQ Studies course and the importance of having this class at Villanova University.

Kallie Stahl (KS): How did this course come to fruition?

Dr. Bess Rowen (BR): The course started with Travis Foster, PhD, Associate Professor of English, Academic Director of Gender and Women’s Studies. He had been talking to me about this course for a while. I’ve been teaching GWS 2050, which is the introductory course to the GWS major and minor for three years. Travis asked if I would be the inaugural person to teach GWS 2060, and I was so honored by that and so excited about it. Especially because I had always taught GWS courses alongside theatre and performance. I never had the opportunity to just focus on LGBTQIA+ topics and look at that by itself. Of course, I am a theatre professor, so everything for me comes through theatre and performance in a certain way. The opportunity to be able to craft this course is super exciting to me.

KS: How does this course differ from current offerings in the GWS program?

BR: The introductory course (GWS 2050) has a lot of different areas. One area is the history of feminism in the United States and abroad. Another area is gender studies, specifically what is gender? How do we think about it? How have we historically thought about it and where it is going. Another area is sexuality and LGBTQIA+ Studies. At most institutions, the vast majority of what people are doing in GWS these days really does revolve around gender and sexuality. Students should have the opportunity to focus on the LGBTQIA+ aspect of GWS if that is really what they want.

In my mind there are three tracks: gender studies, LGBTQ studies, and feminist studies, which is the underpinning for a lot of the work in the course overall. Feminist theory opened the door for much of this to exist. And intersectional feminism, the history of people who have been erased; women of color, people who didn’t fit in the gender binary, all those things grow out of feminism. In the future, I could see people graduating Villanova with majors and minors in these particular areas, and at this time, one course doesn’t allow students to do that. I also can’t stress enough the importance of Introduction to LGBTQ Studies as a GWS course and not a class offered through another program. There are only two other courses offered directly through GWS: Introduction to Gender Studies and the capstone. This is a huge thing that Travis has managed to get through, and many thanks to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Villanova University for recognizing that this is an important aspect of what we do in GWS and is something that needs to be offered through that department.

KS: I know the class is scheduled to run during the spring 2023 semester, but what can you tell me about your plans for structuring the course?

BR: I am making the syllabus for the class this summer. I’m lucky because I’ve had the opportunity to teach the GWS 2050 course so many times. For the Introduction to LGBTQ Studies course, I think it is important to group things thematically and to make sure there are easily touched upon examples from students’ lives that they can connect to, which is also what I try to do in GWS 2050. Especially the heavier theoretical material, there are big concepts: like the fact that gender is a construct; the fact that sexuality, our understanding of it, is also a construct in a certain way. And queer temporality, which is the idea that linear time is setup for heteronormative people. For much of history, getting your first crush, getting married, buying a house were expected to happen in that order, but these things were not available to the vast majority of LGBTQIA+ people. So we had to develop different ways of what norms were and how they worked for us. So, for things like that, and to supplement heavier readings, I rely on two things: 1) Music videos—because they are incredibly short and digestible pieces of culture that tell a whole story in about two or three minutes. We can look at the assumptions there and what is being done differently because it’s very obvious; every student feels like they have a way in to the discussion. You don’t have to know everything about a topic to be able to give your opinions on a music video. 2) Clips from media (movies, television). We can see representations in media. A lot of the time they are bad representations, but there is still a conversation to be had there. And now there are even more representations which is fabulous.

I’m also going to cover important historical moves, theoretical moves, and representational moves in popular culture and media. These are threads that we’ll weave together. I never set up courses with strict chronological order, partially because of that queer temporality I touched upon earlier. You can’t tell a linear story about LGBTQIA+ culture; it doesn’t go in a straight line. There’s a lot of stepping forward and backward. It’s important not to give a false narrative that it’s all upward progress. But we still have a responsibility to those who have an interest in these areas to know the history, good and bad. LGBTQIA+ history is important. In a lot of other lineages, if you have a marginalized identity marker, you are around other people who have the same identity marker, perhaps in your family or general community. You are around others who know what those experiences are like. Or, you can find others that have similar experiences. For the LGBTQIA+ community, that person is less likely to be right next to you in your family or community. A lot of times, I have students (and this was me in graduate school) doing a ton of catchup because no one sits you down and says, “Here is the history of our representation in the world.” It’s important to give students that opportunity because if we don’t talk about these things, people can think that they don’t exist. Queer people are not new. Trans people are not new. It’s important to start with “being seen in context” and then moving from there.

KS: What would you say to a student that is interested in taking the course, but might be hesitant because they don’t have a vast knowledge of LGBTQIA+ studies?

BR: I know it’s hard to tell in a blog post, but I’m not scary. I always have a student or two (before signing up for my GWS course) who says that they might be nervous to take the course because they don’t have a lot of knowledge, but that’s the point of an intro course. I don’t care how much knowledge you come in with. If you have an interest, that’s enough for me.

I say this at the beginning of most of my GWS classes, “Nothing that could come out of your mouths is something that I haven’t heard before…I promise.” In a learning environment, it is my job to take what you are giving me and help make your understanding better. So, if I’m doing my job right, people get less afraid to mess up. Messing up is proof of learning in a lot of ways. Villanova has an incredibly kind population. I know these students are not coming in here to cause harm, there’s obviously a difference between intention and impact. So I can take what you’re saying and give you better terminology to express yourself more clearly. I’m willing to be the person who says, “Hey, instead of using this word, it’s probably better to use this word.”

I think one of the things I love about teaching GWS 2050 is watching how much more comfortable people get talking about these issues. Of course, students already have opinions prior to taking a GWS course, but some might not be comfortable expressing them, or they don’t feel like they had enough knowledge to really be able to talk about with another person, aside from just stating their opinion. I do lots of pair work and small group work in all my classes. So, if someone is afraid to say something in front of me, they can test it out on another person first. It gets everyone’s voice to be heard by another person. I love this thing called “listening pairs.” I took Teaching 2020 (now Teaching and Leading 2030) my first year at Villanova and it was introduced to me there. It’s a great program. They gave me so many pedagogical tools.

A class of 25 is not a large lecture, but its big enough that people can still feel like they can fade into the background. But I promise you, you can’t with the Introduction to LGBTQ Studies course. I will know everyone’s name. You will know everyone’s names. Those kinds of things are important to me. I really want to make a small community in all my GWS classes. I don’t care how you identify, but in the classroom, we will be talking about and creating a space for conversations like this that can be supported and worked through.

KS: Is the course open to all Villanova undergraduate students?

BR: The class is open to all undergraduates. You don’t need any prerequisites.

KS: Why is it imperative for Villanova University to continue to offer this course (and similar courses) in the future?

BR: I think it’s so important here at Villanova that we have the option for students to really dive deeper into these topics. And if you look at the current course offerings for GWS, people do get to dig into those topics except for LGBTQIA+ issues. I did an independent study with one of our GWS students who wanted to focus on queer theory in more detail. As one of my areas of studies, I am qualified to do that. I am also an out queer person on this campus, so it’s important to me that we make this course available to the Villanova community. I already have students interested in taking the course. And I’ve been asked about this course for a long time, which is one of the reasons that it exists now. I’m glad students will have the opportunity to focus on the LGBTQIA+ aspect of GWS.

KS: Is there a course you would like to teach in the future?

BR: I’m lucky because in a lot of ways it has been the true crime course. I wanted to teach that, and a student suggested it in my GWS class several years ago. Then my amazing department chair, Valerie Joyce, PhD, Associate Professor, Theatre, allowed me to go on this adventure. This semester is the second time I’ve taught it. I love teaching that course. I think it’s so fascinating to watch people really analyze gender and talk about performativity in true crime. In some ways I already feel like I’ve taught my dream course. For theatre, the course I would love to teach one day is course version of my book (The Lines Between the Lines: How Stage Directions Affect Embodiment), which focuses on stage directions. While a lot of our classes find ways to make important inroads, I’ve often thought about a course that is solely about the history of stage directions—what they do, how to write them, and different ways of enacting them. That would be such a cool course. My department is incredibly supportive, lovely, and amazing, and I think I could argue for that and make it happen if students were interested. Someday I would like to teach that course.

KS: Your book, The Lines Between the Lines: How Stage Directions Affect Embodiment, was just released last year. Can you talk about your current research?

BR: I co-founded a transfeminism working group, and I’ve been working with a great group of collaborators for the past few years. Although I’m a cisgender woman, I’m trying to use that privilege to draw attention to the ways trans people are not accounted for in feminist studies within theatre and performance. I am joined by my brilliant collaborators, who are a mix of trans, nonbinary, and cis folx. We are working together on a book project that would be a resource so that people within the field of theatre have a way to start talking about trans and nonbinary playwrights, performers, and performances and what they mean. My contribution to this collaboration is an article I have been working on, that I presented at a GWS faculty research spotlight. Watching trans and nonbinary performers on stage when you may not hang out with in your everyday life, gives us this amazing permission to stare at someone whose experience is completely different than ours—on that person’s terms entirely. You’re watching them perform, but you’re also watching what trans and nonbinary people could look like—but you’re not only watching them because of that. We get that knowledge from representing trans and non-binary stories. People who don’t know how to talk about these things might get nervous about it. And I get that, and I’m not saying that I always do it perfectly either. But it is our job to try. It is our job as people with more privilege to use that privilege to create space to discuss these things. This is an area of the theatre field that people shy away from and that was a call to action for me.

My next solo book project is examining the ways in which we represent adolescent girlhood on stage. We often make these girls into villains. We do it in television shows too. Hell hath no fury like a teenage girl that is out to mess up your life. That is historically what we have seen. More contemporary plays and media have started to undermine that, but you can still find that trope so easily. I think we do girls (and everyone) a disservice by making that a thing that we associate with teenage girls. I’ve always been interested in gender, sexuality, and feminism, and they are more foregrounded in my upcoming scholarship.

KS: While students are waiting to take your class, are there any other LGBTQIA+ courses being offered this fall?

BR: If they haven’t already, students can take (GWS 2050) Introduction to Gender Studies. There is also a list of affiliate GWS courses through other departments. Be sure to check out the GWS program webpage for fall 2022 updates.


Kallie Stahl ’17 MA is Communication and Marketing Specialist at Falvey Memorial Library. 

 

 


 


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Villanova Theatre Presents: “Curtains”

By Jenna Renaud and Ethan Shea

"Topper Theatre"

Photograph of Topper Theatre courtesy of Villanova University

Curtains: A Musical Whodunnit is arguably the largest production of the 2021-2022 Villanova Theatre season. The show will be the inaugural performance in the new 400-seat Topper Theatre, part of the John and Joan Mullen Center for the Performing Arts, completed in 2019. In addition, this musical marks the return of Villanova President the Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA, PhD, to the theatre. Curtains is only the second musical directed by Father Donahue since he became University President in 2006, the last being The Drowsy Chaperone in 2012.

The show captivated audiences from the first number and kept everyone engaged from start to finish. There were numerous elaborate scenes, and each performer took advantage of their opportunities to showcase their musical talents, whether it was in a somber ballad, or an over-the-top performance including background dancers and a grand staircase.

Unsurprisingly, Curtains lived up to its name, as there were certainly a lot of curtains in the show. This may seem obvious, but there was definitely more curtain usage than your average theatre production. This was mostly a product of the play within a play that is central to the plot. The extra layer of theatrical performance allowed the script to make some meta commentary on theatre in general, making for some witty and  hilarious moments.

Without giving away any spoilers, it can be said that Curtains is sure to please anyone who attends because it has something to offer for every sort of theatre-goer. Those who look for humor in their plays will perhaps be the happiest, but attendees looking for a fulfilling love story or suspenseful scenes will not be forgotten. Needless to say, you should buy your tickets now, and you can do so here!

Curtains is a Agatha Christie-style mystery combined with golden-age style musicals. Check out the following materials from Falvey’s collection to learn more about Curtains, Agatha Christie mysteries, and golden-age musicals:

If you would like to “dig deeper,” as we say around here, Falvey’s recent Cat in the Stax blog, which was featured on both the Library’s blog and “The YAWP: Villanova’s Graduate English Program Blog,” showcases some memorabilia from past Villanova Theatre productions that are similar in nature to Curtains, so check it out here!


Jenna Renaud and Ethan Shea are Graduate Assistants at Falvey Memorial Library.


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Dig Deeper: Villanova Theatre Presents The Revolutionists

By Jenna Renaud

“I write plays that I like to describe as having endings with hard hope…It makes the characters and hopefully the audience want to keep fighting, keep going, keep living, and keep learning at the end of the play.”
Lauren Gunderson 

The Revolutionists: A Villanova Theatre Production

Villanova Theatre is back for the spring semester with its newest comedy production, The Revolutionists. The show runs Feb. 1020 in the Court Theatre housed in the John and Joan Mullen Center for the Performing Arts. The show is written by Lauren Gunderson and directed by Valerie Joyce. 

The Cincinnati Inquirer describes The Revolutionists as follows: In the shadow of an overworked guillotine, four badass women collide and collude in Paris during the Reign of Terror: fugitive queen Marie Antoinette, idealist assassin Charlotte Corday, Caribbean spy Marianne Angelle, and beleaguered playwright Olympe de Gouges (who just wants to make the plot work out). Lauren Gunderson’s breakneck comedy of ideas is a fiercely funny fever dream as well as a timely rumination on the role of violence in the quest for change, a “sassy, hold-on-to-your-seats theatrical adventure.” 

Dig Deeper into The Revolutionists 

Women and the French Revolution 

Photo provided by Kimberly Reilly & Villanova Theatre

The French Revolution took place from May 1789 to November 1799 and is considered one of the largest and bloodiest upheavals in European history. French citizens eliminated the absolute monarchy and feudal system and created an entirely new political and social framework. Following the death of the King, a radical group called the Jacobins took over, ushering France into what would be later known as “The Reign of Terror.” During that time, they murdered over 17,000 people. In 1795, a new, relatively moderate constitution was adopted and opposition was stopped through the use of the French army, led by Napoleon Bonaparte. Political corruption and unrest continued until 1799 when Napoleon staged a coup to declare himself France’s “first consul.”

During the time of the French Revolution, women began to speak up and fought for their own rights. Following the storming of the Bastille in 1789, women began to join in riots, demonstrate for their rights, and attend the political clubs of men. Although there was no major change regarding the rights of women following the Revolution, they made their presence known and are depicted in the majority of revolutionary art for being symbols of revolutionary values. 

Dig Deeper into Women and the French Revolution 


Jenna Renaud is a Graduate Assistant in Falvey Memorial Library and a Graduate Student in the Communication Department.


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Upcoming Scholarship@Villanova Talk Featuring Professor Bess Rowen

By Ethan Shea

"Bess Rowen"

"'The Lines Between the Lines: How Stage Directions Affect Embodiment' by Dr. Bess Rowen"

On Friday, Nov. 12, from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., Professor Bess Rowen will be giving a talk in room 205 of Falvey Library as a part of the Scholarship@Villanova program. All Scholarship@Villanova talks are sponsored by Falvey and serve the purpose of recognizing research contributions of Villanova faculty members. This tradition has been ongoing since 2004, and all presentations continue to be free and open to the public.

Professor Rowen received her MA in Performance Studies from New York University and her PhD in Theatre and Performance from The Graduate Center at CUNY. Her talk is titled “Impossible Things Are Happening Every Day: The Possibilities of Impossible Stage Directions.”

Dr. Rowen has published a book-length study on stage directions, making her the perfect speaker for this talk focused on scripts’ unspoken lines. Professor Rowen’s book is titled The Lines Between the Lines: How Stage Directions Affect Embodiment, and copies will be available for purchase at the talk.

Because of the inherent limits of the stage’s physical space, stage directions may seem impossible to fulfill at times, but Rowen claims this impossibility creates unique opportunities for creativity. In addition to stage directions, Rowen is interested in gender and sexuality theory, female playwrights, Irish theatre, and theatrical riots.

Falvey Memorial Library has plenty of resources for theatre-loving Villanovans. Within the subject guide for theatre, you can find several databases and access points to various primary sources that will help you find the information you need for your research. Not to mention the countless books concerning theatre on the shelves of Falvey’s stacks!

Now is the perfect time to attend an event focused on theatre. Given that Villanova Theatre’s second production of the season, Beckett Bites, will be performed from Nov. 4 to 14, this talk will be excellent food for thought to supplement your viewing experience, so make sure you don’t miss out on this exciting event!


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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Tony Awards Take on Adaptations

By Ethan Shea

""

On Sept. 26, the 74th Tony Awards took to the stage. Having been delayed an entire year, the ceremony was a welcome sight on Broadway. One aspect of this year’s Tony Awards that stuck out is the prevalence of adaptations among the winners and nominees. Falvey Library has access to many of the works that inspired these award winning shows, so if you would like to learn more about how this year’s Tony recipients came to be, check out the links below.

Additionally, feel free to browse a complete list of the winners and nominees here.

The Inheritance and Howard’s End

The Inheritance became one of the biggest winners this year by taking home the coveted award for best play. Matthew Lopez, the playwright of The Inheritance, stated that E.M. Forster’s Howard’s End is his favorite novel, which is unsurprisingly why he took inspiration for his play from it. In Howard’s End, Forster tells the story of three conflicting families living in England around the year 1900. Critiques of social conventions and discussions of economics surround an unconventional love story between two members of opposing families.

The Inheritance is far from a strict adaptation of Forster’s novel. Rather than England, the play takes place in New York a generation after the height of the AIDS crisis. E.M. Forster was a closeted gay man when he wrote Howard’s End, so The Inheritance uses the text’s queer subtext to create a play fit for the 21st century. The performance is a whopping 6 hours long and is presented in two separate three hour performances. Although the plots of these two stories are very different, if you are interested in theater and what inspired this award-winning play, I’d recommend you check out Howard’s End while keeping in mind the underlying themes that brought its theatrical offspring to life.

Moulin Rouge! The Musical and Moulin Rouge!"Moulin Rouge! Play Image"

Moulin Rouge! The Musical is a more direct adaptation of its source material. Rather than a novel, this play was inspired by the 2001 Baz Luhrmann film of the same name. The over-the-top nature of the film translates beautifully to the stage. As a result, this play was the biggest winner of the 74th Tony Awards and walked away with 10 prizes. A few of the awards Moulin Rouge! won are for scenic design, costume, lighting, and sound design, which are similar to some of the Oscars won by Luhrmann’s film that celebrated the extravagance of the costumes and set.

One point of departure between the film and play is that the songs used are distinctly different. In the film, Luhrmann famously mixed modern pop songs with the score, and in the same vein, this adaptation used songs that were written in the 17 years since the film’s release.  For example, Katy Perry’s hit song Firework and Sia’s Chandelier are both incorporated into the show’s musical performances.

"A Christmas Carol"A Christmas Carol and A Christmas Carol

This play needs no introduction. The adaptation of Charles Dickens’ 1843 novella is truly timeless and has been adapted countless times. Nonetheless, this most recent production became the first holiday play to win a Tony. Not only did A Christmas Carol win a Tony, it won five, including best score, making it the first play to beat every contending musical in that category.

The reduced competition due to the COVID-19 Pandemic certainly affected the Tony Awards this year, but that should not take away from the achievements of these shows. Regardless, theatre-goers worldwide are certainly looking forward to a much more crowded theatre schedule in the coming months, which should make next year’s installment of the Tony Awards all the more exciting!

 


Headshot of Ethan Shea

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

 


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Villanova Theatre’s First Show of the Season: WHITE

“If it’s not entertaining, why the hell are we doing it? Make’m laugh. Make’m cry. Make’m call their senator. But by any means necessary. Make’m do something. Can’t change anybody’s mind if they’re asleep.” – James Ijames, Playwright and Director 

Opening weekend, I had the opportunity to attend Villanova Theatre’s first show of the season, WHITE, in the new John and Joan Mullen Center for the Performing Arts. The center is an 85,000-square-foot space for performances, featuring three performance spaces. WHITE took place in the Court Theatre, an open format, 200-seat theater that features flexible seating, a balcony, and technologically advanced lighting and sound equipment.  

I had the opportunity to explore the new space before and after the performance. In addition, everyone in attendance Friday night was invited to a reception following the show on the third-floor Belle Masque rooftop terrace. The rooftop terrace allowed guests to flow from outside to inside easily and take in what was a beautiful evening. 

The show itself was captivating and entertaining, while simultaneously challenging, as it forced the audience to re-evaluate their own implicit (or explicit) biases. The small cast kept the audience engaged throughout the 90 minutes, and the whole auditorium rose to their feet in applause following the final scene.  

Learn more about the show below.  

SYNOPSIS (Drawn from the Educational Guide below)

With a premise equal parts playful, prescient, and preposterous, art imitates life (or is it the other way around?) in James Ijames’ comedy WHITE. Gus is an artist. Vanessa is an actress. When a major museum seeks to showcase diverse voices in their next exhibition, Gus enlists Vanessa’s help to create an audacious new artistic persona to get him in the show. This contemporary Frankenstein story gleefully skewers the modern monstrosities of racism, misogyny, and cultural appropriation, all the while “subverting expectations, cracking wise, and opening eyes” (DC Metro). 

WHITE: BASED ON A TRUE STORY 

The plot of White is inspired by a true story that took place in the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. In 2014, the museum invited three outside curators—Anthony Elms (Associate Curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia), Michelle Grabner (Artist and Professor in the Painting and Drawing Department at the School of the Art Institute, Chicago), and Stuart Comer (Chief Curator of Media and Performance Art at MoMA)—to each curate one floor of the exhibition from their varied perspectives and methodologies.  

Chief Curator and Deputy Director for Programs at the Whitney, Donna De Salvo, touted the exhibition’s offerings as, “one of the broadest and most diverse takes on art in the United States that the Whitney has offered in many years.” However, of the 103 invited participants, just nine were black. Of those nine artists, one, Donelle Woolford, a 37-year-old woman from Conyers Georgia, was actually the fabrication of a white man, 52-year-old artist Joe Scanlan. This brought the total of black female artists in the biennial down to one. Read the full story in the education guide found here. 

MORE RESOURCES 

Trailer 

The show is put forth as a contemporary Frankenstein story. Borrow Frankenstein by Mary Shelley from Falvey’s collection. 

Get your tickets to WHITE today! The show will be playing through Oct. 3.  

ABOUT THE PLAYWRIGHT/DIRECTOR 

James Ijames, MFA, is Associate Professor of Theatre and a playwright, director and educator. He has appeared regionally in productions at The Arden Theatre Company, The Philadelphia Theatre Company, The Wilma Theatre, Baltimore Center Stage, Mauckingbird Theatre Company, and People’s Light and Theatre.

James’ plays have been produced by Flashpoint Theater Company, Orbiter 3, Theatre Horizon, Wilma Theatre (Philadelphia, PA), The National Black Theatre (NYC), Steppenwolf Theatre, Definition Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre (Chicago IL) Shotgun Players (Berkeley, CA) and have received development with PlayPenn New Play Conference, The Lark, Playwright’s Horizon, Clubbed Thumb, Villanova Theatre, Wilma Theater, Azuka Theatre and Victory Garden.

James is the 2011 F. Otto Haas Award for an Emerging Artist recipient, and he has two Barrymore Awards for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Play for Superior Donuts and Angels in America and two Barrymore Awards for Outstanding Direction of a Play for The Brothers Size with Simpatico Theatre Company and Gem of the Ocean with Arden Theatre. James is a 2015 Pew Fellow for Playwriting, the 2015 winner of the Terrance McNally New Play Award for WHITE, the 2015 Kesselring Honorable Mention Prize winner for ….Miz Martha, a 2017 recipient of the Whiting Award, a 2019 Kesselring Prize for Kill Move Paradise and a 2020 Steinberg Prize.


""Jenna Renaud is a graduate student in the Communication Department and graduate assistant in Falvey Memorial Library.


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Summer Movie Nights

By Susan Turkel

Have you watched everything on Netflix? Are you done with Amazon Prime and Hulu? Are you ready for something different? The Library can help!

Falvey Memorial Library provides the Villanova community with access to thousands of videos via our streaming subscriptions. We have an online guide —  Streaming Video at Falvey — that will help you get started in your cinematic explorations.

Read on for a taste of the resources and films that are available to you.

Theater on Video

Theater fans will enjoy viewing a variety of filmed stage performances. On the Boards features contemporary works by both international and U.S.-based artists in dance, theater, music, and more. BBC Shakespeare Plays and the Royal Shakespeare Company Collection offer many interpretations of classic works by the Bard. Broadway HD features filmed productions from the iconic theater capital of the United States.

UK-based Digital Theatre+ includes a wide variety of filmed performances, from 21st century pieces by Eclipse Theatre (the UK’s leading Black-led national touring company) to works by Henrik Ibsen, Arthur Miller, and Sophocles. A highlight of Digital Theatre+ is the National Theatre Collection, which includes high quality recordings never previously seen outside of the NT’s Archive. 

Feature Films and Documentaries on AVON

Not into theater? There is something for everyone in Academic Video Online (AVON). Despite its name, AVON offers award-winning dramas, love stories, animated films, and comedies, as well as gripping documentaries. Search by title, actor name, director, or keyword to get started. 

Two excellent collections within AVON are Sony Pictures Classics, mainly for feature films and foreign films, and Film Platform, mostly for documentaries from the U.S. and around the world. See below for a selection of their offerings.

More Great Films on Swank and Kanopy

Packages like AVON are a grab bag; Villanova has no control over which films we can offer you on their platform. The Library also licenses individual films based on faculty requests, for use in specific courses. Once we’ve licensed the film, we are able to offer access via the library catalog to anyone at Villanova for your individual viewing enjoyment. 

These films can be found on two platforms: Kanopy and Swank. There are many great films available to the Villanova community on these platforms in a variety of genres.

Our current Kanopy list includes many foreign films and documentaries, including Rashomon, Stonewall Uprising, YI YI, and Paris is Burning.

You’ll find more popular, “big screen” films on Swank, including Get Out, Black Panther, Dallas Buyers Club, and The Silence of the Lambs.

All of these licenses are limited-term; you’ll see the end date near the access link in the library catalog.

Falvey is happy to help keep you entertained this summer. Pop your popcorn, fluff up your pillows, and settle in for a night at the movies! 


Susan Turkel, MA, MLS, is a Social Sciences Librarian 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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‘Cat in the Stax: Bakkhai Variations

cover for Bakkhai variations theatre program

“Dionysus is god of the beginning before the beginning.” 

– Anne Carson

The Villanova Theatre program has adapted over the last seven months to this constantly changing  world and emerged victorious with five short plays in response to the provocative Greek tragedy Bakkhai. All five of these plays were written by  alumni of Villanova’s MA in Theatre program. The plays were rolled out individually over the second half of October and a full-length film showcasing  all five plays is still available until Nov. 14.

As a precursor to the five new plays, the actors engaged in a Zoom reading of a new version of Bakkhai written by Anne Carson and directed by Heidi M. Rose, PhD, Chair, Department of Communication, Professor, Performance Studies. The play tells of Dionysus, god of theatre, ecstasy, and intoxication returns to Thebes. This new adaptation brings together Euripides’ original with a contemporary feel as it explores themes of violence, family relationships, and gender roles. The cast and production team did an incredible job with this reading, showcasing the actors skills in using their voices and seated body language through this Zoom reading. Ultimately, this reading introduces viewers new to the story of Dionysus to the themes that will continue to be explored in each of the five short films.

The first of the five plays She Makes Knives Now is written by Mark. J. Costello and directed by James Ijames. The play takes place after the  events of Anne Carson’s Bakkhai and looks at Agave’s journey after her sentence to exile. Through camera angles and street corner verses, She Makes Knives looks at the struggles of women dealing with poverty and homelessness, coupling that with coping with a tragedy. Christy Chory, as Agave, captures the desperation, but also the calculatedness, it takes to survive on the street corners of modern-day America. 

The Bakkhai; or, I’m trying so hard to be good, written by Alix Rosenfeld and directed by Tai Verley explores the acting industry and racial power dynamics in this captivating tale. Alison Scarmella Baker,  Ilana, and  Sharese Salters, Dee, explore what can happen when truth is revealed and many voices come together to demand action. 

Playwright Megan Schumacher and director Malika Oyetimein come together to put on Dionté and Khai, the third play in the set of variations. Megan Schumacher flips between the perspective of Dionysus and Pentheus to create a complete story looking at the misogyny and racism that exists today.

Beginning, written by Jessica Bedford and directed by James Ijames serves as a contemporary prequel to Euripides’ Bakkhai. The four daughters of King Cadmus talk in pairs about the pregnancies of Agave, mother of Pentheus, and Semele, mother of Dionysus. The relationships between sisters are explored as contemporary conversations take place that discuss two pregnancies that will ultimately change the family forever.

The final play in this series is exxx…stasis, exxx…hale… is  written by Alexandra Espinoza and directed by Cat Ramirez. Nadia and Cecily are faced with trying to make their relationship work in a socially distanced world. As they experiment with new ways to keep their relationship interesting, the current cultural climate and tensions continue to swirl around them, ideas that are not foreign to many couples  today. 

Each of the five Bakkhai Variations explore relevant themes in captivating ways, showing the creativity and ingenuity of the directors and actors on the projects. Visit Villanova Theatre’s website to engage with dramaturgical resources and purchase tickets for the full-length film showcase.


Jenna Newman is a graduate assistant in Falvey Memorial Library and a graduate student in the Communication Department. Current mood: Finding my old Percy Jackson books to read more about Greek gods. 


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Last Modified: November 4, 2020