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Friday, January 20, 2017

An Inside Peek Into Our Second Studio Show With Director Lexa Grace

Villanova Theatre is gearing up to present our second annual graduate student produced Studio Show! WE MUST SHARE EVERYTHING explores the complex, and often confusing, landscape of private and public spaces. Second year graduate assistant and director of the show, Lexa Grace, has shared with us some of her inspiration behind the production. Check our her blog post below! 

Lexa Grace in Ireland during her internship at the Abbey Theatre
This past summer I had the privilege of traveling to Ireland to study and work with The Abbey Theatre along with several of my fellow classmates. One day I was walking the streets of Dublin with one of my Villanova friends. We were discussing the differences between Irish and American cultures. There is a stereotype that Irish people are friendlier and more open than Americans. In many ways my friend and I found this to be true. It seemed that every time we went to a bar, we ended up in a passionate discussion about politics with an Irish stranger. While both of us enjoyed these interactions, we knew that they would never happen in America. 

As Americans we are taught that certain subjects are not meant to be shared in public, especially not with strangers. Yet these social rules are broken all the time, depending on the setting and the people involved. This has become even more prevalent with the advancement of social media. As my friend and I continued to talk that day, I realized that we both had vastly different beliefs on privacy, even within our own American culture.

I grew up with very little regard for privacy. This had partly to do with being involved in theatre from a young age and partly to do with the fact that I lived with two younger siblings, and was always forced to share everything- from my room to my clothes, to the last bite of ice cream in the freezer. My friend on the other hand, was an only child and learned to love and respect privacy from a young age. This dynamic of public and private spaces is what first sparked my interest in exploring privacy as a theme. At the time, however, I had no real concept for how this idea could be expressed in the theatre-- a place where privacy is under constant negotiation between actors, audience, and characters.

Then school started again and submissions for Villanova Theatre’s second annual Studio Show were announced. I knew that I wanted to submit a devised piece. My love for devised theater comes from a strong need to produce new work and a firm belief that everyone has an original idea. The beauty about devised work is that it allows individuals to share and sift through all of their original ideas, find the best ones, and then merge them together with other people’s inspiration. With this in mind, I collided my two interests together: a devised show exploring the multi-faceted views of privacy.
Graduate Students Alexandra King and
Andrea Rumble-Moore in rehearsals

Over the course of several days, my ensemble and I completely indulged in all of our creative thoughts on privacy. Some were interesting, some were weird, some were hilarious, and others were completely unrelated to anything we had conceived of. Once we had a pool of concepts, we began to isolate the ideas that could be developed into something that we needed to share. This sculpting process led us to the creation of a script, which has been crafted and edited throughout our rehearsal process. 

Now that we are a week away from opening it seems almost unreal. All of the work we created, all of the pieces we included in the performance and even more of the pieces we cut- all of this started with a conversation, with a friend on a park bench about our different ideas about privacy- the wonderful and terrifying interactions that occur when that privacy is broken.

WE MUST SHARE EVERYTHING runs January 26th at 8:30, January 27th and 28th at 7:00, and closes January 29th at 2pm in the Vasey Hall Studio on the second floor. Tickets are free but seating is limited. Register for your tickets today at

Monday, October 31, 2016

We Love The 90s Playlist

The 1990s was a great decade of music and popular culture. To help us get into the apocalyptic world of MARISOL we've assembled a 1995 playlist. From the Crazy-Sexy-Cool ladies of TLC to the angst of Nirvana, this nostalgic playlist will send you back in time!

And one thing we noticed- man were the mid-90's a weird, dark time in American music.


Without trying too hard we found song titles that reflect Marisol's chaotic world. Like...

Black Hole Sun by Sound Garden
It's The End of The World As We Know It by REM
Sumthin' Wicked This Way Comes by TLC

...get pumped for the end of times or just enjoy this fierce playlist for your Halloween fun.

Marisol opens in two weeks and runs November 8-20 at Villanova Theatre. Tickets are $21-$25 with discounts available for students and seniors. For tickets and more information please click here or call 610-519-7474.

Monday, October 17, 2016

WAKE UP: Enter the world of MARISOL with Dramaturg Sarah Kelley

Second year graduate student Sarah Kelley has been working hard preparing to dramaturg MARISOL- which will serve as her final thesis project! As she traveled through the fantastical world of José Rivera, her vision of his work has deepened. Villanova Theatre is looking forward to sharing her engaging audience display which will prep audiences to enter Marisol’s world. Check out Sarah’s blog post to learn more about MARISOL.

Marisol by José Rivera is a puzzle that is a thrill to unravel. When I started my dramaturgical research this summer, I was excited and daunted by the wide range of topics Rivera introduces in the play and the passion with which he tackles them. Is the play about gender dynamics? Violence in urban areas? Millennialism and the Apocalypse? Homelessness and the growing gap between the rich and the poor? Through my research and our rehearsals so far, I really believe the play is about all of the above ideas and that they all have equal weight in telling Rivera’s story. Many past productions of Marisol chose one or two topical lenses through which to present the play to an audience, but one of James' goals is to bring clarity to all angles and fully explore everything Rivera gives us to experiment with in this gorgeous and poetic script.

My two personal threads of interest the helped me step inside the world of the play on my first reading was: (1) the connection between societal fears of the Millennium in the early 1990s and the current fears we hold regarding the impending election of 2016; (2) linking the problems of the past and present that women face in a patriarchal and dangerous world. Using these concepts has been helpful for me to connect to Marisol. Although the play has many 1990s references, Rivera’s work feels incredibly timely for audiences right now at Villanova and in a larger context, as we strive to define what “American Values” are in 2016.

I've gained many new insights during the first two weeks of rehearsals watching the brilliant work of James, the cast, and the production team. I've learned how important the concepts of physical space and time are in understanding the characters’ journeys through the play. I have also learned that the contrast between what we expect as an audience and what is actually happening onstage is a huge part of Rivera's genius in crafting a masterpiece of "anti-apathy" theater. By pointing out the larger societal issues using the expressionistic imagery of magic realism, Rivera utilizes creativity and exaggeration to poke holes in existing socio-political systems and point out injustices that are often invisible in our daily lives. His storytelling encourages the audience’s emotions to shift from pathos to euphoria at the drop of a hat, like a heightened version of how we live each day.

I hope Marisol encourages everyone who sees it to WAKE UP and take action as much as it has inspired me to work toward making the world better during this process and beyond. Rivera intertwines activism with his goal of speaking modern truth to power through century’s old literary traditions of apocalyptic literature and magic realism. In the Augustinian spirit, I hope we all leave Villanova Theatre wanting to act on the courage of our own uncertainty and set the world aflame with positive change.

Villanova Theatre's production of MARISOL runs November 8-20. Get your tickets at or give us a call at 610-519-7474.

Monday, September 26, 2016

A Playlist For ELECTRA

In celebration of the strong and powerful female characters of ELECTRA, our team has put together a playlist of our favorite bad a$$ ladies. From Beyonce to Joan Jett - Florence And The Machine to Aretha Franklin, this playlist has something for everyone.


Whether you'd like to inspire your inner Goddess or get prepared for Electra's fury, our exclusive playlist is ready to go for you!

Be sure to catch Villanova Theatre's own Bad A$$ women on stage at Sophocles' ELECTRA. There's only one week of performances left. Be sure to grab your tickets before we close on October 2nd. For tickets and more information visit 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Ancient Greek Theater Is Alive And Well: A Dramaturg's Perspective

Second year graduate student (and Costume Assistant extraordinaire!), Lexa Grace has been hard at work over the summer preparing for her role as a dramaturg for ELECTRA. As she traveled through Greece she studied first hand the art and culture of ancient Greece! Lexa was kind enough to share her journey with us and how she has discovered the timeless universality in Greek tragedy. Check out Lexa's blog and learn more about Sophocles' ELECTRA which opens tonight at Villanova Theatre!

I found out I had been selected as the dramaturg for Frank McGuinness adaptation of Sophocles Electra back in May. I was eating dinner with one of my non-theater friends, when the email appeared on my phone. I squealed with excitement as I scrolled through the message.

Im going to be the dramaturg for Electra I told my friend.

Whats that? he responded, having never heard the term before. 

Its the person who does all the research for a production, I explained. I then gave him a laundry list of things a dramaturg does including, providing the cast and crew with relevant historical research, writing program notes, organizing speakers night, creating a visual file, and so on.

So, what do you do? he asked again, after my spiel. I looked at him, dumbfounded. Hadnt I just gone through all of the duties of a dramaturg for him?
I mean, what do you research? he asked. You keep talking about all these things you will do with your research, but what are you actually researching?
I froze with a piece of sushi halfway to my mouth, pondering this very simple, yet incredibly large, question. 

Greek Theatre? I suggested after a moment. Sophocles Frank McGuinness, mythology…” While I was correct in assuming I would touch on all of these subjects, I had no idea how deeply I would fall in love with all of these source materials, nor how much the research I would provide would affect the production.
One of the first areas of research I began to look into was the mythology surrounding Electra and her family. The stories ooze out of the ancient Greek tradition of oral story telling. While at first glance the story might appear to be an ancient relic, full of Greek gods and heroes whose names are barely recognizable; the more I read about Electra and her family, the more I felt as if I was reading a Game of Thrones spinoff novel. The myths of Electras family are full of brutal bloody murders, passionate love affairs, unbearable grief, and incredible joy. These themes and paradoxes are the backbone of all ancient Greek drama and the very ingredients that make these plays still relevant and entertaining in the 21st century.

After learning about the legend of Electras family, I began to research how Sophocles version of Electra would have been performed in ancient Greece. I found that while the themes present in ancient Greek drama remain universal, performance styles have varied greatly over the past several years. Ancient Greek performances were full of spectacle. The plays were traditionally presented during City Dionysia, a six day festival in March, usually right after a sacrifice to the gods was made. Choral songs and dances were interwoven into the plays and represented a huge aspect of ancient Greek theater. My favorite aspect of the Electra process has been getting to see how my research on this ancient form of spectacle has entered into and been interpreted by the design team. Our director, Father David, has done an excellent job of interpreting ancient Greek traditions and mythologies in a way that greatly benefits our production.

As we get closer to opening, I can see the importance of Electra’s mythology and the traditions of ancient Greek theater has on the play. The performance does not demand that the audience have an intense understanding of Greek mythology or theater, nor does it attempt to imitate the ancient Greek tradition. However, the actors have used the research I have provided to inform their performances in a dynamic way that transcends the specificity of a traditional ancient Greek drama. It has been an absolute joy to watch the cast and crew create a performance that uses the traditions and legacy of the play, without making it feel like a history drama. I am incredibly excited for the actors to perform their work and show our audiences how exciting and universal these ancient stories still are.

Villanova Theatre's production of ELECTRA runs September 20-October 2nd. Get your tickets at or give us a call at 610-519-7474.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Living and Learning in Ireland

Ever wonder what Villanova Theatre's Abbey Theatre Exchange program is like? Villanova Theatre is incredibly lucky to continue our partnership with the Abbey Theatre in Dublin to offer students an immersive learning experience abroad. We sat down with second year acting scholar, Dan Cullen, who gave us an inside scoop about the program!

This summer I was fortunate enough to participate in the Abbey Summer Studio – made possible through Villanova’s partnership with Ireland’s National Theatre. 

This was the second year of their Summer Studio, and it is an incredible opportunity for any Villanova student.  The program was made up of ten students from the University’s graduate theatre, literature, and liberal studies programs; about a dozen undergraduates; and a handful of students from University College Dublin. The variety of backgrounds that the Summer Studio brings together makes for a unique learning opportunity: not only were we spending a month immersed in a rich artistic culture, but we also were able to see how students of other disciplines perceive the same material in such different ways.  All too often academic programs can feel as though their subject matter exists in a vacuum.  The greatest strength of the Abbey Summer Studio is the way it highlights the intersectionality between the theatrical and the literary, between the Irish experience and the American, between the academic and the practical.

The first three weeks of the program takes place in Dublin.  Every morning there is a classroom session which is a combination of lecture and discussion.  Students are asked to read a selection of modern and contemporary plays by Irish authors chosen to demonstrate the impact of drama on Irish society.  We discussed the place of theatre in the Irish political discourse, especially throughout the 20th century, how instrumental the Abbey Theatre in particular was in the Irish struggle against colonial rule and the creation of its national identity.  It was inspiring to see how these plays worked in terms of literature, influencing the national consciousness, and comparing it to how social commentary works on the American stage which enjoys far less institutional support.

Afternoons were spent in the Abbey Theatre’s rehearsal space where we examined the canonical literature we had discussed in the morning in a much more theatrical way.  The Abbey’s educational staff took us through workshops in voice and movement, and we applied these skills to create sketches based on the themes and language of the texts.  There were also creative writing workshops that allowed students to create new pieces in conversation with the great works we were studying, and demonstrate how those themes relate to contemporary Irish and American experiences.  These sessions were geared toward a performance at the end of our time in Dublin at the Abbey’s intimate Peacock Theatre.  This performance showcased the literary analysis we had done, the voice and body training we received, and the creative spirit of the program.

The remainder of our time in Ireland was spent at the National University of Ireland at Galway.  The library there has a comprehensive archive of materials from the Abbey that date back to its very foundation.  We were asked to engage our newly acquired knowledge of Great Irish dramatic literature with the materials in the archive to create a research paper.  Here again we were asked to synthesize the texts of the plays and their place in Irish history with what had taken place in production – how the activities on the Abbey stage related to the social, political, and cultural climate of their time and place.  We discovered how Ireland is a case study for the effective power of the theatre whose aptitude rivals the ancient Greeks and Romans.  Ideally this experience will allow us to apply the lessons offered to us by the Irish theatre and elevate the theatre to such an influential level in our own culture.      

Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Universal in TRANSLATIONS: A Dramaturg's Perspective

Graduate Student, Elise D'Avella, has been hard at work this year. She's closing up the year by completing her thesis, directing Sarah Kane's CRAVE, and dramaturging our upcoming production of TRANSLATIONS. Elise was kind enough to share her thoughts on her process this year, and how Friel's play drenched in Irish history has stolen her heart. Check out Elise' blog post below and learn more about Friel's play, Translations, transporting audiences to Ireland starting next week. 

I’ve taken on many different roles at Villanova this year. I stage managed the mythical production of Eurydice, got into the body of a witch in Macbeth, I am directing the daunting Sarah Kane’s Crave for my directing thesis, and now I am dramaturging the upcoming production of Brian Friel’s Translations. By taking on all of these varying roles I’ve discovered that through the experience of each, you develop a unique type of ownership, a love, a connection to each production:

As a stage manager, I developed a maternal love for Eurydice, supporting the production as it grows into its full potential and being there to catch it when it falls. As an actor, the love is more selfish. Macbeth is clearly witch 3’s story, I don’t care what anybody says. Which of course is ridiculous, but completely necessary. It is your responsibility as an actor to go to bat for your character even if you’re the only one on their side. As a director, you fall in love with the story. Is the production visually, aurally, emotionally telling this story as meaningfully as it can? You fawn over every little detail, down to the positioning of an actor’s foot at any given moment. Finally, as a dramaturg, you develop a love for the playwright, the text, and the core of what gives the play its staying power.

I could not have asked for a more beautiful play to fall in love with during my first dramaturgical experience. In researching Translations, I have discovered that almost every line has at least one layer of meaning underneath of it, and yet, Brian Friel is so skilled at his craft that you do not see the layers of work, you only feel them. I was blown away when I found out that he thought this play would never succeed. He said in an interview, “Nowadays, to write a three-act naturalistic play set in the 19th century in the Gaeltacht is a recipe for some kind of instant death, so its success astonished me.” In a way, he has a point. This play is extremely specific and at face value doesn’t seem like it will relate to a universal audience, but somehow it does.

I have been fascinated throughout this rehearsal process- constantly trying to figure out what exactly is it about this play? How does it bring someone like myself, who knew next to nothing about Irish history, to tears every time?

Time and time again, it comes back to what Friel had said about his play, although the politics in the piece are unavoidable, Translations is solely about language. It is about what connects us as humans; are words the sole means of communication or is there a language that exists without words? Translations also engages with the inevitability of change and transition. As history teaches us, empires are destined to fall, and it is only those who can adapt that survive. Friel was concerned with what is lost in these moments of transition. Is it possible to hold onto a cultural identity across all borders or is it doomed to be lost in translation?

The English language is now Ireland’s language, and yet, it’s not. In Friel’s opinion, Ireland has yet to learn to absorb English, and it was his mission as a playwright to rediscover the Irish identity within the English language. For this reason, Translations was very close to his heart.

He described writing Translations as a form of Pietas, a sense of loyalty or dutifulness to one’s home. This sense of loyalty is something that can be universally related to, and may be the key to why,Translations continues to inspire and communicate with us today. 

-Elise D'Avella

Villanova Theatre's production of Translations runs April 12-24. Get your tickets at or call us at 610-519-7474.