Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)

About the Director

By Ann-Marie MacDonald
Directed by Jonathan Carr September
30-October 12, 2003

Romeo and Juliet and Othello as comedies? It my sound strange, but in Ann-Marie MacDonald's zany satire it all makes hysterical sense. Slogging away as a ghostwriter for a pompous male colleague while writing her dissertation, assistant professor Constance Ledbelly discovers evidence of an omitted character in both of Shakespeare's legendary tragedies - a wise fool whose actions prevent disastrous events. In a fit of despair, Constance flings herself and the tragedies into a wastepaper basket only to suddenly find herself plunged into the worlds of the plays. Filled with witty double entendres and copious tomfoolery, you don't have to be a fan of the Bard to enjoy this hilarious gender-bending satire about one woman's journey toward self-realization.

Press Release


Villanova Theatre opens the 2003-2004 season with Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet), a humorous yet heartfelt tale of one woman's life-changing romp through two of William Shakespeare's most popular plays. Written by Toronto-based writer and actor Ann-Marie MacDonald and directed by Villanova adjunct theatre professor Jonathan Carr, Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) runs September 30-October 12, 2003, at Vasey Hall on the Villanova University campus. Show times are 8:00pm Tuesday-Saturday and 2:00pm Sunday. Tickets are priced $18-$22 and may be ordered by calling the Villanova Theatre Box Office at (610) 519-7474.

Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) is the story of Constance Ledbelly, a mousy assistant professor who is unlucky in love and frustrated in her work. While toiling away as a ghostwriter for a pompous and ungrateful male colleague, Constance becomes obsessed with deciphering a cryptic manuscript she believes to be the original source of Othello and Romeo and Juliet; she is convinced that Shakespeare's legendary tragedies were once comedies, a belief that is sure to make her the laughingstock of the academic community. Just as her world falls apart, Constance finds herself inexplicably plunged into the plays.

MacDonald turns Shakespeare's tragedies topsy-turvy and sends her plucky heroine - and the audience - on a magical journey across Cyprus and Verona, eliciting laughs with her subtle Shakespearean allusions and pun-filled tomfoolery. Shakespeare is given a decidedly feminist twist as Constance comes face-to-face with Desdemona and Juliet, has a hand in changing their destinies, and learns a thing or two about herself in the process.

"The idea of Constance's scholarship is pretty interesting and the most interesting thing we can do is follow Constance, imagine that these plays are actually taking place, and have an amazing experience with her," said Carr. "What is challenging about Goodnight Desdemona is really delving into Othello and Romeo and Juliet.

"We get to burrow into the dark heart of these plays and see what Constance encounters," he continued. "And, at the same time, we get to do this thing which is always fun to do - follow a character as she's going through a huge personal transformation."

MacDonald was commissioned in 1988 to write Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) for the Nightwood Theatre in Toronto; it has gone on to become one of the most successful Canadian plays written in English, with over 100 productions in Canada, the U.S., Europe and Japan. Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) won the Governor General's Award for Drama, the Chalmers Award for Outstanding Play, and the Canadian Authors' Association Award for Drama.

Commenting on Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)'s enduring popularity, Carr quips, "What's not to like?! It’s a coming of age story set on a Shakespearean playing field with all the danger and passion and cross-dressing that that implies."

The versatile actors who appear in Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) include Villanova graduate theatre students who double and triple acting roles, appearing as familiar characters in both the worlds of Othello and Romeo and Juliet. Constance Ledbelly is portrayed by Nina Donze; her Villanova credits include City of Angels (Gabby/Bobbi), The Trojan Women (Andromache), and Chicago (Velma Kelly). Mike Dees, winner of the 2002 Barrymore Award for Outstanding Performance by a Supporting Actor in a Musical (Chicago), appears as Romeo, Iago, and a university student. Melissa Dryslewski portrays Juliet and a university student; Ron Lee Jones portrays Othello and Constance's boss, Professor Claude Night; Joe Leduc is a Juliet's cousin, Tybalt, a student, and a soldier; Josh Sauerman is Romeo's friend, Mercutio, a student, a soldier, and a servant; and Taylor Williams portrays a ghost and Juliet's nurse. Guest actor Kyla Marie Mostello appears as Desdemona and a student.

MacDonald has enjoyed a diverse career as a playwright, actor, and novelist. As an actor, she won a Gemini Award for her role in the film Where the Spirit Lives and was nominated for a Genie for her role in I've Heard the Mermaids Singing. Her hugely popular novel, Fall On Your Knees (1996), was an "Oprah's Book Club" selection and won the Commonwealth Prize for Best First Fiction, the CAA Harlequin Literary Award for Fiction, and the Dartmouth Book Award. She is the author of The Way the Crow Flies (Knopf Canada, September 2003) and host of the CBC-TV biography series Life & Times.

Carr is making his Villanova Theatre directing debut with Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet). He received his M.F.A. in directing from Columbia University and is currently an adjunct theatre professor at Villanova. His directing credits in New York include Witold Gombrowicz's Princess Ivona, Henrik Ibsen's When We Dead Awaken, and an original adaptation of Marguerite Duras' The Malady of Death. Work with contemporary playwrights includes Timothy Braun's Angelina, Deirdre O'Connor's The Ladies, and Heather MacDonald's Son of Nun in High Road in the N.Y. International Fringe Festival. He also directed the Austin, TX, premiere of Constance Congdon's Dog Opera, and has assistant directed at Actors Theatre of Louisville (Anne Bogart), Ma-Yi Theatre Company at The Public Theater/NYSF (Lisa Peterson), San José Repertory Theatre (Timothy Douglas, John McCluggage), and Williamstown Theatre Festival (Paul Weidner). Later this fall, Jonathan will direct Audience/Unveiling, two one-acts by Václav Havel, at Allens Lane Theater in Mt. Airy, PA.

The production team assembled for Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) includes Scenic Designer Dirk Durossette, Costume Designer Margaret K. McCarty, Lighting Designer Jerold R. Forsyth, Sound Designer Matt Callahan, Properties Designer cdavid hall-cottrill, Choreographer Karen Getz, Fight Choreographer John Bellomo, and Dramaturg Gregg Pica.

Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) performs September 30-October 12, 2003. Press Opening is Wednesday, October 1, 2003, at 8:00pm. Performances are held in Vasey Hall, Lancaster & Ithan Avenues, on the Villanova University campus. Showtimes are 8:00pm Tuesday-Saturday and 2:00pm Sunday. Tickets are priced $18-$22, with discounts for seniors, groups, and students. For tickets and information, call the Villanova Theatre Box Office at 610-519-7474 or visit

The Villanova Theatre season continues with Molière's Don Juan, November 11-23, 2003; Tennessee Williams' Summer and Smoke, February 10-22, 2004; and the Philadelphia Premiere of the Tony Award-winning musical Parade, March 23-April 4 and April 13-18, 2004.

Production Photos

image from goodnight desdemona
image from goodnight desdemona
image from goodnight desdemona
image from goodnight desdemona
image from goodnight desdemona
image from goodnight desdemona

Cast of Characters

Constance Ledbelly: Nina Donze
Ghost: Taylor Williams

Queen's University    
Professor Claude Night: Ron Lee Jones
      Mike Dees, Melissa
      Dryslewski, Kyla Marie
Students: Mostello, Joe Leduc
      Josh Sauerman

Othello: Ron Lee Jones
Desdemona: Kyla Marie Mostello
Iago: Mike Dees
Soldiers: Joe Leduc, Josh Sauerman

Juliet: Melissa Dryslewski
Romeo: Mike Dees
Tybalt: Joe Leduc
Mercutio, Servant: Josh Sauerman
Juliet's Nurse: Taylor Williams