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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.