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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.

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