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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Wanderlust: Falling in Love in Foreign Lands

Traveling offers us with the opportunity to open up our hearts to new places, ideas, experiences, and people.  In celebration of opening The Light in the Piazza this week, we decided to share some of our experiences falling in love while on journeys across the world with you, our audience.

Brie: "I fell in love with the ponies in Chincoteague, and the owls who to talk to each other at night through the trees.  Hoot, hoot!"

Pat:  "I fell in love with the trulli in Alberobello, Puglia."

Emily Z: "When I was in London, I got to experience the pub culture there.  I completely fell in love with how conversational it was.  People weren't there to party or pick up girls.  They went in to talk about their day, to connect with people."

Sophia:  "I fell in love with the writing of Ernest Hemingway on a class trip to Cuba."

Emily:  "I fell in love with tartufo in Piazza Navona."

Seth Schmitt-Hall:  "I feel it in my fingers.  I feel it in my toes.  Love is all around us, and in Europe it grows."

Kim:  "I fell in love with Flamenco in Spain.  And my husband in St. Lucia!"

Elisa:  "The minute I got off the plane in 1980 I fell madly in love with Ireland, and have been in love ever since.  The rest is history."

Seth Schmitt-Hall:  "I love Paris in the springtime.  I love Paris in the Fall."

Hallie:  "I fell in love with my spirituality and connection to all people in India.  But I especially fell in love with the sassy monkeys who steal juice boxes from kids on their way to school."

Raj:  "Here are all the foreign places in which I've fallen in love: England, Ireland, Barcelona, Warsaw, Rome, paris, Sienna, Italy, and Hamburg.  I'm a romantic."

Seth Schmitt-Hall:  "From Russia with love."

Lauren F: "I realized why I had been in love with Irish music all my life when I finally heard it in person in a quaint little pub in Cork, no bigger than the Vasey green room.  It was called Sin É Pub, which simply means "it is".  I met one of the musicians that night and fell in love with writing letters to him.  We've been pen pals ever since."

Cassie:  "I fell in love with my family's history when I was in Lithuania.  As soon as I saw the church in which my grandmother got married, I felt so connected to her."

Don't have the time or money to go have your own foreign romance?  Get transported to Florence with The Light in the Piazza, running at Villanova Theatre April 1st-13th.  Get tickets on our website, or call 610-519-7474.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Fashion and Florence in the Fifties

The Light in the Piazza follows Margaret and Clara Johnson on a magical trip to Italy in 1953, which unexpectedly leads to discovery, love, and enlightenment. Fortunately for our cast and production team, rehearsing a show filled with sights and sounds like Piazza, lets us explore all things beautiful: history, art, music, architecture, etc.

Our key player, of course, is the beautiful city of Florence herself. Firenze (as the Italians call it) is widely regarded as the “birthplace of the Renaissance,” where many of art’s greatest masters once called home. Thanks to that rich heritage, the city is filled with statues, paintings, cathedrals, and museums that create a feast for the senses. Margaret’s favorite place in the whole city, however, is the piazza because of the openness and the light. From the Greek word for "wide space" or "opening", the piazzas are city squares at town centers or the meeting of roads, where exists the pulse of the community. Often lines with cafés and shops, piazza host tourists and natuves alike who spend time walking, shopping, sightseeing, and dining in these social centers of which Florence contains dozens.  Who knows if it's Italy, or Adam Guettel's amazing score, or our wonderful collaborative team, but the piazza is already bringing out the beauty in all of us.

And nothing completes the picturesque piazza more than this era’s gorgeous clothes. Fashion held a particularly important place in the atmosphere of the 1950s, and even more so in Italy.  Gender roles became very strictly enforced in the post-war culture of Italy as well as America. This can be seen most clearly in the silhouettes of the era, where women’s figures were featured through A-line dresses and other ultra-feminine shapes. Most women still wore heavy foundation garments such as girdles and corsets to accentuate the natural form of a small waist and curvy bust and hips. Men wore suits that heightened the Y-shape of their torsos and took great care in the details of their fashions such as cufflinks, tie pins, hats, and pocket squares.

Italians took particular pride in fashion both as a daily routine and as a new part of their economic landscape. A large step in bringing Italy to the forefront of the fashion scene was the first multi-designer Italian fashion show, held in Florence in 1951. Here, the spotlight was turned on such pioneer designers as the Fontana Sisters, Contessa Visconti, Emilio Pucci, Baroness Gallotti, and Bertoli, and the fashion press responded with enthusiasm, using phrases like "seductive elegance" and "aristocratic ease." Costume designer Rosemarie McKelvey speaks to what she loves about fashion in the 1950s: “Men and women had their clothes tailored specifically for them and enjoyed the details that went into getting dressed every day. They wore clothes because they loved them.”

Although Margaret and Clara’s journey brings one unexpected event after another. What our trip to Florence can absolutely promise is unending beauty through the exquisiteness of the 50s as well as the splendor of Florence.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Second Annual Villanova Theatre Playwriting Competition!

Mark Costello ('10), who won last year for his play m4m
The Villanova Theatre Department is pleased to announce the Second Annual Playwriting Competition, offered exclusively to Villanova students, alumni, faculty and staff. 

The goal of this competition is to foster creative endeavors within the Villanova arts community. The funding and support for this project will be provided by the Sue Winge Playwriting Grant. 

Mark J. Costello, the 2013 winner, had this to say about the experience: "Being recognized by my alma mater -especially one in memory of a beloved and highly respected member of our community - was an honor beyond words.  It has encouraged me to write bigger and better, and I'm excited to see what work the award inspires in the creative geniuses of other Villanova theatremakers."

The guidelines for the competition are as follows:

1.  Competition is open to all Villanova students, alumni, faculty and staff.
Scripts are to be original, unpublished, and unproduced.  

2. Musicals, monologues, children’s plays, film scripts, and television scripts are ineligible.

3. Winning playwright will receive a $300 stipend. Travel and housing costs are the responsibility of playwright.

4. Winning play will receive two rehearsals and a staged reading in September 2014 that will be open to the public.

5. The Theatre Department will provide a cast and a graduate student director.

6. In addition to a staged reading, the playwright will receive professional feedback from Villanova University’s Theatre Department.           

7. Playwrights may submit ONE play per year. Plays submitted that do not win may be resubmitted in subsequent years.

8. Scripts must be submitted in English.

9. Only electronic copies may be submitted.

The deadline for submission is March 7th, 2014

All submissions should be directed to the attention of: Elizabeth Marafino, Production Assistant,

The Sue Winge Playwriting Grant and competition was established in memory of beloved Villanova University employee, Sue Winge, who served the university for many years in the Theatre Department and the President’s Office.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same

When Villanova Theatre chose to include The School For Lies in their 2013-14 season, they knew off the bat that they would need a strong student production dramaturg to help the cast pull the high-style court of Louis the XIV through history and into the modern day - which is really the project of the entire production.  Good thing Sarah Totora was willing and available!  Previously receiving distinction for her Orals project as Production Dramaturg for How I Learned to Drive in Villanova Theatre's 2012-13, Sarah has done a stellar job of making the foreign world of Paris, 1666 accessible to the cast and audience.  Below are just a few of the amazing things she found in her research:

SARAH: Modeled after Molière's play The Misanthrope, David Ives' The School for Lies invites us to pull up a chair in a chic Paris salon, circa 1666...and 2014. Ives infuses the play with contemporary expressions and anachronistic references, bending its 17th-century setting like a funhouse mirror. The result is a world that pulses with then and now, which the cast navigates expertly.  

To help everyone find their footing in this curious environment, I researched life and style in the 1600s--an era of carefully prescribed manners and mores. Bows and curtsies, walking sticks, elegant handkerchiefs, and ballet-like poses colored courtly life in Molière's time, and informed our interpretation of characters in The School for Lies. Along the way, I also picked up some pointed advice.

For example, a 1694 British publication called The Ladies' Dictionary advised women against being too skinny: "Bodies that are very Lean and Scragged, we must own, cannot be very Comely: it is a contrary Extream to Corpulency and the Parties Face always seems to carry Lent in it." The same manual cautions a woman not to yield to her beau's advances too hastily, even if she loves him, explaining, "You will get better Conditions if the Enemy does not know how weak you are within. Forgive, Ladies, all the Warlike Gibberish..."

Men, too, had guides to inform their wooing, such as The Academy of Complements, which dates back to 1661. Herein a man could gather sample sweet-talk to try out on the "ladies and gentlewomen" in his life. He might, for example, tell a girlfriend that "her breasts are a pair of Maiden-unconquered Worlds," or that "her neck is polisht Ivory, white as the silver Dove."

The way I see it, primary sources like these are a dramaturgical jackpot--a time capsule that brings to life a given historical moment with words straight from the horse's mouth. More illuminating yet? Take a look at this month's Cosmopolitan magazine, whose cover stories include "The One Thing You Must Never Do With A Guy" and "The Bikini Body Plan: 4 Steps to Smokin'!" Or check out the current issue of GQ for "The Best Places In The World To Take Your Girlfriend (We Checked With Her)." As they say, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

The School for Lies runs February 11th-23rd.  Call the Villanova Theatre Box Office at 610.519.7474 or visit for ticket information.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

KC MacMillan Tells No Lies

Villanova Theatre is so lucky to have KC MacMillan, Villanova Theatre MA grad and professional director in the Philadelphia area, on board as director for School for Lies.  Her perspective has been invaluable to the students that are working on the production.  In one actor's words, "she is an absolute dream".   She was kind enough to answer some questions for Villanova Theatre Talk about School for Lies, her work with student actors, and the influence that Villanova played on her career as a theatre practitioner.

How did your education in the Villanova Theatre MA program shape your trajectory as a theatre artist?

So many ways, directly and indirectly.  My major interest at that time was dramaturgy, work I still do frequently at the Lantern, where I am the associate artistic director.  The discipline, specificity, and creativity of the dramaturg is a major component of my work as a director.  And although I didn’t quite realize I was a director until a few years after I graduated with my M.A., my classwork at Villanova, particularly Jim Christy’s directing and styles courses and Harriet Power’s solo performance course, sent my artist-self in that direction, for sure.

How does it feel to return to your alma mater as a professional guest director?

It’s a real honor.  It’s been a real pleasure to work as a peer with Villanova production staff who were here when I was a student (1999-2001).  Back then, I was one of Janus’ assistants in the costume shop.  To work with her, talking about character, palette, etc, as I watched her do with other directors back then, is a joy.  It is also a bit surreal—a measure of how I have changed as a person and an artist.  I’m 36; I’ve been directing professionally more than 10 years and I have 22 productions behind me.  Most of the time that just feels like my ordinary life.  But being back at Villanova, working with graduate students talking about Script Analysis and Dr. Bader’s class—I find myself peering into the past at my 23-year-old Villanova self.  Being that person feels like a lifetime ago…but also not really that long at all.

Can you say a few words about School for Lies?  What makes it a special show to work on?  What about it has been enjoyable so far?

I’m having a great time.  It’s a style I have worked in frequently, having directed two previous productions of Moliere and an adaptation of another classical play by David Ives.  Or as Ives calls it, a “translaptation,” reflecting his desire to honor the classical playwright’s work, but to adapt it with his own playwright’s tools and the ‘music’ of contemporary language.  It’s fun to share the aesthetic of high comedy with these student actors, helping them to unlock the secrets of the verse, find a physical vocabulary for the world, and plumb the text for the jokes.  Which are often obscene.  The atmosphere of our rehearsal room has been thoughtful, hardworking, joyful.

School for Lies runs February 11th-23rd.  Call 610.519.7474 or visit for ticket information.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

I Am Thankful For . . . by Christine Petrini

Villanova Theatre Masters Program awards several full tuition scholarships to students who display passion, talent, and dedication to the theatre arts.  Over the Thanksgiving Holiday, Acting Scholar Christine Petrini reflected on all of the things she is grateful for.  Here is her post, just in time for the Christmas holidays!

Before I over indulge in Thursday’s Thanksgiving feastival, at which time I will scour the world with cruel exactitude in search of juicy turkey legs and my Aunt Paula’s apple pie, I would like to give thanks. I am thankful every day, as I’m sure we all are, but I don’t always say so.

I don’t know how I came to be so blessed, I suppose it all started with my mama and my dad who offer me unconditional love, support and encouragement (even when it may be undeserved). They helped to set me on a path that led me here, to Villanova, where I can be thankful for friends, mentors, a community of collaborators, hugs, laughs, tears and smiles.

Now let’s talk a little turkey here.

I am thankful for….

a generous community of teachers, peers, collaborators and supporters; all of whom provide a safe and motivational environment within the Villanova Theatre Department.

the daily joy and pride I experience when witnessing the work of my peers as performers, designers, directors, stage managers, dramaturgs, and shop assistants. I am in a constant state of awe.

the opportunity to be pushed beyond my limits, stretched and challenged by my professors, peers and directors (I’m always surprised when I get to the other side of a project or challenge).

my experience in the cast of Everyman. This, of course, includes costumes made of belts and other fabulous repurposed items, the chance to sing an aria for the first time in probably a decade and the experience of being harnessed and magically suspended in the air as Good Deeds.

my partner, Christian, who keeps me sane and sits at my laptop helping me understand my Financial Management homework while making a big pot of Chili after I’ve had a long day at school.

a daily awareness of my body, my mind, and my breathing; all of which comes with a life in the arts where we free ourselves to imagine, create and do.

my full tuition scholarship, the very special honor of attending Villanova as an acting scholar and the opportunity to be a leader amongst my theatre peers.

Thank you for these blessings! Now, the challenge is to go fourth and do something good with all the goodness that has been granted to me!

Of course, there is plenty more to be thanks to be given. Instead of naming each one of you here, I will thank you for touching my life the next time I see you at Villanova (and if I don’t, remind me of this promise)!!

Now, if you don’t know, I once ate 14 pieces of French toast on a Saturday and then 12 pancakes the next day. Clearly, I am thankful for good food so, enough turkey talk; it’s time for turkey eating!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Everyman will never be de-feeted!

One week before Everyman opened, Hallie Martenson, who plays the eponymous role, gave us quite a scare.  On the cast's night off, she broke her big toe, seriously impeding her ability to walk.  All turned out well, despite the injury.  What's it like it do a physical show on a serious physical injury?  See her journal below!  Just don't tell her to "break a leg"!  She might actually do it!

November 4th, 2013

It's our day off from rehearsal, but excited as I am for Opening next week, I can't keep myself from the set.  I sneak into the Theatre after my evening class to practice a sequence in which I run up the set's amazing sloped wall (designed by incredible student designer Seth Thomas Schmitt-Hall).  Maybe in punishment or karma for being in the theatre when I'm not supposed to, and despite the fact that I had run up that wall about a hundred times before without an ounce of trouble, something goes wrong.  I can't say what, but when I came back down that wall, my big toe was completely numb.  When I looked down, my stomach turned.  Imperceptible to anyone outside of my own body, my toe was pointing in the wrong direction.  

So what's an actor to do?  An actor who holds the titular role in a show that previews in eight days?  An actor who has a whole department full of people depending on her to anchor a production?

Ignore it, obviously.  Go to a rehearsal for another scene, stomp around on an injured foot in physical character work.  Enter the sweet state of denial.

November 5th, 2013

Why the other two toes are bruised is beyond me.

I wake up and my foot is swollen to twice its normal size.  I decide to go to Villanova Health Services, who I'm sure will just tell me that I banged myself up, that I would be absolutely be fine.


The nurse balks at the swollen state of my foot.  She says she is going to send me to go get x-rays.  I quickly intervene.  "That's not necessary.  I'm sure I'm fine."  She tells me to stay off of it, and to bow out of any physical work I do in the show.  I smile and nod, ignoring every word she says.

Leaving the health services building, I call the office of Father David Cregan, our director and chair of the Department.  His assistant answers the phone and tells me he is in a meeting.

"Okay, well, I just wanted to talk to him before he heard any rumors.  I'm totally fine, but hurt my toe.  I'm about 12% worried that it might be broken.  Please don't worry him, just tell him to call me back."

Next thing I know, Father David is in my office, winded from sprinting across campus.  He assures me that he isn't worried, but I can read the concern all over his face.  He insists that I go to the hospital immediately.


After two consultations with nurses and two sets of x-rays, I am sitting in the doctor's office, awaiting judgement.  I am confident, almost cocky, that she will walk in with a smile and say, "Yep, just bruised.  Nothing to worry about."  I am sure that I will be dancing in rehearsal in a few hours time.

She walks in.  There is no smile.  "Oh yeah.  It's broken, alright."  The air leaves my body.

"Bad?" I ask.  It is the only word I can croak out.

"It's very serious.  Looks like you'll need an understudy."  Great bedside manner, doc.  I immediately burst into tears.

As those tears transform into uncontrollable, embarrassing, hiccuping sobs, my doctor's sternness fades.  She tells me to take as much time as I need.  I hobble out of the doctor's office on my crutches, tears still running down my face.


The tears have finally stopped.  I get Father David on his cell.  He is confident and comforting.  "Well, I said at the beginning of the process that we didn't know what the show was going to be.  Now, the show is Everyman with a broken foot.  We will make it work."  But my heart is still broken.

I crutch my way into my Script Analysis class.  Half of my cast mates are there.  They look up and do a double take.  I can hear them muttering to each other in concern from across the room.  I can't look any of them in the eye.  My professor Valerie Joyce, a director in her own right, tells me not to worry.  "These kinds of things happen.  We will make it work."


Rehearsal.  Father David tells the cast about my toe.  He is, once again, kind and confident.  He tells me to sit in the house and deliver my lines while sitting.  Even in my chair, I am able to get myself to the emotional heights I need to reach.  I am comforted.  Immediately after rehearsal, I get myself home, crawl into bed, and fall into a deep, dark sleep, emotionally and mentally spent.

November 6th, 2013


Rehearsal.  Father David lets me onstage, as long as I keep my boot on.  I am thrilled to be back onstage - until I'm actually there.  My boot is heavy and clunky, and makes loud noises as I hobble from moment to moment.  

About two thirds of the way through the show, our stage manager stops us.  "We're almost at time."

Father David pulls me aside and lets me know quietly that they had stopped us when we were already 9 minutes over the length of time it had ever taken us to run the entire show.  I am mortified.  My worst fears has come true.  My foot has negatively impacted the show.

I try hard to bite back tears, but Father David sees them immediately.  He puts his arms around me.  "Hallie, you need to know that I'm not worried.  I am not worried," he repeated.  "This is what the show is now."

November 7th, 2013


I go see a specialist, a orthopedic podiatrist.  It is the fanciest doctor's office I have ever been in.  I fill out my intake papers on an I-Pad.  

I explain to the doctor, who specializes in sports injuries, that it's kind of like the quarterback breaking his toe before the big game - we need to do whatever we can to get me on the field.  I think I'm cool.  He doesn't crack a smile.  "A quarterback would be benched with this injury in a second."

He explains that my toe snapped back at the first joint, shattering through the joint.  It would almost certainly require surgery.  My heart falls again.

But then he gives me a gift.  An inflexible graphite insole for my stage shoe.  It would prevent my foot from bending at all.  A spark of hope flashes in my brain.  My hearing is dulled as he talks about how I need to scale back on my activity.  All I can do is stare at that graphite insole and imagine the possibilities it holds.


I get back to the theatre and sit down with Parris, the theatre's Production Manager, to explain my woes.  He is appropriately funny and sympathetic.  Father David appears and we visit the Costume Shop, where Courtney Boches, the Costume Designer, and Janus Stefanowicz, the Costume Shop Manager, are waiting.  They present me with a pair of combat boots, with a hard outer shell that would protect my toe.  They shove in the new graphite insole before asking me to try them on.

I squeeze my swollen foot into the boot carefully and lace them up.  I stand.  I take a few steps.  And I almost cry.  But this time from joy.

I am not even limping.  My foot is completely stable and protected.  Father David and I visit the stage and I walk through some of my blocking.  I am nervous, but there is no pain.  Father David looks as relieved as I feel.  For the first time, I actually believe that everything is going to be okay.

In this moment, those boots, simple, cheap, innocuous, become my MIRACLE BOOTS.  Gratitude doesn't begin to express how I feel toward the costume shop and designers.

November 12th, 2013

It's preview day!  Over the last five days, which include long tech days, I experiment more and more, and become more and more confident.  I dance.  I run up the wall.  I walk the runway.

On the second day of tech, Father David approaches me.  "You're back!  Can you feel it?"  I nod, smiling.  

And now, hearing the audience a few feet away muttering and fidgeting, I feel no fear.  Just excitement.  And something else, something very important that shadows all other emotions.  Something that blossoms inside me as I glance around at my cast mates, who have  held, and comforted, and supported me through every step of this process.  

Gratitude.  A whole lot of gratitude.  Which, for Everyman, feels exactly right.  

My toe twinges.  I shake it off.  I have a show to do.