About the Director
James J. Christy
For 36 years, James J. Christy has been a professor and director with Villanova University's theatre department, serving as chairperson of the department for 13 years. Last year, he received his sixth Barrymore Award nomination for Outstanding Direction of a Play for The Merchant of Venice at The People's Light & Theatre Company. Recent credits include The Passion of Christ, Arcadia, and The Trojan Women at Villanova Theatre, and The Laramie Project at Philadelphia Theatre Company, which received 2001 Barrymore Awards for Overall Production of a Play, Direction of a Play, and Outstanding Ensemble. Last year, Dr. Christy directed fellow faculty member Michael Hollinger's Red Herring for Actor's Theatre of Louisville, and he will direct the Broadway hit, Proof, for Arden Theatre Company in January. Dr. Christy had the good fortune to spend last Spring on sabbatical in Paris which rekindled his interest in French culture and theatre, specifically, Moliere.
Villanova Theatre Presents Don Juan
He is history's greatest cad and man about town, his name synonymous with seduction the world over. Villanova Theatre brings the legendary lothario vividly to life in Moliere's Don Juan, adapted and translated by Richard Nelson and directed by Villanova theatre professor James J. Christy.
Don Juan runs November 11-23, 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.
Considered one of Moliere's most controversial plays at the time of its premiere in 1665, Don Juan is the story of a suave but soulless aristocrat who travels the countryside stealing hearts and breaking marriage vows. Accompanied by his loyal but dimwitted valet, Sganarelle, Don Juan seduces and deserts woman after woman, ridicules his rivals, and mocks the heavens--until his self-centered behavior invokes the wrath of God.
Barrymore Award-winning director Christy transports Moliere's 17th-century comedy to the 1950s; the eclectic production design is inspired by such diverse sources as Federico Fellini's groundbreaking film 8 1/2 and its current Broadway incarnation, Nine, and the grace, eroticism, and mystery of the tango.
Christy has also added a bevy of "fantasy women" who surround Don Juan and a silent, acrobatic quartet, "The Zannis," inspired by commedia dell'arte, the ancient Italian improvisational masked comedy born in the Renaissance and utilized by Moliere in his own productions.
"I've introduced a circle of women, which comes from the world of 8 1/2, and the Zannis, which comes out of the commedia tradition, as a way to make more immediate and experiential the ideas the actors are talking about on stage," explained Christy.
"Moliere's play doesn't have a great deal of overt sexuality; it is a play of ideas about religion and politics," he continued. "So I wanted to bring out the seductive aspects of the Don Juan myth and find ways for our young actors at Villanova to handle this challenging play with very big ideas."
The tango will also be used in the production to enhance the atmosphere of sexual excitement.
"The tango is very passionate and erotic, and at times angry and even a little violent," he said. "Don Juan's nature involves aggression and hostility, as well as charm and attraction. The tango embodies these contradictory qualities."
Christy feels the play is also filled with contradictions. "There is a great deal of low comedy, involving very funny servants and charming rustic peasants, contrasted with big intellectual discussions," he explained. "There is also a mystical element and a melodramatic love story. The play itself is stylistically inconsistent and feels a bit more like Shakespeare than Moliere."
Moliere was born Jean Baptiste Poquelin in Paris, France, and baptized on January 15, 1622. In 1643, he founded The Illustrious Theatre Company, changed his name to Moliere, and began to write short plays. Moliere's troupe earned great success and the appreciation of the King Louis XIV, who supported Moliere throughout his career. Moliere wrote his best plays during these years, including Tartuffe (1664), Don Juan (1665), The Misanthrope (1666), and The Miser (1668). On February 17, 1673, while performing the lead role in his play The Imaginary Invalid, Moliere became deathly ill and died hours after finishing his performance.
Don Juan is adapted and translated by Richard Nelson, winner of the 2000 Tony Award for Best Book for James Joyce's The Dead. Born in Chicago in 1950, Nelson's career in theatre has encompassed playwriting, dramaturgy, adaptation, and direction. He received a 1992 Tony nomination for Best Play for his production of Two Shakespearean Actors and was nominated for the Olivier Award for Best Comedy for Some Americans Abroad. Nelson won the Olivier Award for Best Play for Goodnight Children Everywhere. His other plays include Franny's Way, My Life With Albertine (co-written with Ricky Ian Gordon), The General From America, New England, Sensibility and Sense, and Principia Scriptoriae. He has translated and adapted Carlo Goldoni's Il Campeillo, Anton Chekhov's Three Sisters, Pierre de Beaumarchais' The Marriage of Figaro, Bertolt Brecht's Jungle of Cities and The Weddings, Nikolai Erdman's The Suicide, and Dario Fo's Accidental Death of an Anarchist. Nelson also wrote the screenplay for the film Ethan Frome and the book for the musical Chess.
For 36 years, Director Christy has been a professor and director with Villanova University's theatre department, serving as chairperson of the department for 13 years. Last year, he received his sixth Barrymore Award nomination for Outstanding Direction of a Play for The Merchant of Venice at The People's Light & Theatre Company. Recent credits include The Passion of Christ, Arcadia, and The Trojan Women at Villanova Theatre, and The Laramie Project at Philadelphia Theatre Company, which received 2001 Barrymore Awards for Overall Production of a Play, Direction of a Play, and Outstanding Ensemble. Last year, Christy directed fellow faculty member Michael Hollinger's Red Herring for Actor's Theatre of Louisville.
The cast of Don Juan features graduate student actors pursuing the M.A. in theatre at Villanova University, including Juan M. Bertrán-Astor as Don Juan; John Kiefer Galla as his sidekick, Sganarelle; Daniella Leah Vinitski as Don Juan's jilted wife, Elvira; Mike Dees as her servant Gusman and the mysterious Commander; Melissa Dryslewski and Gina Pisasale as peasant girls; Bob Bonocore as Don Juan's creditor, M. Dimanche; and Taylor Williams as a Poor Person. Nick Falco appears as a peasant, Pierrot, and Peter M. Donohue, O.S.A., chairperson of the theatre department, portrays Don Juan's father, Don Louis Tenorio.
The acrobatic Zannis are played by Joe Leduc, Johnny Lozano, Gregg Pica, and Josh Sauerman, and the fantasy women include Carrie Bray, Nancy Furey, Margaret Kuronyi, and Erika Mapes.
The production team is comprised of scenic designer Dirk Durossette, costume designer Charlotte Cloe Fox, lighting designer Jerold R. Forsyth, sound designer Bill Moriarty, properties designer cdavid hall-cottrill, and dramaturg Nicole Mancino. The movement and dance is choreographed by John Bellomo.
Don Juan performs November 11-23, 2003. Press Opening is Wednesday, November 12, 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.
The Villanova Theatre season continues in the spring with Tennessee Williams' Summer and Smoke, February 10-22, 2004, and the musical Parade, March 23-April 4 and April 13-18, 2004. For tickets and information, call the Villanova Theatre Box Office at 610-519-7474 or visit http://www.villanova.edu/artsci/theatre/.