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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

2nd Annual PTRS


What a success! Congratulations to Fr. David Cregan, Ph.D., who organized and hosted the 2nd Annual Philadelphia Theatre Research Symposium here at Villanova last Friday. The schedule began with a new scholars panel, with "emerging" scholars Deborah Braak, Valerie Joyce, and Mitch Matson. Their papers - on real-world dramaturgy, Americanized British theatre, and Forum theatre, respectively - offered fresh perspectives from which to approach their topics.

Next, Toby Zinman, theatre critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer and professor at the University of the Arts, delivered the keynote address. She touched on her philosophy about being a critic (it involves having enough bravery to voice an honest opinion), and spoke engagingly about Edward Albee's importance to American theatre. (To read her Philly Inquirer review of Albee's latest, Me, Myself and I, look here.) For those of us who have been Toby's dedicated (sometimes indignant) readers, it was a wonderful opportunity to encounter her as a passionate, good-humored theatre-goer, who is excited about the future of Philadelphia theatre. I daresay she made some friends she never knew she'd lost.

Finally, Toby was joined by Mark Cofta (Philadelphia City Paper), Nancy Furey (, and Fr. David himself (Main Line Times) for a critics' roundtable. Several members of the audience posed challenging questions (In what sense do you see yourself as an advocate for theatre? Is it possible to review a show without prejudices or pre-formed expectations? What's your opinion about the current state of Philadelphia theatre?), which the panel answered with admirable candor.

The whole afternoon lasted beyond its slated 3 hours, to no one's dismay. Keep your eye out next spring for the third annual PTRS.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Rachel's Insights: "Infertility is truly tragic."

Infertility is truly tragic.

Recently, I’ve been delving into extensive character research and development. I have such a heart for Pam’s story, and I want to lift her and Nick up as truthfully as possible, yet I realize I do not hold the resources inside myself alone to do so. Since my mother dealt with a number of miscarriages before she had me, I turned to her for any insights—emotional, physical, etc. She has proven to be a useful and honest outlet. I’ve also been going onto infertility support blogs/message boards. Sometimes reading these posts—or dealing with the reality of what Pam had to go through—hits me to my core. In my gut. It’s horrendous—the things these people have to go through, when all your life it’s almost a given: You grow up, get married, and have kids. One woman said something to the effect of (keep in mind, I’m paraphrasing), “I did everything right. I played by the rules of life. I feel like my body is playing a cruel joke on me.”

That statement hit the nail on the head, as far as Pam is concerned ... I would say especially where Pam is concerned. Pam is a team player--a person who plays by the rules of the game, and therefore usually sees results. She is an excellent athlete and has experienced great success in life, except in the baby race. Another thing the women keep saying over and over again is how difficult and painful it is to see other women get pregnant so easily. One woman commented on how she can’t even see a baby on TV without bursting into tears. It made me wonder last night (as we staged the finale of the show) how Pam would truthfully react to seeing Lizzie's baby. Honestly, if I were Pam, I don't know if I could handle it. Yet then there is that part of her that wants to support others, and I also believe Pam is stronger than me in many regards. Still, I think it would be a battle that she would keep to herself-- the battle of getting over herself and her tragedy to be there for Lizzie.

Introducing (drum roll) Rachel!

The weeks of rehearsal leading up to the opening of any show here at Villanova Theatre are busy, tiring, and exciting, all at once. I get a second-hand buzz from everyone working so diligently to build the set, create costumes, and sell tickets, but the part I think is really interesting is that dang rehearsal process. What goes on in there? How do our actors prepare to make a story like Baby come to life? What's it like to sink into the experience of a character?

For anyone out there who wonders the same thing, we've got a special treat: Rachel Anne Stephan, who plays Pam in our production of Baby, will be a blog contributor during the rehearsals and run of the musical. Hooray!

Pam and her husband Nick have a really interesting place in the arc of the musical. While Danny & Lizzie and Alan & Arlene are trying to figure out what to do about their growing babies, Pam & Nick are trying desperately to conceive ... and not having much luck. Rachel will take us through the process of getting inside Pam's head, to make her joys and struggles very real and personal. Look for Rachel's first post later today.

And as always, please share your thoughts, too!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Bringing up BABY

It's a new semester, which means that things are buzzing in Vasey Theatre. Rehearsals for our 2007-2008 musical are in full-swing, and the set is looking pretty amazing (I'll post pictures soon). The cast is in the excellent care of director Peter Reynolds, who directed our toe-tapping production of The Robber Bridegroom last year. After hearing just a few notes of one of their vocal rehearsals, I can confidently say that this cast is going to make a beautiful Baby.

(Er ... I didn't mean that quite the way it came out ...)

Here's the cast list in alpha order:
Sheila Egan - Arlene
Katherine Glavin - Nurse, Ensemble
Carl Granieri - Ensemble
Jennifer Huth - Ensemble
Charles B. Illingworth IV - Nick
Andy Joos - Alan
Brian Kurtas - Danny
Mary Lamb - Ensemble
Thomas J. Matousch - Ensemble
Janet McWilliams - Lizzie
Kristen O’Rourke - Ensemble
Jeffrey S. Paden - Dean Webber, Mr. Hart, Ensemble
Kate Reynolds - Ensemble
Matt Silva - Prof. Weiss, Ensemble
Rachel Anne Stephan - Pam
Heather White - Ensemble


Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Congrats to Carrie!

We got this message recently from our Business Production Manager, Elisa:

"We have just received our first great news of 2008! Carrie Chapter has won first place in the Critics Institute at the American College Theatre Regional Festival!!! She will now attend NCI workshops at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. and compete with other regional winners to attend the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center during the national playwriting conference this summer."

It's a big deal, and we're all thrilled for Carrie, whose writing and critical skills are top-notch. She's certainly deserving of the recognition. Way to get the New Year off to a great start!