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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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The Final Hurrah: Reflections from a GA

By Jenna Renaud

My two years at Falvey Memorial Library and Villanova have officially come to a close. At the close of last semester, I wrote a similar post reflecting on the changes that Fall 2021 brought; however, now I am faced with a much more daunting task—reflect on the entirety of my GA experience.

tolkien books on map

Jenna’s personal Tolkien collection for celebrating National Hobbit Day

Thinking back to my first day at the Library, I’m struck by how different it is from the end in almost every way. My first day, I came down to almost an entirely empty office. I spent the semester in office only two days a week. My first semester was filled with time spent in the stacks helping Access Services and writing Cat in the Stax each week, discovering my voice and role in the Library. The post that stands out the most from that time was one of my first, talking about how to celebrate National Hobbit Day through Falvey’s collection. This was during a time where the majority of my inspiration came from items laying around my home office—including my husband’s new collection of Tolkien books.

Second semester, I focused on finding new ways to connect with the Villanova community and started the Read with the (Other) Jenna book club. Although short-lived, it was fun to dig deeper into books including Angela’s Ashes and Aftershock. Despite not being in-office with the team, our Zoom meetings were definitely a highlight of every week, discussing everything from Mosaic to upcoming events to the pros and cons of scrapple (don’t ask!).

GAs Jenna & Ethan outside of Falvey

GAs Jenna & Ethan at the Finals Stress Buster event

With the kick-off of the 2021-22 academic year came student workers, another GA, and the return of office work. It was definitely a transition going into the office four days a week, but it was a much needed change of pace. Passing off Cat in the Stax to Ethan, I looked for new recurring blogs to take on, settling on Peek at the Weeks and Weekend Recs. In addition to having another GA to collaborate with, we had student workers in the office again! Kelly showed Ethan and I the ropes for poster deliveries (something I had yet to experience) and Anna and I collaborated on what is to this day my favorite Weekend Recs following the drop of Taylor Swift’s Red (Taylor’s Version) album. The semester flew by and was such a fun experience, getting into the swing of how things were pre-pandemic.

And with that, it was my final semester! Ethan and I had the opportunity to attend more Villanova Theatre performances, including their most recent production, Curtains, which you can read more about here. In addition, Ethan and I took on a new project introducing In Case You Missed Ita YouTube series where each month we broke down the top stories based on social media data. Our Wordle episode was probably my favorite, along with all of the bloopers when we forgot how to talk. The spring semester also brought more in-person events, including one with Lit Fest author Camille Dungy, where I was the point person. My final event of the semester was our baseball-themed stress buster, with everything from soft pretzels to Bundt cakes (Get it? Bunting? Like in baseball?).

Maybe the past two years haven’t been “traditional,” but I wouldn’t change anything! Big thanks to Joanne, Shawn, Kallie, Gina and Ethan for being the best team and taking my graduate student experience to the next level. 168 blog posts later—I’m out!

This isn’t good-bye, it’s just see you later (I definitely need to come back for updated Falvey swag)!


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


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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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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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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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Weekend Recs: Valentine’s Day

By Jenna Renaud

Happy Friday, Wildcats! After a year off, Falvey Memorial Library is bringing back Weekend Recs, a blog dedicated to filling you in on what to read, listen to, and watch over the weekend. Jenna, a graduate assistant from the Communication department, scours the internet, peruses the news, and digs through book stacks to find new, relevant, and thought-provoking content that will challenge you and prepare you for the upcoming week.

Valentine’s Day is here and whether you’re celebrating this year with your friends, family, or a significant other, we have a variety of weekend recs to make the holiday special! This week we cover everything from diving into the archives to fine dining and theatre. Check it out below, whether you have 2 minutes or an entire evening.

If you have 2 minutes… read Anna Jankowski’s TBT this week, where she dove into the digital library and found Valentine’s Day themed content.

If you have an evening… visit The Refectory for dinner and drinks. They have a special Valentine’s Day menu this Friday, Saturday, and Monday, so make your reservation today! The perfect date night option without having to venture too far from campus.

If you have a sweet tooth & a couple hours… make one of these 57 Valentine’s Day Dessert Recipes from Brit + Co. If you do, make sure you tag Falvey so we can see your creations!

If you have 1 hour and 37 minutes… get together with your Galentines and watch the coming-of-age 90s classic comedy, Clueless, currently available on HBO Max. Check out this list of the 30 Best Galentine’s Day Movies for You and Your Bestie to Enjoy for more movie recs.

If you have 2 hours… go on a date to the theatre – the Villanova Theatre. This week marks opening weekend of Villanova Theatre’s newest show, The Revolutionists. Click here to learn more and purchase tickets.


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


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Reflections from a GA – Traveling Through Fall 2021

By Jenna Renaud 

This semester is coming to a close as well as 2021, so it’s the perfect time to reflect back on my third semester working in Falvey as a Graduate Assistant (GA.) Also, I may or may not be stealing the idea from Falvey’s other GA Ethan, so make sure to check out his post! At the beginning of this semester, I officially handed off the duties of Cat in the Stax to Ethan.

As excited as I was to see someone new take over the role and provide their creativity, I wasn’t sure where that left me in regard to blog writing. That being said, reflecting back, I definitely was able to fill my semester with fun and challenging projects and content to take on! 

Courtesy of Jenna – Beckett Bites

The first weekly blog post I took on this semester was Peek at the Week, a preview of all the events going on in the upcoming week. I then expanded that to include a “Word of the Week” and a “This Week in History” section. Looking back, I would have to say that my favorite “Word of the Week” probably had to be my first, “petrichor” or the smell of rain. This was also a word I learned during a team meeting at my summer internship and was able to bring over into my job here! Through my “This Week in History” sections, I learned more about historic events from the opening of the New York subway to the lore surrounding the mysterious Bermuda Triangle. 

In addition to expanding my history knowledge every week, my Weekend Recs allowed me to scour the internet to deliver snapshots on what is going on in the world. From recapping important topics like COVID vaccinations to silly topics like potatoes, I kept up with the news and maintained a pulse on what was happening outside of my Villanova community bubble. I also got the opportunity to write about some of my favorite topics including Taylor Swift, the NFL and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Falvey continuously challenges me to find ways to tie my passions and interests into my Falvey writings and the Villanova community.  

Writing for the blog has also allowed me to create and maintain relationships outside of Falvey, including with Villanova Theatre! Last year I got a taste of Villanova Theatre through their virtual productions; however, fall 2021 brought the full experience and the opportunity to see the first live performances in the brand-new John and Joan Mullen Center for the Performing Arts. This semester I covered “WHITE” and co-wrote a blog on “Beckett Bites” with Ethan. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to learn more about the theatre community and promote incredibly talented individuals every semester. 

HHAW Falvey display

Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week display

Being back in-person full-time for the fall semester brought with it new and exciting changes to my daily duties. Rather than being in the office solo once a week, I was surrounded by my co-workers and a team of student workers! The opportunities for collaboration were something I didn’t know I craved so much coming out of last year. From learning the ropes on poster deliveries from Kelly, to collaborating on the Taylor Weekend Recs with Anna, to reading Allie’s Flick or Flip blogs, I have genuinely enjoyed growing with all of Falvey’s student workers.  

Being on campus altogether also calls for more displays and events! Putting up the Homelessness Awareness Week display with Anna challenged me to think about ways to get students’ attention for important topics through a static display. Our salty & sweet finals grab-and-go table required creative thinking to find a way to help relieve students’ stress in a COVID-safe way!  

All in all, I cannot express how grateful I am for this past semester at Falvey and part of what made it great was you all reading and engaging! Time is flying by and I am excited to make Spring 2022 the best semester yet. Cheers to 2022! 

 

 


jenna newman headshotJenna Renaud is a Graduate Assistant in Falvey Memorial Library and a Graduate Student in the Communication Department.


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Stephen Sondheim’s Legacy Lives on at Falvey Library

By Ethan Shea

Stephen Sondheim Headshot

Merrily We Roll Along Playbill

Last month, the world lost one of its most talented theatrical artists. This artist, Stephen Sondheim, was a composer and lyricist who changed musical theatre forever. His career started with a bang when he wrote the lyrics for West Side Story, but the hits do not stop there. Sondheim has composed and written for countless classic musicals, such as Company, A Little Night MusicMerrily We Roll Along and Into the Woods to name just a few.

Given Villanova University’s longstanding theatrical tradition, the loss of Sondheim was particularly heartbreaking on campus. Sondheim has had such a profound impact on Villanova that his play, Merrily We Roll Along, whose playbill is featured to the left, was scheduled to be the final production performed in Vasey Hall before the COVID-19 Pandemic paused the 2019-2020 Villanova Theatre season.

To honor his legacy, Falvey invites you learn more about Sondheim’s incredible life by checking out a book. For example, Stephen Sondheim: A Casebook is a collection of 14 essays that examines the development of Sondheim’s work over the years. This book lives on the third floor of our stacks and is currently available for pick up. Another book, Sondheim, written by Martin Gottfried, is a biography that tells a detailed story of Sondheim’s life and career up until the book’s publication in 2000. This text is also available on our third floor stacks among many others.

Without a doubt, our Villanova community will continue to enjoy Sondheim’s timeless body of work, and Falvey Memorial Library is happy to help you do so.


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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Villanova Theatre Hosts Sue Winge Award-Winning Plays

""

By Jenna Renaud

Villanova Theatre is hosting the public reading of two 2021 Sue Winge Award-winning plays on Thursday, Dec. 2, and Saturday, Dec. 4, at 8 p.m., in the Smith Performance Lab at the John and Joan Mullen Center for the Performing Arts. The reading includes The Invisible Ones by Aly Gonzalez and Laundry by Megan Schumacher, directed by Kimberly S. Fairbanks, Schumacher ’18 MA and Gonzalez ’21 MA.

The readings, directed by Kimberly S. Fairbanks ’11, are connected by themes of retaining individual identity and personal humanity while weathering unjust systems.  

“We’re really delighted to be able to confer this year’s Award on two playwrights with very different, yet equally engaging, theatrical visions,” Villanova Theatre Artistic Director Michael Hollinger says. “Aly’s The Invisible Ones is a beautiful snapshot of two unhoused teens living beneath an underpass, one of whom hopefully pursues a college education despite her strained circumstances. Megan’s powerful Laundry reveals another kind of ‘underworld,’ where five women, stripped of individual identity, labor under a dehumanizing system while struggling to retain their essential humanity.”  

Production dramaturg Paul Goraczko provided insight on the qualities both plays have in common: “In Laundry and The Invisible Ones we have two utterly compelling pieces of theatre about people who are marginalized, forgotten, and yearning to be seen. Seeing these plays back-to-back will surely be a thought-provoking experience that audiences won’t want to miss.” 

The Sue Winge Playwriting Award was established in memory of beloved Villanova University employee Sue Winge, who served the University for many years in the Theatre Department and the President’s Office. The award annually supports the creation and development of new plays at Villanova University, including the recent Bakkhai Variations commissions and workshop of Julia Izumi’s Sometimes the Rain, Sometimes the Sea.

You can register for your free tickets on the Villanova Theatre website: http://villanovatheatre.org/sue-winge-2021/  

Source: Villanova Theatre (2021, November 29). Villanova Theatre Presents the 2021 Sue Winge Playwriting Award Winners: The Invisible Ones by Aly Gonzalez and Laundry by Megan Schumacher [Press release]. 


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

 

 

 

 

 


 


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“Beckett Bites” Recap (SPOILER WARNING)

By Jenna Renaud and Ethan Shea

"Samuel Beckett"

This week, frequent blog contributors Jenna and Ethan attended the latest Villanova Theatre production, Beckett Bites. This performance consists of four brief plays by Samuel Beckett: Play, Footfalls, Rockaby and Come and Go.

Rather than writing a traditional review of the performance, Jenna and Ethan will both be responding to questions posed in the production’s education guide. As stated in this resource, the education guide is “intended to help guide and inspire conversation, reflection and further research connected to Villanova Theatre’s production of Beckett Bites,” so if you would like to view the guide in its entirety, check out this link.


Play

What do you think the three characters in Play are fighting with? What do you think they want by telling their story over and over again?

Jenna: Each character is ultimately fighting with their loneliness, isolation, and regret within the intertwining relationship. They are working to justify their actions by replaying the scenario of what happened repeatedly. The repetitiveness, however, seems to trap them in this cycle of replaying what happened over and over again. Despite all playing different roles in the affair, they are all reduced to the same emotions and the same fight against their isolation and regret.

Ethan: The three characters in Play seem to be arguing about a relationship scandal. This situation became clear simply because the characters addressed it directly, but the occasionally cluttered nature of their dialogue made the circumstances difficult to unravel at first. The repetition of their story plays into Beckett’s use of repetition which, given the context of absurdism, is meant to “drain away meaning” according to the aforementioned education guide. Therefore, it is reasonable to believe that the characters repeat their stories to cope with the pain caused by the relationship scandal. By repeating their stories, the characters hope to render the situation meaningless, taking away any power it has to hurt them.


Footfalls

In Footfalls, many people often believe that May is a ghost, literally or figuratively, or living in a ghost-like state. Discuss what you think she represents.

Jenna: I believe May represents someone living in a ghost-like state, trapped by the role she had to play as her mother’s caretaker. I believe that May exists; although, her mother has since passed and it a replaying of conversations that May struggles with as she paces back in forth. May puts forth a state of psychological imprisonment, the loss of agency, and, ultimately, the loss of identity.

Ethan: Regardless of whether May is literally a ghost or not, she is certainly “living in a ghost-like state.” Her solo presence on stage represents her mental isolation and physical separation from the rest of the world, an isolation similar to that of a ghost who is trapped in another world and only able to call upon others from afar. In this particular production, when May is revealed in reality behind the screen, she functions as a living shadow as she walks in sync with the cinematic representation of herself. Calling attention to these similarities between life and the screen make May appear to be both a figurative and literal ghost.


Rockaby

If the narrative comes from audio, what effect do you think that has on the actor/audience relationship?

Jenna: With the audio narrative, I think it helps the audience ultimately relate better to the actor in that many people often feel as though they have this internal narration going on inside their minds. In reflecting on the play, I think the narrative is the internal dialogue of the woman, who is working to cope with her mother’s passing and themes of loneliness and a desire for others to understand. Versus the woman speaking her piece, the narration allows the audience to see the grief more clearly on the woman’s face.

Ethan: The recorded audio in this play creates a bit of distance between the actor and audience. Given the current COVID-19 Pandemic and its detrimental impact upon live performances, I felt especially separated from the production due to the use of recorded audio and film. Although I am fascinated by the incorporation of these mediums onto the stage, after nearly two years of waiting for the return of live performances, being greeted by yet another screen was not the theatrical experience I had in mind.


Come and Go

Some have said that the three women can represent school girls, old maids, or witches. What do you think of when you see the three women, and why?

Jenna: When I see the three women I think of three women somewhere between school girls and old maids. They have moved on to the next stage of their lives, but there is still something drawing them back to that place. They represent the desire of returning to that childhood innocence and bliss, working to get there, but realizing that it will ultimately be slightly marred by the life that has occurred since then.

Ethan: Although the three womens’ outfits reminded me a bit of Alvin and the Chipmunks, out of the three representations mentioned in the question, I would say the women represented school girls the most. Because of the gossip that is stereotypically associated with children at school, the indiscernible whispering the women take part in is reminiscent of schoolchildren.  Regardless of the shock of gossip, the three women still come together at the end and join hands. This reading of the play asks audiences to learn from children. in doing so, perhaps they could also put aside their differences as children do.


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


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Last Modified: November 12, 2021