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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

MICHAEL & EDIE's Snowy Day Playlist

“And I thought about how many people have loved those songs. And how many people got through a lot of bad times because of those songs. And how many people enjoyed good times with those songs. And how much those songs really mean." - Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Villanova Theatre's upcoming production of Michael & Edie invites audiences to tune in and crank up the volume.  "James [Ijames] will sometimes play a song in rehearsal to underscore a scene," said Sophia Barrett, who plays Edie in the Philadelphia premiere of Rachel Bonds' new play. "It gives us a sense of how musical this world is."

So just for you, our loyal audience, we've put together a playlist full of songs about love, literature, and longing to whet your appetite for this fresh new play!  It's perfect for a snowy evening, curled up under a blanket with a good book and a cup of cocoa!  Enjoy!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Michael & Edie Staff Pick Book Shelf

Villanova Theatre's newest production Michael & Edie (running February 10th-22nd) takes place inside a magical bookstore.  Michael and Edie, both clerks in this literary labyrinth, bury themselves in comforting stacks of the world's greatest authors' greatest books in an effort to escape the messiness and complications of their own lives.  And that's the beauty of books, isn't it?  To lose yourself into vivid worlds built from words and image instead of bricks and mortar.  Below, each character in Rachel Bond's deeply affecting coming-of-age literary love story shares their recommendation for the "Staff Pick" bookshelf!

Michael's pick:  The Collected Poems of Frank O'Hara by Frank O'Hara

Michael yearns for intimate connections to others.  When he finds he lacks them, he uses his imagination to create a sense of closeness.  He is drawn, therefore, to O'Hara's deeply personal poetic tone.  This collection, edited by Donald Allen, shared the 1972 National Book Award for Poetry.  Just as Michael speaks his longing musings about Edie aloud, O'Hara was inspired by his daily observations of the world around him.  O'Hara said of his own work: "It may be that poetry makes life's nebulous events tangible to me and restores their detail".

TODAY by Frank O'Hara

Oh! kangaroos, sequins, chocolate sodas!
Your really are beautiful! Pearls,
harmonicas, jujubes, aspirins! all
the stuff they've always talked about

still makes a poem a surprise!
These things are with us every day
even on beachheads and biers.  They
do have meaning.  They're strong as rocks.


Edie's pick:  Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger

Mysterious and sad Edie finds deep comfort in Franny and Zooey, a book comprised of two separate stories dedicated to the youngest members of the Glass family - which was a frequent focus in Salinger's writings.  When Franny finds herself in the midst of a spiritual and existential breakdown, her older brother, an emotionally toughened genius, reaches out to her, offering brotherly love, understanding, and words of sage advice.


"Against my better judgment I feel certain that somewhere very near here - the first house down the road, maybe - there's a good poet dying, but also somewhere very near here somebody's having a hilarious pint of pus taken from her lovely young body, and I can't be running back and forth between grief and high delight."

Ben's pick: The Things they Carried by Tim O'Brien

O'Brien is distinguished from other authors by his ability to merge truth and fiction in this collection of short stories about a platoon of American soldiers in the Vietnam War.  Just as Ben tells a story in order to tell the truth, O'Brien explores the truth of the War by weaving tales inspired by his service in Vietnam, feeling that the realities of of the Vietnam War are best explored in fictional form rather than the presentation of precise facts.


"Together we understood what terror was: you're not human anymore.  You're a shadow.  You slip out of your own skin, like molting, shedding your own history and your own future, leaving behind everything you ever were or wanted to believe in. You know you're about to die.  And it's not a movie and you aren't a hero and all you can do is whimper and wait."

Sarah's pick: Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Sarah feels deeply connected to Charlie, the main character of Perks of Being a Wallflower.  Like Sarah, Charlie is deeply sensitive, shy, and intelligent beyond his years.  Perks of a Wallflower reflects on themes of teenage reality and nostalgia.  Chbosky wanted to convey respect for teenagers, to "validate and respect and celebrate what [teenagers] are going through everyday", dedicating his novel to "anyone who's felt like an outcast."


"I don't know if you've ever felt like that.  That you wanted to sleep for a thousand years.  Or just not exist.  Or just not be aware that you do exist.  Or something like that.  I think wanting that is very morbid, but I want it when I get like this.  That's why I'm trying not to think.  I just want it all to stop spinning."

John's pick:  The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad

Owner of the bookstore in which Michael and Edie meet, John seems to be leading a secret life outside of the store.  Is he meeting a lady?  Does he have a family at home waiting for him?  Or maybe, just maybe, is he involved with something more diabolical?  Conrad's classic novel, set in London in 1886, deals largely with the life of Mr. Verloc.  During the day, he runs a shop that sells pornographic materials, contraceptives, and bric-a-brac.  At night . . . well, the title says it all.


"Mr. Verloc, getting off the sofa with ponderous reluctance, ponderous reluctance, opened the door leading into the kitchen to get more air, and thus disclosed the innocent Stevie, seated very good and quiet at a deal table, drawing circles, circles; innumerable circles, concentric, eccentric; a coruscating whirl of circles that by their tangled multitude of repeated curves, uniformity of form and confusion of intersecting lines suggested a rendering of cosmic chaos, the symbolism of a mad art attempting the inconceivable."

With your tall-tale tastebuds whetted, book your tickets now for Michael & Edie, running February 10th-22nd, by visiting or by calling our box office at 610-519-7474.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

BIG LOVE Dance Party Playlist!

As we head into tech weekend for the beautifully lyrical Big Love, we're getting ready to celebrate with some killer music!  Each character has chosen their favorite song, creating a rocking Big Love playlist!  Click on each link to start off your weekend the RIGHT way!

Lydia's Pick: "War (What Is It Good For?)" by Edwin Starr

Lydia, ever the peace-keeper, resonates with Edwin Starr's strong and forceful song that demands peace in place of war.  Leave it to Lydia to bring a social message into the party grooves!

Nikos's Pick - "Got Til It's Gone" by Janet Jackson (feat. Joni Mitchell)

Sentimental Nikos just likes songs that remind him of middle school dance parties.  And any song that samples Joni Mitchell is alright in his book!

Thyona's Pick: "So What" by Pink

Thyona sure doesn't need a man to have a good time!  And just like Pink, her idea of a good time is getting into some trouble - watch out guys!

Constantine's Pick - "He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss)" by The Crystals

Constantine has some - ahem - interesting notions when it comes to relationships, which may harken back to a simpler (and more uncomfortable) time in American pop music, as reflected in this song by the Motown girl group The Crystals.

Olympia's Pick - "I Wanna Dance With Somebody"  by Whitney Houston

Olympia is all about the simple pleasures in life: fashion, beauty products, and of course, flirtatious liaisons with gorgeous men.  Nothing taps into her most profound desires like Whitney Houston's ode to dancing the night away in the arms of someone who loves her.

Oed's Pick - "About A Girl" by Nirvana

Oed is the strong silent type - and maybe just a little bit moodier than his brothers.  So of course he's attracted to the grungy and romantic Nirvana.  Cobain's lyrics just speak to him, man.

Piero's Pick - "My Way" by Frank Sinatra

Classy, independent, charming, forthright - that's Piero.  Really, there's not much separating him from Sinatra - except of course for the mistresses and allegations of domestic abuse.  But hey - a good man is hard to find!

Giuliano's Pick - "Love On Top"  by Beyonce

Romantic Giuliano is Big Love's spokesperson for honoring oneself and being forthright and confident about one's inner desires.  Beyonce's upbeat love song just speaks to his inner fly girl!

Bella's Pick - That's Amore  by Dean Martin

If there are two things that Bella believes in with all her heart, it's love and her homemade pizza.  Lucky for her Dean Martin's classic song has them both!

Eleanor's Pick - "Crazy For You" by Adele

Eleanor's departure from her native England and residency in the free-spirit world of Italy has unleashed her most intense sexual desires - allowing herself to be "carried off in a crowd, that in another minute will all be naked."  So of course Adele's sexiest song taps into her sweet spot ;)

Leo - "Bringing Sexy Back" by Justin Timberlake

Leo's trick to life is bringing unrestrained sexual pleasure back into the conversation - so just like Justin, he is bringing sexy back into the mix!

Find the full Big Love party playlist, with all of the songs listed above as well as lots of others, embedded below!

Big Love runs November 11th-23rd.  Visit the Villanova Theatre website or call the box office at 610-519-7474 for tickets.  Some performances are already SOLD OUT, so act fast!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Patchwork Playmaking: The World of Charles L. Mee

One of the most exciting and enthralling parts of working on a script created by Charles L. Mee is the opportunity to experience text and ideas from a menagerie of authors, critics, theorists, pop culturists, and more. Big Love is one of a collection of Mee's plays, which together he calls The (Re)Making Project.
Click here to check out the remaking project!
In his introduction to the online collection, Mee says:

"I have pillaged the structures and contents of the plays of Euripides and Brecht and stuff out of Soap Opera Digest and the evening news and the internet…There is no such thing as an original play."

Big Love itself is a loose adaptation of Aeschylus’s The Suppliants which is based on The Legend of Io. He also draws ideas and language from over 10 other sources, most taken between the time period of 1950-1999.

Click here to read more!
He also takes direct passages from The Pillow Book by Sei Shōnagon a Japanese court lady and author, under Empress Teishi (Sadako), during the  Helian period who lived between 996-1017. The Pillow Book is a series of observations and musings from her time as a court lady and her life in Japan. Within Big Love, direct text is taken from the first page of the book, which includes an observation about the loveliest times of year, “In spring, the dawn- in summer, the night- in autumn, the evening- in winter, the early morning”.

Another direct piece of text within Big Love comes from Valarie Solanas who is best known for her attempted murder of Andy Warhol is 1968. Solanas is a radical American feminist writer who famously wrote the S.C.U.M. Manifesto, which stands for, the “Society for Cutting Up Men”. Mee takes language such as “The male is a biological accident…an incomplete female” and places it in Big Love as one of the bride’s arguments against men.

See which characters upon whom Mee bestows excerpts from The Pillow Book and "The S.C.U.M. Manifesto" in Big Love at Villanova Theatre, November 11th-23rd, Tuesday-Saturday at 8PM, Sundays at 2PM.  

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Politics of Beauty

The 1920s were a time of significant upheaval the world over; World War I disrupted daily life, gender roles, and economics. While some countries adapted more readily to the new social climate, British society worked hard to re-establish Victorianism as a national identity. This meant pushing British women from the workplace back into the home and attempting to control the aesthetics of what a desirable and proper British woman could be.

The major media push shifted from celebrating women doing their duty for the nation by taking on factory jobs to celebrating them for returning to their kitchens to care for their children and menfolk at the end of the war. Take this cocoa ad, for example: between January and March of 1919, the British woman moves from manual laborer to doting wife and mother.

Alongside the mainstream media preference for housebound homemaker, though, a culture surrounding beauty and femininity sprouted up. Makeup became a necessity for the vast majority of women, rather than for just the very wealthy or the prostitute. A slim body became the expectation, and women took a new interest exercise and outdoor activity. Keeping yourself beautiful and polished became a duty rather than an expression of vanity. This shifted expectation was another way of reminding women what their place was: the pretty, feminine, heterosexual ideal.

In this climate, fashion became politicized, most notably in this question: to bob, or not to bob?

Long hair was the standard for much of modern British history. However, the 1920s witnessed the rise of the bob, the now-ubiquitous chin-or-higher length haircut. The introduction of this cut in the early part of the decade caused a flurry of controversy; the bob was immediately associated with flappers, and flappers were associated with the sexually uninhibited. Women’s magazines, which also rose to prominence during this decade, ran constant stories on whether the bob should be attempted, and employers would think twice before hiring a woman with the style. To bob was to mark yourself as a Modern Woman, a positive figure for us and for those who embraced it at the time, but an anti-Victorian troublemaker for a society invested in keeping women home and accounted for.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

FALLEN ANGELS Inspired Cocktails!

Want to be as classy as the characters in Noël Coward's Fallen Angels?  Drink the cocktails below and . . . well, at least you'll be feeling pretty cool!  The characters of Villanova Theatre's upcoming (boozy) production of Fallen Angels were gracious enough to share their favorite cocktails with their loyal audiences.

Fred's Recommendation: The Dandy

This complex variant on the Manhattan includes all of Fred's favorite things: booze and pretension.

Make it yourself!

1 1/2 Ounces of Rye Whiskey

1 1/2 Ounces of Dubonnet Rouge

1 Dash Angostura Bitters

1 Teaspoon Cointreau

1 Piece Orange Peel

1 Piece Lemon Peel

Measure ingredients into mixing glass, express peels, and drop in.  Fill with ice.  Stir until well chilled and strain into a chilled glass.  Serve without a garnish or with a lemon peel.

Willy's Recommendation: Whiskey and Soda

Just like Willy, this classic drink is straightforward and stiff.

Make it yourself!

2 Ounces Scotch

Club Soda

Pour Scotch in a highball glass over ice. Top with club soda.

Jane's Recommendation: Blood Orange Bellini

Jane often longs for her time in Italy, and this cocktail brings her right back to that romantic and beautiful place - and the blood oranges are the reminiscent of the blood she draws when the talons come out!

Make it Yourself!

4 Blood Oranges or 1/2 Cup Blood Orange Juice

1 Bottle of Prosecco, chilled

In a measuring glass, juice the blood oranges. Evenly distribute the juice in 4 champagne glasses. Fill the rest of the glass with Prosecco.

Julia's Recommendation: Dirty Gin Martini

Classic, sophisticated, restrained, and just the littlest bit naughty, no other cocktail could more aptly speak to Julia's nature.

Make it Yourself!

1 Tablespoon Dry Vermouth

2 Ounces Gin

2 Tablespoons Olive Juice

4 Olives

Swirl water in a martini glass and place in the freezer for 2-3 minutes.  Meanwhile, fill a shaker with gin, vermouth, and olive juice and shake over ice.  Shake hard 3-4 times.  Remove chilled martini glass from freezer and strain martini in.  Garnish with 4 olives on a skewer of your choice.

Saunder's Recommendation: The Painkiller

Julia and Fred's incredibly well-travelled maid learned this recipe while she was serving as a concubine for an Island king in the Caribbean.

Make it yourself!

2 Ounces Spiced Navy Rum

4 Ounces Pineapple Juice

1 Ounce Coconut Cream

1 Ounce Orange Juice

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice.  Shake hard 3-4 times.  Fill a halved coconut with crushed ice and pour over.  Garnish with nutmeg and a sprig of mint.  Enjoy!

Maurice's Recommendation:  French 75

Very French.  Very sexy.  Nothing else to say.

Make it Yourself!

1 Ounce Gin

1/2 Ounce Simple Syrup

1/2 Ounce Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice

Brut Champagne

Lemon twist to garnish

Combine gin, simple syrup, and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker over ice.  Shake until well-chilled and strain into a glass.  Top with champagne.  Garnish with lemon peel and try to keep your panties on.

Mix away friends, and make Noël Coward proud!  And just remember: there is nothing classy about over-drinking!

Enjoy your happy hour at home before joining us for Fallen Angels, running September 23rd-October 5th at Villanova Theatre!  Call 610-519-7474 or visit our website for tickets!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Love Letter to Villanova Theatre

I made the decision to apply to the Villanova Master's in Theatre Program on March 15th, 2012.  Little did I know how much my life would change as a result of this decision. I graduated from college in May 2011 with little to no direction in life. I had accepted a graduate assistantship in West Virginia to pursue a Master's in Business Administration.  Let me be clear, I am NOT a business-minded person.  However, I made a promise to myself: once I finished my MBA, I was going to devote my life to my true passion - the arts.

I lasted one semester in that MBA program. By February 2012 I was on the search again for a graduate program. I happened to stumble upon an assistantship opportunity offered through the Office of Residence Life at Villanova.  I applied to that position, and perused the Villanova website looking for something to study. That’s when I saw it: Master of Arts in Theatre. I took it as a sign, and I promised myself that no matter what happened I was going to go to Villanova for Theatre, even if I had to pay for it. I applied, and then I attended an open house where I met Dr. Joanna Rotte. I sat with her for a while and discussed the program and my undergraduate major. She told me that the department LOVED psychology majors. After leaving the open house, I felt invigorated, I felt renewed, and most of all I felt happy.

Theatre was what I needed to do, it was my calling.  I was accepted to the program on April 20th, 2012 . . . the same day I decided to tell my family. They were shocked - I had never made mention of my love for theatre.  It has always been there - the burning desire to create art, to be a part of this beautiful spectacle that is live theatre. When I was younger, I auditioned for shows and was even cast in a few. But because of my fear and a lack of confidence, I always backed out. All of my friends in high school were in shows and musicals, and I would sit in the audience wishing it was me who was on the stage singing or dancing my heart out. My friends who were a part of shows always seemed so free when they were performing, and I desperately wanted to experience that. I just couldn’t get it out of my head.

Before Villanova, I had no idea what a dramaturg was or what they did.  I had no clue how actors learned all of those lines. I was oblivious to how much work actually went into a production. I didn’t know how to analyze a script.  I couldn't tell you what an objective, obstacle, or even subtext meant. I was fresh new babe, reborn in the fires of live theatre.  I felt out of place. But by the end of orientation, I knew I had made the right decision.  I had found my tribe. It didn’t matter that I had no experience as an actor, stagehand, or scholar. The people I met changed my life for the better. When I left that first meeting, I felt like I finally belonged somewhere - I was finally free to be myself.

Fast forward to the first day of class, I remember feeling overwhelmed, but as I walked to my car, I was joined by my new friends Peter and John.  I remember how all three of us felt excited and nervous for what this adventure would bring.  We were in this together.  I felt accepted, and loved for who I was. It was a feeling that I had never felt before. I always felt that I was hiding who I was, that I was always shrinking myself down so that I could fit in with those around me, and for the first time I was in an environment where I was encouraged to be who I was, flaws and all.

As I sit here, a mere two weeks away from leaving this program behind, I find myself feeling very nostalgic and very thankful. Before this program I was lost; I was depressed, and I really felt like I had no future. Coming to Villanova was the best decision I've ever made.  I’ve met some of the most inspiring, generous, kind, and caring people in the entire world.  I’ve been broken down, challenged, stretched (physically, emotionally, and mentally).  I’ve been encouraged.  I’ve been loved. Walking away from this program I now know so much about theatre, and my love and passion for the arts has grown immensely. In many ways, this program has saved my life.  It gave me the opportunity to get up on that stage and expose the deepest, darkest parts of my soul, and after it was all said and done, I had a group of people who cried with me, hugged me, and loved me even more for living my truth.
This program has taught me not only how to be a theatre practitioner, it has taught me how to be a stronger person - how to live in the uncomfortable muck of life. It has taught me that no matter how dark the night seems, the dawn is always around the corner. Villanova Theatre is the family that I never knew I had, and I am eternally grateful for having the privilege of spending two years here. It will be bittersweet to say goodbye to this place, but I know that Villanova has prepared me to be successful wherever life takes me.  I know that no matter what happens, I will always have my Nova family. Everyone who works in this department loves their students, and they only want what’s best for us. Thank you to everyone at Villanova for the best two years of my life.  It has been an honor to be a part of this experience; I am forever changed.

My advice to anyone coming into the program next year: cherish every moment. Run towards that which scares you. I promise, it is infinitely worth the experience.


Matthew Basden '14