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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Brighten Your Day With Some Barbershop

As we approach the Opening Night of A Wonderful Noise we're grooving to the  nostalgic tunes of barbershop quartets. We were inspired by the harmonies of the 40's and began collecting songs for our special "Happy Harmonies Through the Ages" playlist. From Queen to the Pentatonix, this special playlist features songs that riff off of the quintessential barbershop style. Visit the Villanova Theatre Talk Blog to check it out! And then there is always Steve Carrell.




Let us know some of your favorite harmonies!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

A Peek Inside The Evaluation Room: Building a New Play With Kristin Miller

Villanova Theatre is thrilled to present our first Graduate Student produced Studio Show, The Evaluation Room, written by second year Kristin Miller. This program was started to provide a unique opportunity for our Graduate Students to collaborate and produce original work together. Kristin was generous enough to share her process and feelings over the course of developing and staging her new work: 

Playwrights are always listening to characters fall in love, fall out of love, argue, lie, break down, and reconcile. Every character lives a full life, and becomes a person, inside the creator’s mind. I care deeply about every person I dare to offer the world. It doesn’t matter to me how many lines she speaks or how many pages she’s in—each person is worthy of my full attention and careful consideration. All of this probably makes me sound a little bit obsessed. I think, as a playwright, you have to be a tiny bit obsessive or you’ll never give in to the agony it takes to flesh a piece out completely.  The internal life of a play in my head can be satisfying by itself, but the greatest reward is watching other artists pull everything I’ve been thinking out onto the stage in front of me.

I was very nervous when we sat down for The Evaluation Room auditions. Would people pick up on the quirks and vibes of my characters? How would the energy flow between actors? Did these characters even make sense? Do they need to make sense? When I was a senior in college we staged a rehearsed reading of this play, but this was the first time people had ever actually auditioned for a play I wrote. For the first ten minutes my fists were clenched and my lips were pursed—I was trying to look very serious in an attempt to mask my urge to burst into anxious tears. But then something magical happened: just as I opened my mouth to say something about a character, Meg (the director) was already saying it. I turned, a dumbstruck look on my face. Suddenly every restless feeling in my body melted away. Of course, I already knew that Meg understood my aesthetic, but hearing her say something I was thinking at the exact same moment was enough to make me swoon!

That moment with Meg was the first moment of spontaneous harmony, but it was definitely not the last. There have been so many times over the past weeks when my brain has been directly linked to Meg’s and Amanda’s (dramaturg and actor!) that I don’t think I could mention each instance if I tried. Before we started this process I believed revisions were needed. I started writing The Evaluation Room when I was 21 years old, and since then I have evolved as a person tremendously I knew that some perspectives would shift. However, I did not expect to find and develop a completely new ending and add almost 40 pages worth of new material!
There are many questions that playwrights cannot answer for themselves. There are things we cannot see when we look at the words that directors, dramaturgs, actors, and designers see immediately. I sat down for a casual lunch with Amanda, after our first read of the script, knowing that we’d have a great conversation about structure, arc, and character development. I found out something much more important during that lunch, though: Amanda cared about the play just as deeply as I did. I didn’t think it was possible for another person to have the same ardent passion for this play. I listened with new ears during our second read of the script, and heard genuine devotion in the voices of every person in the room. It’s a feeling I cannot accurately describe. The best I can say is that I continually have wonderful realizations that everyone involved in the development of The Evaluation Room is as invested as I am. This experience clarifies beyond any shadow of a doubt that the theatre is the place for me.


This blog post has turned into a bit of a love letter to the cast and production team, but that feels entirely right. A play is just words on a page without people willing to lift it onto its feet and put it in front of an audience. I am honored that such talented and generous artists are dedicating themselves to realizing a play that lives so close to my heart. Each of them has been instrumental in The Evaluation Room’s growth. Inspiration comes in the most mysterious ways. Whether it was a late night text message from Ebeth (Lizzie), a chat on the way to the car with Jess (Frank), an off-the-cuff remark from John (Prince) or Mark (J-Man), or the perfect facial expression from Lize (Gabe). Everyone has offered something invaluable to the development of this play. In fact, just when I thought the play was nearly complete I sat with Elise to talk about her character Mags and found that the character I’d created was awakened by Elise and emerged more beautifully than I had ever imagined. 

Meet Kristin's characters and be the first to see this world premiere production! The Evaluation Room will run January 26-31 in the Vasey Hall Studio. Tickets are free but seating is limited. For more information and to reserve your tickets click here. 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Falling in Love With The 40s: A Dramaturg’s Perspective on A WONDERFUL NOISE

Graduate Student, Alix Rosenfeld, is completing her thesis as the dramaturg for A Wonderful Noise. We are lucky enough to have the inside scoop of her process working on this Philadelphia premiere which will transport audiences to the 1940s. Check out this excerpt of Alix's thesis proposal and learn more about this fantastic musical comedy by Villanova's very own Michael Hollinger, who serves as the Associate Artistic Director for Villanova Theatre. 

I first fell in love with this musical when “Chit Chat” was sung at the season selection announcement last spring. The song is incredibly entertaining, rich, and comical—truly a knockout number. It is a song that is pure joy, but it also acts as a time machine, propelling us back into another era that initially feels foreign, but actually sits comfortably in our cores. After my first encounter with the music and the script, I found that this holds true from beginning to end. The audience is transported to 1941 St. Louis with all of the innocence that accompanies a bygone era, and that feeling is reinforced masterfully by the music, the words, and the character relationships created by Michael Hollinger and Vance Lehmkuhl. In this musical we get the opportunity to be enchanted as we leave the modern world behind yet somehow land in a place that feels like home.

Though 1941 seems like a fragment of the past that we have forgotten, the brilliance of this piece is its ability to live in that past but still reach forward in time and speak to issues that affect us today. That is where its power lies: comedy and guilelessness charge forward throughout, but the threat of war bubbles almost imperceptibly under the surface. A Wonderful Noise packs a very unexpected punch, and it is the effect of the war that keeps it from simply being an evening of camp and good times. Instead, it is a wonderful blend of witty hijinks, heartfelt emotions, and just enough solemnity, working in harmony to create a beautiful, well-rounded experience for the audience.

Throughout the research process, I’ve continued to discover avenues into this musical that strengthen my connection to it. As a woman, I find Mae’s (and the rest of the quartet’s) determination to create more equal opportunities for women incredibly inspiring. Despite it being nearly seventy-five years later, we still live in a society where women have to fight for equality, and the quartet’s struggles for recognition represent this conflict on a small yet meaningful scale. In this vein, I also can’t help but note that our production is incredibly timely. The presidential primaries will be just days away from opening night, and with one very serious female contender for the democratic nomination, it’s exciting (and oddly prescient) to have references to a woman in the white house in the song “Give a Girl a Chance.” And while I don’t necessarily have a strong connection to the male quartet’s feelings of brotherhood and “esprit de corps,” I think we all can understand the desire to maintain a legacy put in place by one’s forefathers and a need for adventure. In this musical, there truly is something for everyone.

In this way and many more, A Wonderful Noise is extraordinary. Hollinger and Lehmkuhl have tapped into a remarkable ability to take the universal and distill these big ideas into a heartwarming and enjoyable story. Because of its universality, it transcends its very specific snapshot of time and breaks open issues that we contend with today, such as immigration, otherness, equality, war, and patriotism, to name a few. If asked, “why this play now,” I think the only answer is perhaps the most obvious: we need this piece. Recently we have been plagued with bombings and other acts of terrorism, people being displaced from their homes, and other heart-heavy events that could easily bog us down and make us lose our humanity. A Wonderful Noise reminds us, specifically in the song “Out of the Blue,” that through these atrocities we can still find camaraderie and strength despite adversity. 

Villanova Theatre's production of A Wonderful Noise runs February 9-21. Get your tickets at www.villanovatheatre.org or call us at 610-519-7474.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Just a little hocus pocus


As we approach Halloween and Villanova's upcoming production of MACBETH, we're getting into the spooky spirit. So just for you, our wonderful audience, we've created this playlist full of songs about magic and witches. From The Police to Jay-Z, to Bjork and Sinatra- there is magic in the air.

Some of our favorite lyrics from the playlist include:
"Woohoo Witchy Woman, she got the look in her eye " -The Eagles
"She's tryin' to make a devil out of me" -Santana
"I put a spell on you" -Creedance Clearwater Revival

Sit back, relax, and don't forget to grab some Halloween candy to enjoy this enchanting playlist.

Do you have any to add?



Thursday, October 15, 2015

Dangerous Duos

In celebration of our upcoming MACBETH, the ladies of Villanova's PR Department have compiled their top 10 list of dangerous duos!

10-Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Mr. & Mrs. Smith: So bad, they actually try to kill each other.


9- Mr. and Mrs. Incredible, The Incredibles: I know you're thinking these guys are the good guys, but did you see how much havoc they wreaked on society?


8- Batman and Catwoman, The Batman Franchise: Michelle Pfeiffer and Michael Keaton or Anne Hathaway and Christian Bale. Always steamy, always bloody, always...way too much leather. 

7- Thelma and Louise, Thelma and Louise: Best friends through the end.

6- Joker and Harley Quinn, Batman, the Animated Series: The couple that we love to hate. Or hate to love. Or just laugh at.


5- Mickey and Mallory Knox, Natural Born Killers: The title of the movie really says it all plus look at this picture.

4- Boris and Natasha, The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show: They may have not been the most accomplished killers but they were legends!

3- Clair and Francis Underwood, House of Cards: Duh. 


2- Bonnie and Clyde, Real Life Bank Robbers: In a fictionalized gif.

1- Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, Shakespeare's Macbeth: Power coupling in verse since the 1600's.

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,
Rebecca

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 www.villanovatheatre.org or call us at 610-519-7474.