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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Songs We’re Addicted To

Our workshop production of The Gambler goes into previews tomorrow. To celebrate our fifth show of the season, we’ve assembled this playlist of Songs We’re Addicted To. Featuring our favorite gambling songs, like Sinatra’s Luck Be A Lady, and the songs we just can’t stop listening to, like Ed Sheeran’s The Shape of You, this playlist is a safe bet for some nostalgia and dancing!

Enjoy these tunes and then visit Villanova Theatre for this special workshop production.

THE GAMBLER runs at Villanova Theatre from April 26-30 at Vasey Hall. Tickets are FREE, but pre-reservation is suggested. For more information or to book your free ticket visit or call the Box Office at 610-519-7474.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The heart of THE GAMBLER with Dramaturg Kasey Phillips

Second year graduate student Kasey Phillips, who you may recognize from this seasons LAGAN and ELECTRA, is stepping behind the scenes as Dramaturg for our workshop production of THE GAMBLER. She took some time out of her busy schedule to give us an inside glimpse into the "quick and dirty" world of Owen McCafferty's play:
Dramaturg Kasey Phillips

As a dramaturg and writer, it would be an understatement to say that I am lucky to be working alongside internationally recognized playwright and Villanova’s Heimbold Chair, Owen McCafferty. It is the first year that the Villanova Theatre Department has added a workshop production to its main stage season, and to have the opportunity to help lead The Gambler to the stage for the first time is an experience I’ll never forget.

When dramaturging a show, it’s not often you have primary source material so readily available in the process of sifting through a play. With Owen in the room, the actors, assistant director Sarah Kelly, director David Bradley and I never have to wait for the answers to our burning questions about the play. It’s a really incredible energy swarming the theater. David can turn to me to uncover the logistics of status of the 19th century Russian aristocracy (one of the many layers of Dostoevsky’s novella The Gambler, from which McCafferty’s play is based), or he can turn directly to Owen and ask where the heat of each scene is hidden. It’s such a wonderful chemistry to have the romance of the history and the immediacy of the story at hand at our every beck and call.

David Bradley and I throw around the phrase, “quick and dirty” dramaturgy, which I think is such a fun, practical and brilliant summation of what this process from my end has been like, and what I imagine will continue to be.

Unlike the other four main stage productions this season, The Gambler has a shortened rehearsal time, which quickens the momentum of production—both externally and internally. Where it could be very tempting to get lost in the rabbit holes of research areas in this play—for example, the psychosis surrounding gambling, addiction and into the extended history of Russian, German, and French aristocracy—David challenges me to look for the tangible data. In theatre terms, I look for the “playable” research—bits of information that could fall into these categories, but instead of the actors spending precious time reading in depth research – I try to give them research they can put immediately into their bodies and onto the stage.

The stakes are high, both for the characters in the play, and for us as a team building the world around them. In a way the quick process makes sense. After all, we are in Roulettenburg, an imagined casino town where people play for keeps, bet it all to win, and lose it all for a chance. A “quick and dirty” process is logical. The rehearsals themselves give resonance to the spinning wheel McCafferty has created, and the true nature of these characters as each begs the question—what would you gamble for a chance at love? 

Owen McCafferty's copy of
Before our first read through, Owen handed me the copy of Dostoevsky’s novella he used to write his adaptation. I carry it to each and every rehearsal, and even if I don’t pull it out, it’s a helpful behind the scenes companion to the piece. In the margins, Owen has scribbled notes of his own as to what he thinks are the most important moments of the novel to bring to life onstage. In our many conversations, Owen reiterates that no matter how this story is placed in history, at the end of the day, at its heart, The Gambler is a modern story of how human beings interact with one another. In his copy of the novella, Owen underlines a piece of speech spoken by one of the lead characters, Alexei Ivanovich: “…as for gains and winnings—people everywhere, not only at the roulette table, do nothing but gain or win something from each other.”

It is here we find the heart and soul of not only 19th century Russian national character, but of this new play, and most importantly, ourselves. It is my hope that Owen’s blend of brilliant story telling and our team’s artistic vision keeps the audiences' minds spinning—wanting to take a chance and invest in these characters just like I have done.

THE GAMBLER runs at Villanova Theatre from April 26-30 at Vasey Hall. Tickets are FREE, but pre-reservation is suggested. For more information or to book your free ticket visit or call the Box Office at 610-519-7474.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Taking On An Iconic Character with Laura Barron

Second year graduate assistant Laura Barron, who you may recognize from our Fall production of MARISOL, is now tackling the lead role of Jo March in our current production of LITTLE WOMEN. Laura took some time out of her insanely busy schedule to discuss her process of building the character of Jo March. Get to know more about Jo and Laura here:  

Laura Barron as Jo March. Photo by Paola Nogueras.
Louisa May Alcott's Little Women is a story for the ages, it has inspired and been loved by readers for generation after generation. That love stems from an overwhelming connection to the characters in the story and the ability to relate to them on many levels. Alcott's main character, Jo March, is no exception. She is revered by many as a favorite character in literature. She was not like many women of her time, outgoing, outspoken, driven by her passions, and yet similar in that she is deeply invested in her family. As an actress, it was intimidating to know how important and loved Jo is as a character, to women and men alike. How would I be able to embody the Jo they picture in their head, or bring her spirit to life? Instead of letting that overwhelm me, throughout the process I tried to have fun with the role, and bring my own spirit and passions into the mix. I stayed grounded knowing that it's not the exact Jo that Alcott put on the page, but a re-imagining of her by the writers of the musical. The material I needed to learn in a short amount of time was so vast, that I almost didn't have time to stop and worry about if I was being the "Jo March" readers would expect. With that being said, I loved the rehearsals in which we were able to do character work and dig a little deeper into finding a balance in the role that would be a good fit for me.

The four March sisters and their Marmee.
Photo by Paola Nogueras.
Another challenge I faced was understanding the bonds of sisterhood, from the strength of the love that is shared between them, to the utter chaos that might ensue when they don't get along. I grew up with two older brothers, so while sibling rivalry and love still exist between us, I have come to learn through the process that it's not quite the same as having sisters. My cast mates and director Valerie Joyce helped me gain a better understanding of what having sisters might be like, through their personal experiences. It was fun to have new "sisters" in my life for this process. 

At Villanova, I have the unique opportunity to work in the costume shop while getting my Masters. I have an Assistantship in costumes and have helped cut and sew different garments for the show since last Fall. We began making petticoats and hoop skirts back in November and we haven't stopped. Stepping out onto the stage in something I helped make is an absolute joy. I have the opportunity to sing one of the most challenging songs I've had to tackle in a show, "Astonishing", while wearing a top I sewed. I am extremely proud of the work the whole costume crew has done under the direction and guidance of our extremely talented cutter draper, Jenn Lanyon, and show designer and shop coordinator, Janus Stefanowicz. I have learned so much from both of them and can't wait for audiences to see not only the costumes, but all of the design elements brought to life by the hardworking, talented, prop and set shops at Villanova. 

Laura Barron as Jo March. Photo by Paola Nogueras.
Stepping into the shoes of Jo March became a little easier when leaning on others throughout the process. The support of the entire cast and crew has helped me immensely, from the dressers who
help me change over 8 times, sometimes in under 40 seconds, to the stage management team who helped with lines and are always ready with props and kind words, to a cast full of such talented and amazing scene partners, the dramaturg who helped us step into the time period of Alcott's book, to the music directors that are always helping us to sound our best, and a director who has an overarching vision that put all the pieces together. I am inspired by and proud of the work everyone has put in to bring this show to life.

LITTLE WOMEN runs at Villanova Theatre from March 28-April 9 at Vasey Hall. Tickets are $21-$25 with discounts available for students, alumni, faculty/staff, and senior citizens. For tickets or information please visit or call the Box Office at 610-519-7474.