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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

"Dear Eurydice, Sincerely Yours" by Rebecca Cureton

On their path to graduation, all Villanova Theatre second-year students complete a Thesis project in a chosen area that they have studied over the past two years. Options range from academic to artistic and have taken on many forms over the years. Rebecca, is currently playing the title role of Eurydice in Villanova Theatre's current production of Sarah Ruhl's EurydiceBelow, Rebecca shares with us her own Dear Eurydice letter: 

Dear Eurydice,

Remember when we first met? I was afraid to approach you in the beginning. You have lived for centuries. Your tale is ancient, yet your words are new and alive. You now tell your story with your own strong voice. The honor of giving sound to that voice is overwhelming and expectations are high, especially the expectations I place on myself. Questions such as,” Will I find your voice speaking honestly and bravely through my own?,”  “Can I capture you in a recognizable and original way?,” and “Do I have the emotional strength to carry this titular role?,” pulsed through my mind.

Mixed with this trepidation was also bursting excitement. A famed character from Greek mythology now adapted to speak with such bravery and generosity, you are an iconic role to play. The range of emotions you express are a welcome challenge for anyone honing their craft. While the weight of the play is heavy, your lightness of spirit is joyful. How often does one get to tackle such a paradox!?

This lightness and simplicity of your speech at first belies the depth of your intellect and capacity to feel. You say you do not need rhythm, but the rhythm of your heart is undeniable. The beats of your emotions and the rhythmic pace of your journey from life to death, love and loss; are as lyrical as Orpheus’ music. The poetry of your words and bravery in your choices give me the opportunity to travel your road as I speak words which not mine, but made mine. Ours. As we dance together.

And we have danced! Our friendship blossomed to complete happiness with a power to feel and play that I have never felt before in rehearsals.  With the loving support of a creative team and surrounded by an encouraging and talented cast, my fear quickly melted as I found freedom to make mistakes and expand my physical and emotional abilities.

Eurydice, do you recall that secret I told you? Crying was embarrassing for me. There was something in the release of tears that always felt weak and shameful. I expect most people understand that feeling. But you have taught me no emotion is weak. Your expression of love is so free and your thoughts so open that to share them is a delight and not a shame.
I have no embarrassment now in loving, laughing, and crying. It means I am alive.

We are alive.

Your story reminds me that time is short. I hope it reminds our audiences, too. It seems like yesterday that we said “hello.” Now it is almost time to say “goodbye.” We should be good at that by now. We say difficult “goodbyes” so many times in this play. Leave-taking should be our forte. I confess I am still not a master of it. I struggle now to find the right words to express myself. You have connected my heart to my voice, for which I am eternally grateful.

I want the words to be perfect and saying everything. I even thought saying it in a letter would be easier.

All I can say is thank you for letting me share breath with you.

Sincerely (and always) yours,

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

James Ijames Shares His Thoughts on Eurydice

Broad Street Interviewer, Tara Lynn Johnson, recently posed some questions for our esteemed Director, James Ijames, on his production of Eurydice. We're thrilled to offer this exclusive interview! 

Johnson: Tell me about Eurydice and what it's about in your own words.

Ijames: Eurydice is about holding on to the things we love and also letting go of the things we love. It's about fathers and daughters. It's about how to love across great distances.

Johnson: Tell me about directing. What are the challenges? What's fun about it?  

Ijames: I think the biggest challenge is finding space for my ideas/vision in relationship to the collaborators around me so that the final piece of art is something we all created together. That's a beautiful thing to balance but is not without difficulty. My favorite part is tech. When it all comes together and the magic happens.

Johnson: Tell me about Ruhl's writing and style. What do you like about it? What's unique about it? What's your favorite thing about it?

Ijames: Sarah Ruhl is one of the greatest writers of her generation. I love her use of magic and whimsy but her plays are very sturdy. I think of Sarah Ruhl's plays in much the same way I consider a gothic church. There is so much happening, and it hard to take it all in, but they are always reaching for the sublime.

Johnson: Tell me a little about your cast. How are the kids doing with the material?

Ijames: The cast is great. Super smart, fearless, daring and honest. I adore them.

Johnson: Tell me why people should attend a Villanova production and this one in particular.

Ijames: It's going to be a fresh take on a play that has been done quite a bit. We have worked really hard to make the world feel very immediate even when in the moments that live in nostalgia. Also, the design and acting is pretty terrific. You wanna see it!

Villanova Theatre’s production of Eurydice opens tonight and runs through October 4th. Get your tickets at or call us at 610-519-7474.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Reclaiming of Eurydice

Dramaturg, Meghan Trelease, discusses how Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice modernizes the classic Greek Myth.
Sarah Ruhl finds inspiration for her play Eurydice in the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, a tale which is quintessentially tragic.  The tragedy of the classical lovers lies in the idea of one fated and fatal moment, one split second decision that alters two lifetimes.  When Orpheus descends into the Underworld to rescue his wife Eurydice from untimely death, he receives strict instructions that he must walk out of the realm of the dead without looking back at his beloved.  Orpheus must resist the temptation to reassure himself that Eurydice is following him, and he must practice complete and total faith.  When he does look back, it is an all too human response. Whether Orpheus’ failure to comply with his directives is the result of a knee jerk, unconscious response or indicative of some larger fissure of trust between himself and Eurydice, the fact is this single action bears eternal and weighty consequences.  Eurydice must die a second death, and Orpheus must return alone to the earthly realm and live out the rest of his days without his one great love.

Ultimately, Sarah Ruhl reclaims Eurydice from her traditional role as a footnote and mere function in the tragedy belonging largely to her husband Orpheus. Ruhl rescues Eurydice from tragedy, victimhood, disempowerment, and oblivion.  The woman who triumphantly emerges is the amazing woman you will see on the Vasey stage: a woman who deals with incredibly difficult circumstances, yet never wavers in her determination to control of her own life.  Suddenly, the tale of Orpheus and Eurydice is no longer a tragedy, but a brave and poignant tale of love, loss, and ultimately fragile and beautiful hope.      

Sarah Ruhl adapts the myth in a variety of ways, but she particularly focuses on re-imagining and reframing the idea of the “looking back”.  In Ruhl’s Eurydice, the act of looking back is not a mistake, but an act of agency.  Eurydice, depicted by Ruhl, as a modern woman learning how to wield her own power, actually calls out to Orpheus as she follows him out of the Underworld.  Eurydice is the catalyst of this moment, and suddenly Orpheus’ decision to look back represents Eurydice’s choice to control her own destiny.  (I will let the production speak for the reasons Eurydice chooses to call out to her husband, for the actors can illuminate the nuances of this far better than I can.) Sarah Ruhl subverts the idea of looking back so that it becomes the moment that our heroine, Eurydice, embodies her full potential, rather than the moment in which she is simply a hapless victim to her husband’s tragic faux pas.

Sarah Ruhl continues to rebel against the traditional tale of Orpheus and Eurydice by reclaiming the idea of what it means to forget.  Traditionally, when a person died and descended into the Underworld, a swim in the River Lethe was part of the elaborate ritual of passage. The Lethe was the river of forgetfulness, and the Underworld was a place where all souls shared in their inability to remember anything or anyone from the earthly realm.  Therefore, not only was Orpheus forced to return to live out his mortal life without his love, but he was also the only half of the couple who was even aware of this great loss. Eurydice, having died a second death, was completely oblivious that she even had a husband or that he was torn from her life.  Once again, the classic version of the myth positions Orpheus at the center of the story as both the catalyst of dramatic misfortune and the main recipient of its consequence.

Just as Ruhl bestows Eurydice with the agency to cause Orpheus to look back and relinquish her once again to the Underworld, Ruhl allows Eurydice to choose to exist in a state of forgetfulness. Ruhl’s interpretation of forgetting is not one of punishment, consequence, or misfortune, but it is rather a symbol of acceptance and a coming to terms with circumstances.  Eurydice, as reimagined by Sarah Ruhl, chooses to forget so that she can finally be at peace. (Once again, I will not spoil the delicious reasons of Eurydice’s choice- come and see our production!)  Ruhl openly acknowledges that she wrote Eurydice in an attempt to come to terms with her profound grief over the death of her father; her reframing of forgetting as a relief rather than a burden perhaps indicates her personal feelings about moving past mourning into acceptance.

runs September 22-October 4th at Villanova Theatre. Call 610-519-7474 or visit for tickets! 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Brechtin' Ain't Easy

On their path to graduation, all Villanova Theatre second-year students complete an Orals project - the equivalent of a Master's thesis - in a chosen area that they have studied over the past two years. Options range from academic to artistic and have taken on many forms over the years.  John, currently playing Tiger Brown in Villanova's production of The Threepenny Opera, is exploring the particular difficulties that accompany playing a Brechtian role.  Brecht created his own aesthetic in the mid-20th century, and along with it, a new style of acting.  What's it like to take on an unfamiliar technique?  Read below to find out!

As I write this blog post, it's April 3rd and we are just starting a much needed four day rest for Easter Break before returning for tech week, and my brain has been out in Brecht-space for about six weeks straight. (For those unaware, Bertolt Brecht wrote The Threepenny Opera, the musical which we're currently neck-deep in.)  To be honest, I'm surprised I can remember what state I live in at the moment. This material is difficult for several reasons, but I'm quite glad to be here. This is my last show as a second year in the MA program, and playing Tiger Brown is a great-and challenging-note to go out on.

John as Officer Lockstock in Urinetown
I first become somewhat acquainted with Brecht several years ago during undergrad, and within a year or so of studying him (somewhat) for the first time, we did a production of Urinetown. I played Officer Lockstock (look at that, another chief of police) and ended up being our dramaturg and writing the program notes, so this was when I really began to read about the conventions of Brecht's Epic Theatre and how Urinetown was a love letter to shows like The Threepenny Opera. I thought I knew what I was in for, but it's a much more delicate process than I had imagined.

It's very hard to approach Brecht like you would a conventional play or musical. I hesitate to put it this way, but you're not really playing a flesh and blood character, you're playing an idea. Almost like a stock character from a farce, but more complicated than that. Brecht wanted his audiences's called "verfremdungseffekt", or the distancing effect. He wanted you to think about the deeper meaning of the material after leaving the play, and doing this outside of the theatre. He didn't want his audiences deeply engaged with the characters, enough to worry about who's getting killed, who's cheating on who, how character A knows character B's plan, etc. It was sort of a "Don't worry about that and be entertained" approach, because he wanted his audiences very aware that they were watching a play and directly addressed them through the fourth wall. 

John as John (seriously!) in Michael & Edie
Now, the ultimate insult for Brecht was said to be an actor who "became" a character rather than played them...he wanted his actors demonstrating the material, not living it. Therefore, as an actor performing Brecht, it may seem to be counter-intuitive to everything you've ever learned. Forget Stanislavsky and throw out Meisner. For a normal play, if I was playing a police officer in 1839, like I am here, I would be doing a lot more historical research than I am this time, because you simply can't be method in a show like this. Sometimes you're playing an actor, observing the show with a knowing grin. A second later you may be playing your character. Moments later, you may be observing as your character, but not engaged. But you're not the actor, viewing with detachment, you're the character. A character who is detached and removed, but still IN the play, while OUTSIDE the play, who a moment later might be IN the play, and engaged. It's understandable if during the rehearsal process, people forget who they are. 

But Valerie Joyce is kind of a genius, so none of us are ever worried, because it all just works out. Not to mention Peter Hilliard is kind of a wizard, and he's leading the band. We're moving right along as we approach tech, and everything is falling into place nicely. Now, if only I could get my body to be a dancer as well as an actor and a singer. I said Valerie was a genius, but it'll be a miracle if she gets me to become a good dancer. (I'm tryin'.)

The Threepenny Opera runs from April 14th-26th at Villanova Theatre.  Call 610-519-7474 or visit for tickets!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Announcing the 2015-2016 Season!

We are so excited about the 2015-2016 Season, which was officially announced last Sunday to an audience of thrilled subscribers.  Our 2015-16 Season's plays share an attention to beautiful and lyrical language, evocative design aesthetics, and colorful characters.  

EURYDICE directed by James Ijames                      
September 22 - October 4, 2015
written by Sarah Ruhl

Descend into a mythic and magical underworld replete with talking stones, Hades on a bicycle, and a glowing river of the dead.  In Sarah Ruhl's fantastical reimagining of the classic Greek myth, we join unsung heroine Eurydice as she parts with the love of her life, journeys into death, reunites with her departed father, and struggles to relearn the language of the living.  Called "an inexpressibly moving theatrical fable about love, loss and the pleasures and pains of memory" by The New York TimesEurydice looks like a dream, sounds like a poem, and feels like the breath of life.

MACBETH directed by James J. Christy          
November 10 - 22, 2015
written by William Shakespeare

"Something wicked this way comes" in Shakespeare's masterpiece of manipulation, murder, and ambition. Macbeth transports audiences to the mystical middle ages, where prophecy and superstition drive the hearts of men.  When three witches predict Macbeth's ascension to the throne, the Thane of Cawdor and his scheming wife start slashing their bloody path to power, armed with violence, deception, and treachery. The Bard's most thrilling tragedy explodes with exciting fight choreography, hair-raising encounters with the mystical, and diabolical characters whose lust for power results in their ultimate and inevitable downfall.  When Macbeth "rushes headlong into the hurly-burly," it doesn't stop, and "every breath starts to feel like a gasp." -The New York Times

A WONDERFUL NOISE directed by Harriet Power    
February 9 - 21, 2016
book by Michael Hollinger - A regional premiere!
story, music and lyrics by Michael Hollinger and Vance Lehmkuhl

As World War II rages in Europe, a different kind of battle looms in St. Louis, Missouri, as barbershop quartets from around the country converge to sing, compete, and fraternize (in harmony, no less!).  One quartet, "The Harmelodians," hails from Muddy Creek, Missouri; another, "Sweet Adeline," has come all the way from the City of Brotherly Love. Philadelphia's own "Sweet Adeline" - it turns out - is actually comprised by four women disguised as men, who have come to compete, protest the barbershop society's exclusion of women, and prove that the girls can do it as well (if not better!) than the boys. Set in 1941, this heartfelt, nostalgic musical explores male and female friendship, women's hunger for respect and equality, the pressures and pleasures of making art, and the sudden shift in perspective when an international crisis crashes, unplanned, into young lives. Like a good melody, A Wonderful Noise is sure to linger on in the hearts and minds of audiences everywhere.

TRANSLATIONS directed by Valerie Joyce                           
April 12 - 24, 2016
written by Brian Friel

Irish treasure Brian Friel's most celebrated play follows English soldier George Yolland to the fictional town of Baile Baeg, populated with Irish speakers more familiar with Latin epic poetry than English.  As Yolland begins renaming local lakes, rivers, and mountains (loch, abhainn, and cairn) for English maps, he finds himself falling in love with the Irish language - and a girl who speaks it.  A deeply personal look at decimation of Irish language and culture during the English occupation,Translations examines how the clash of two worlds threatens the foundation of an entire country.  Mounted in celebration of the Easter Uprising of 1916 in Dublin, Villanova's production of the most lauded of Brian Friel's 'Ballybeg' series poses the question: what gets lost in translation?

Call 610-519-7474 or visit to book your 2015-16 subscription today!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Threepenny's Crime-Movie Picks!

One of the many things we love about The Threepenny Opera is its ability to tickle our secret itch to live vicariously through the nefarious deeds of slick (and not-so-slick) criminals.  Looking for more guilty pleasures?  Some of the characters from Threepenny's underbelly share their favorite crime-world movies!  Use them to enjoy your long weekend!

MACHEATH's Favorite: Ocean's Eleven 

Not the 2001 remake.  The Rat Pack version, thank you very much.  Like Macheath, the heroes of Ocean's Eleven are cool, well-dressed, and have a way with the ladies.

MR. AND MRS. PEACHUM's Favorite: Mr. and Mrs. Smith

Mr. Peachum wanted to suggest The Godfather, but Mrs. Peachum insisted they choose a movie that more deftly demonstrates their devoted partnership.  Like Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Jonathan and Celia Peachum are a perfect match, and while they may not always agree, they will forever have each others' backs.

POLLY PEACHUM's Favorite: La Femme Nikita

Polly may look sweet, but she's got a bite just as sharp as Mack.  No wonder she loves Nikita, who lives one life as a normal girl, and another as a stone-cold assassin.

LUCY BROWN's Favorite:  Fatal Attraction

Sometimes love can get out of hand.  No one knows that better than Lucy, who says to Macheath, "I would rather see you hanged than in the arms of another woman.  Isn't that funny?"  Uh . . . right.  Very funny.  Just as funny as Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction.

JENNY DIVER's Favorite: Pretty Woman

It would have been nice if Macheath had made an honest woman out of Jenny, whisking her away from the brothel and to a life of bourgeois comfort.  Sadly, that was not to be their fate.  Can't stop a girl from dreaming, though.

FILCH's Favorite:  Blow

This rags-to-riches drug kingpin movie speaks to Filch's desire to rise up out of the gutter and ascend to glory.  Unfortunately he may have to settle for a life more like Eddie Murphy's in Trading Places.  

TIGER BROWN's Favorite: The Departed

Listen, law enforcement is complicated.  Police officers put their lives on the line every day and may not always be able to fit their actions into such constricting categories as "right" or "wrong."  It's nice when a movie comes along that can remind the general public of that troubling fact.

The Threepenny Opera runs April 14th-26th at Villanova Theatre.  Call 610-519-7474 or visit for tickets!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Read Between the Lines

Dramaturg Sarah McAfee cracks into the romantic literary wonderland of Michael & Edie.

“Franny was staring at the little blotch of sunshine with a special intensity, as if she were considering lying down in it.”
― J.D. SalingerFranny and Zooey

I love the smell of books.  Even more the smell of old books.  And, in particular, the books that I have from my grandmother’s house.  In addition to the vaguely vanilla and marzipan overtones lurks a piney, smoky remnant from where the books lived in the built-in bookshelves over the fireplace.  They remind me of home. 

Some stories are so deeply familiar to us, that scanning the curve of their letters evokes a world so vivid, a journey so encompassing that we can smell the tension of every twist and the release of every revelation.  They are old friends, with whom we reacquaint ourselves over coffee on a rainy afternoon, recalling the pathways and crossroads we traversed with their heroes.

In centering the journeys of Michael and Edie between the shelves of a used bookstore, Rachel Bonds evokes the creaky, dusty familiarity that the old tomes represent.  The location itself becomes a malleable character, a shelf to be rearranged and highlight the best and most interesting volumes.  The bookstore becomes a haven, a blotch of sunlight for these characters to ride out the tempest beyond the door.