Villanova Theatre Logo

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Love Letter to Villanova Theatre

I made the decision to apply to the Villanova Master's in Theatre Program on March 15th, 2012.  Little did I know how much my life would change as a result of this decision. I graduated from college in May 2011 with little to no direction in life. I had accepted a graduate assistantship in West Virginia to pursue a Master's in Business Administration.  Let me be clear, I am NOT a business-minded person.  However, I made a promise to myself: once I finished my MBA, I was going to devote my life to my true passion - the arts.

I lasted one semester in that MBA program. By February 2012 I was on the search again for a graduate program. I happened to stumble upon an assistantship opportunity offered through the Office of Residence Life at Villanova.  I applied to that position, and perused the Villanova website looking for something to study. That’s when I saw it: Master of Arts in Theatre. I took it as a sign, and I promised myself that no matter what happened I was going to go to Villanova for Theatre, even if I had to pay for it. I applied, and then I attended an open house where I met Dr. Joanna Rotte. I sat with her for a while and discussed the program and my undergraduate major. She told me that the department LOVED psychology majors. After leaving the open house, I felt invigorated, I felt renewed, and most of all I felt happy.

Theatre was what I needed to do, it was my calling.  I was accepted to the program on April 20th, 2012 . . . the same day I decided to tell my family. They were shocked - I had never made mention of my love for theatre.  It has always been there - the burning desire to create art, to be a part of this beautiful spectacle that is live theatre. When I was younger, I auditioned for shows and was even cast in a few. But because of my fear and a lack of confidence, I always backed out. All of my friends in high school were in shows and musicals, and I would sit in the audience wishing it was me who was on the stage singing or dancing my heart out. My friends who were a part of shows always seemed so free when they were performing, and I desperately wanted to experience that. I just couldn’t get it out of my head.

Before Villanova, I had no idea what a dramaturg was or what they did.  I had no clue how actors learned all of those lines. I was oblivious to how much work actually went into a production. I didn’t know how to analyze a script.  I couldn't tell you what an objective, obstacle, or even subtext meant. I was fresh new babe, reborn in the fires of live theatre.  I felt out of place. But by the end of orientation, I knew I had made the right decision.  I had found my tribe. It didn’t matter that I had no experience as an actor, stagehand, or scholar. The people I met changed my life for the better. When I left that first meeting, I felt like I finally belonged somewhere - I was finally free to be myself.

Fast forward to the first day of class, I remember feeling overwhelmed, but as I walked to my car, I was joined by my new friends Peter and John.  I remember how all three of us felt excited and nervous for what this adventure would bring.  We were in this together.  I felt accepted, and loved for who I was. It was a feeling that I had never felt before. I always felt that I was hiding who I was, that I was always shrinking myself down so that I could fit in with those around me, and for the first time I was in an environment where I was encouraged to be who I was, flaws and all.

As I sit here, a mere two weeks away from leaving this program behind, I find myself feeling very nostalgic and very thankful. Before this program I was lost; I was depressed, and I really felt like I had no future. Coming to Villanova was the best decision I've ever made.  I’ve met some of the most inspiring, generous, kind, and caring people in the entire world.  I’ve been broken down, challenged, stretched (physically, emotionally, and mentally).  I’ve been encouraged.  I’ve been loved. Walking away from this program I now know so much about theatre, and my love and passion for the arts has grown immensely. In many ways, this program has saved my life.  It gave me the opportunity to get up on that stage and expose the deepest, darkest parts of my soul, and after it was all said and done, I had a group of people who cried with me, hugged me, and loved me even more for living my truth.
This program has taught me not only how to be a theatre practitioner, it has taught me how to be a stronger person - how to live in the uncomfortable muck of life. It has taught me that no matter how dark the night seems, the dawn is always around the corner. Villanova Theatre is the family that I never knew I had, and I am eternally grateful for having the privilege of spending two years here. It will be bittersweet to say goodbye to this place, but I know that Villanova has prepared me to be successful wherever life takes me.  I know that no matter what happens, I will always have my Nova family. Everyone who works in this department loves their students, and they only want what’s best for us. Thank you to everyone at Villanova for the best two years of my life.  It has been an honor to be a part of this experience; I am forever changed.

My advice to anyone coming into the program next year: cherish every moment. Run towards that which scares you. I promise, it is infinitely worth the experience.


Matthew Basden '14

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Wanderlust: Falling in Love in Foreign Lands

Traveling offers us with the opportunity to open up our hearts to new places, ideas, experiences, and people.  In celebration of opening The Light in the Piazza this week, we decided to share some of our experiences falling in love while on journeys across the world with you, our audience.

Brie: "I fell in love with the ponies in Chincoteague, and the owls who to talk to each other at night through the trees.  Hoot, hoot!"

Pat:  "I fell in love with the trulli in Alberobello, Puglia."

Emily Z: "When I was in London, I got to experience the pub culture there.  I completely fell in love with how conversational it was.  People weren't there to party or pick up girls.  They went in to talk about their day, to connect with people."

Sophia:  "I fell in love with the writing of Ernest Hemingway on a class trip to Cuba."

Emily:  "I fell in love with tartufo in Piazza Navona."

Seth Schmitt-Hall:  "I feel it in my fingers.  I feel it in my toes.  Love is all around us, and in Europe it grows."

Kim:  "I fell in love with Flamenco in Spain.  And my husband in St. Lucia!"

Elisa:  "The minute I got off the plane in 1980 I fell madly in love with Ireland, and have been in love ever since.  The rest is history."

Seth Schmitt-Hall:  "I love Paris in the springtime.  I love Paris in the Fall."

Hallie:  "I fell in love with my spirituality and connection to all people in India.  But I especially fell in love with the sassy monkeys who steal juice boxes from kids on their way to school."

Raj:  "Here are all the foreign places in which I've fallen in love: England, Ireland, Barcelona, Warsaw, Rome, paris, Sienna, Italy, and Hamburg.  I'm a romantic."

Seth Schmitt-Hall:  "From Russia with love."

Lauren F: "I realized why I had been in love with Irish music all my life when I finally heard it in person in a quaint little pub in Cork, no bigger than the Vasey green room.  It was called Sin É Pub, which simply means "it is".  I met one of the musicians that night and fell in love with writing letters to him.  We've been pen pals ever since."

Cassie:  "I fell in love with my family's history when I was in Lithuania.  As soon as I saw the church in which my grandmother got married, I felt so connected to her."

Don't have the time or money to go have your own foreign romance?  Get transported to Florence with The Light in the Piazza, running at Villanova Theatre April 1st-13th.  Get tickets on our website, or call 610-519-7474.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Fashion and Florence in the Fifties

The Light in the Piazza follows Margaret and Clara Johnson on a magical trip to Italy in 1953, which unexpectedly leads to discovery, love, and enlightenment. Fortunately for our cast and production team, rehearsing a show filled with sights and sounds like Piazza, lets us explore all things beautiful: history, art, music, architecture, etc.

Our key player, of course, is the beautiful city of Florence herself. Firenze (as the Italians call it) is widely regarded as the “birthplace of the Renaissance,” where many of art’s greatest masters once called home. Thanks to that rich heritage, the city is filled with statues, paintings, cathedrals, and museums that create a feast for the senses. Margaret’s favorite place in the whole city, however, is the piazza because of the openness and the light. From the Greek word for "wide space" or "opening", the piazzas are city squares at town centers or the meeting of roads, where exists the pulse of the community. Often lines with cafés and shops, piazza host tourists and natuves alike who spend time walking, shopping, sightseeing, and dining in these social centers of which Florence contains dozens.  Who knows if it's Italy, or Adam Guettel's amazing score, or our wonderful collaborative team, but the piazza is already bringing out the beauty in all of us.

And nothing completes the picturesque piazza more than this era’s gorgeous clothes. Fashion held a particularly important place in the atmosphere of the 1950s, and even more so in Italy.  Gender roles became very strictly enforced in the post-war culture of Italy as well as America. This can be seen most clearly in the silhouettes of the era, where women’s figures were featured through A-line dresses and other ultra-feminine shapes. Most women still wore heavy foundation garments such as girdles and corsets to accentuate the natural form of a small waist and curvy bust and hips. Men wore suits that heightened the Y-shape of their torsos and took great care in the details of their fashions such as cufflinks, tie pins, hats, and pocket squares.

Italians took particular pride in fashion both as a daily routine and as a new part of their economic landscape. A large step in bringing Italy to the forefront of the fashion scene was the first multi-designer Italian fashion show, held in Florence in 1951. Here, the spotlight was turned on such pioneer designers as the Fontana Sisters, Contessa Visconti, Emilio Pucci, Baroness Gallotti, and Bertoli, and the fashion press responded with enthusiasm, using phrases like "seductive elegance" and "aristocratic ease." Costume designer Rosemarie McKelvey speaks to what she loves about fashion in the 1950s: “Men and women had their clothes tailored specifically for them and enjoyed the details that went into getting dressed every day. They wore clothes because they loved them.”

Although Margaret and Clara’s journey brings one unexpected event after another. What our trip to Florence can absolutely promise is unending beauty through the exquisiteness of the 50s as well as the splendor of Florence.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Second Annual Villanova Theatre Playwriting Competition!

Mark Costello ('10), who won last year for his play m4m
The Villanova Theatre Department is pleased to announce the Second Annual Playwriting Competition, offered exclusively to Villanova students, alumni, faculty and staff. 

The goal of this competition is to foster creative endeavors within the Villanova arts community. The funding and support for this project will be provided by the Sue Winge Playwriting Grant. 

Mark J. Costello, the 2013 winner, had this to say about the experience: "Being recognized by my alma mater -especially one in memory of a beloved and highly respected member of our community - was an honor beyond words.  It has encouraged me to write bigger and better, and I'm excited to see what work the award inspires in the creative geniuses of other Villanova theatremakers."

The guidelines for the competition are as follows:

1.  Competition is open to all Villanova students, alumni, faculty and staff.
Scripts are to be original, unpublished, and unproduced.  

2. Musicals, monologues, children’s plays, film scripts, and television scripts are ineligible.

3. Winning playwright will receive a $300 stipend. Travel and housing costs are the responsibility of playwright.

4. Winning play will receive two rehearsals and a staged reading in September 2014 that will be open to the public.

5. The Theatre Department will provide a cast and a graduate student director.

6. In addition to a staged reading, the playwright will receive professional feedback from Villanova University’s Theatre Department.           

7. Playwrights may submit ONE play per year. Plays submitted that do not win may be resubmitted in subsequent years.

8. Scripts must be submitted in English.

9. Only electronic copies may be submitted.

The deadline for submission is March 7th, 2014

All submissions should be directed to the attention of: Elizabeth Marafino, Production Assistant,

The Sue Winge Playwriting Grant and competition 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.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same

When Villanova Theatre chose to include The School For Lies in their 2013-14 season, they knew off the bat that they would need a strong student production dramaturg to help the cast pull the high-style court of Louis the XIV through history and into the modern day - which is really the project of the entire production.  Good thing Sarah Totora was willing and available!  Previously receiving distinction for her Orals project as Production Dramaturg for How I Learned to Drive in Villanova Theatre's 2012-13, Sarah has done a stellar job of making the foreign world of Paris, 1666 accessible to the cast and audience.  Below are just a few of the amazing things she found in her research:

SARAH: Modeled after Molière's play The Misanthrope, David Ives' The School for Lies invites us to pull up a chair in a chic Paris salon, circa 1666...and 2014. Ives infuses the play with contemporary expressions and anachronistic references, bending its 17th-century setting like a funhouse mirror. The result is a world that pulses with then and now, which the cast navigates expertly.  

To help everyone find their footing in this curious environment, I researched life and style in the 1600s--an era of carefully prescribed manners and mores. Bows and curtsies, walking sticks, elegant handkerchiefs, and ballet-like poses colored courtly life in Molière's time, and informed our interpretation of characters in The School for Lies. Along the way, I also picked up some pointed advice.

For example, a 1694 British publication called The Ladies' Dictionary advised women against being too skinny: "Bodies that are very Lean and Scragged, we must own, cannot be very Comely: it is a contrary Extream to Corpulency and the Parties Face always seems to carry Lent in it." The same manual cautions a woman not to yield to her beau's advances too hastily, even if she loves him, explaining, "You will get better Conditions if the Enemy does not know how weak you are within. Forgive, Ladies, all the Warlike Gibberish..."

Men, too, had guides to inform their wooing, such as The Academy of Complements, which dates back to 1661. Herein a man could gather sample sweet-talk to try out on the "ladies and gentlewomen" in his life. He might, for example, tell a girlfriend that "her breasts are a pair of Maiden-unconquered Worlds," or that "her neck is polisht Ivory, white as the silver Dove."

The way I see it, primary sources like these are a dramaturgical jackpot--a time capsule that brings to life a given historical moment with words straight from the horse's mouth. More illuminating yet? Take a look at this month's Cosmopolitan magazine, whose cover stories include "The One Thing You Must Never Do With A Guy" and "The Bikini Body Plan: 4 Steps to Smokin'!" Or check out the current issue of GQ for "The Best Places In The World To Take Your Girlfriend (We Checked With Her)." As they say, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

The School for Lies runs February 11th-23rd.  Call the Villanova Theatre Box Office at 610.519.7474 or visit for ticket information.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

KC MacMillan Tells No Lies

Villanova Theatre is so lucky to have KC MacMillan, Villanova Theatre MA grad and professional director in the Philadelphia area, on board as director for School for Lies.  Her perspective has been invaluable to the students that are working on the production.  In one actor's words, "she is an absolute dream".   She was kind enough to answer some questions for Villanova Theatre Talk about School for Lies, her work with student actors, and the influence that Villanova played on her career as a theatre practitioner.

How did your education in the Villanova Theatre MA program shape your trajectory as a theatre artist?

So many ways, directly and indirectly.  My major interest at that time was dramaturgy, work I still do frequently at the Lantern, where I am the associate artistic director.  The discipline, specificity, and creativity of the dramaturg is a major component of my work as a director.  And although I didn’t quite realize I was a director until a few years after I graduated with my M.A., my classwork at Villanova, particularly Jim Christy’s directing and styles courses and Harriet Power’s solo performance course, sent my artist-self in that direction, for sure.

How does it feel to return to your alma mater as a professional guest director?

It’s a real honor.  It’s been a real pleasure to work as a peer with Villanova production staff who were here when I was a student (1999-2001).  Back then, I was one of Janus’ assistants in the costume shop.  To work with her, talking about character, palette, etc, as I watched her do with other directors back then, is a joy.  It is also a bit surreal—a measure of how I have changed as a person and an artist.  I’m 36; I’ve been directing professionally more than 10 years and I have 22 productions behind me.  Most of the time that just feels like my ordinary life.  But being back at Villanova, working with graduate students talking about Script Analysis and Dr. Bader’s class—I find myself peering into the past at my 23-year-old Villanova self.  Being that person feels like a lifetime ago…but also not really that long at all.

Can you say a few words about School for Lies?  What makes it a special show to work on?  What about it has been enjoyable so far?

I’m having a great time.  It’s a style I have worked in frequently, having directed two previous productions of Moliere and an adaptation of another classical play by David Ives.  Or as Ives calls it, a “translaptation,” reflecting his desire to honor the classical playwright’s work, but to adapt it with his own playwright’s tools and the ‘music’ of contemporary language.  It’s fun to share the aesthetic of high comedy with these student actors, helping them to unlock the secrets of the verse, find a physical vocabulary for the world, and plumb the text for the jokes.  Which are often obscene.  The atmosphere of our rehearsal room has been thoughtful, hardworking, joyful.

School for Lies runs February 11th-23rd.  Call 610.519.7474 or visit for ticket information.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

I Am Thankful For . . . by Christine Petrini

Villanova Theatre Masters Program awards several full tuition scholarships to students who display passion, talent, and dedication to the theatre arts.  Over the Thanksgiving Holiday, Acting Scholar Christine Petrini reflected on all of the things she is grateful for.  Here is her post, just in time for the Christmas holidays!

Before I over indulge in Thursday’s Thanksgiving feastival, at which time I will scour the world with cruel exactitude in search of juicy turkey legs and my Aunt Paula’s apple pie, I would like to give thanks. I am thankful every day, as I’m sure we all are, but I don’t always say so.

I don’t know how I came to be so blessed, I suppose it all started with my mama and my dad who offer me unconditional love, support and encouragement (even when it may be undeserved). They helped to set me on a path that led me here, to Villanova, where I can be thankful for friends, mentors, a community of collaborators, hugs, laughs, tears and smiles.

Now let’s talk a little turkey here.

I am thankful for….

a generous community of teachers, peers, collaborators and supporters; all of whom provide a safe and motivational environment within the Villanova Theatre Department.

the daily joy and pride I experience when witnessing the work of my peers as performers, designers, directors, stage managers, dramaturgs, and shop assistants. I am in a constant state of awe.

the opportunity to be pushed beyond my limits, stretched and challenged by my professors, peers and directors (I’m always surprised when I get to the other side of a project or challenge).

my experience in the cast of Everyman. This, of course, includes costumes made of belts and other fabulous repurposed items, the chance to sing an aria for the first time in probably a decade and the experience of being harnessed and magically suspended in the air as Good Deeds.

my partner, Christian, who keeps me sane and sits at my laptop helping me understand my Financial Management homework while making a big pot of Chili after I’ve had a long day at school.

a daily awareness of my body, my mind, and my breathing; all of which comes with a life in the arts where we free ourselves to imagine, create and do.

my full tuition scholarship, the very special honor of attending Villanova as an acting scholar and the opportunity to be a leader amongst my theatre peers.

Thank you for these blessings! Now, the challenge is to go fourth and do something good with all the goodness that has been granted to me!

Of course, there is plenty more to be thanks to be given. Instead of naming each one of you here, I will thank you for touching my life the next time I see you at Villanova (and if I don’t, remind me of this promise)!!

Now, if you don’t know, I once ate 14 pieces of French toast on a Saturday and then 12 pancakes the next day. Clearly, I am thankful for good food so, enough turkey talk; it’s time for turkey eating!