About the Director
JOANNA ROTTÉ is a writer, actor, and director. She is Professor of Theatre and former chair of the Villanova theatre department. At Villanova, she has directed Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot and Endgame, David Rabe's In the Boom Boom Room, Tina Howe's The Art of Dining, and Sam Shepard's True West and The Tooth of Crime, as well as numerous works by Caryl Churchill, including Light Shining in Buckinghamshire, Top Girls, Vinegar Tom, Owners, Fen, and Ice Cream. Her own plays, Prajna, Death of the Father, and Art Talk, have been featured presentations of the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. Rotté is the author of Scene Change (A Theatre Diary: Prague, Moscow, Leningrad) and Acting With Adler. She writes a quarterly column for the New York-based newspaper, Soul of the American Actor, a version of which she posts on her website, www.homepage.villanova.edu/joanna.rotte. Rotté appeared on stage at Villanova Theatre last season as the Catwoman in Marina Carr’s By the Bog of Cats...
Villanova Theatre Presents Summer and Smoke
Villanova Theatre continues the 2003-2004 season with a rare Philadelphia-area production of Tennessee Williams’ Summer and Smoke, a moving exploration of repressed desire and unrequited love. Summer and Smoke is directed by Villanova theatre professor Joanna Rotté and runs February 10–22, 2004, at Vasey Hall on the Villanova University campus. Showtimes 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. Additional information is available at http://www.villanova.edu/artsci/theatre/.
Set in the small town of Glorious Hill, Mississippi, in the early 1900s, Summer and Smoke explores the relationship between a puritanical spinster, Alma Winemiller, and her charismatic neighbor, John Buchanan, Jr., for whom she has harbored a life-long infatuation. In her search for spiritual love, Alma finds herself pitted against John’s sensuous, reckless nature. They engage in an emotional battle of wills and their struggle between body and soul, anarchy and order, and lust and love leads to profound changes in both their lives.
In John and Alma, Williams has created characters whose strong passions irrevocably alter them. John, the son of a prominent doctor, personifies Williams’ archetype of the “beautiful, young Southern man,” says Rotté, “But John is also complicated. He is more than a statue or an inhuman god. He suffers.”
And Williams strongly identified with Alma, a fragile minister’s daughter whose prim exterior masks her inner desires. "The character I like most is Miss Alma," he once said. "She really had the greatest struggle. Alma went through the same thing I went through."
Rotté points out that John and Alma are drawn to each other in their attempt to become whole selves. “The play invites us to be open to our own sense of compassion for John and Alma when we see so clearly these are two motherless children who are trying very hard to find a way to grow up into themselves,” she said.
“In the first half of the play, you see them turn to each other to try to fulfill themselves. The second half of the play allows for a wholeness to happen to each of them. They do fulfill themselves and that’s a wonderful thing, but the sad part is they don’t get to end up together.”
Summer and Smoke opened on Broadway in 1948, where it ran for 102 performances. In 1952, it was revived at the Circle in the Square Theatre in New York, a production that cast Geraldine Page as Alma, a role she brought to the screen in Paramount’s 1961 film version. Summer and Smoke may be one of his lesser-known works, but it is trademark Williams, full of lyrical language, smoldering undercurrents, and a small southern town filled with memorable characters. Williams is currently enjoying a resurgence on stages across the U.S.A revival of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof opened on Broadway and the Kennedy Center will honor him with a five-month festival this spring and summer.
The cast of Summer and Smoke features graduate theatre student Elizabeth Pool as Alma Winemiller. A recent graduate of NYU’s Tisch School for the Arts, Pool is making her Philadelphia Premiere in Summer and Smoke. Her New York credits include Margarite in Berlin/Berlin at Playwrights Horizons Studio Theatre, The Woman in Eh Joe at Studio Theatre, and Exeter in Henry V at Access Theatre, the inaugural production of the N.Y. Women's Shakespeare Company. Guest artist Stephen Fletcher, a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, appears as the charismatic John Buchanan, Jr. His Philadelphia credits include Julius Caesar (Octavius) and Macbeth (Malcolm, Fleance, & Caithness) with The Philadelphia Shakespeare Festival.
Villanova graduate theatre students featured in other principal roles include Mike Dees as Rev. Winemiller, Taylor Williams as Mrs. Winemiller, Daniella Leah Vinitski as Rosa Gonzales, Brian Manelski as Papa Gonzales, Noëlle Nettl as Mrs. Bassett, and Bob Bonocore as Roger Doremus. Villanova undergraduates in the cast include Rebecca McFadden as Rosemary, Shaun Malleck as Vernon, and Thomas Sibley as Archie Kramer.
Villanova adjunct theatre professor Seth Pendleton appears as Dr. John Buchanan, Sr. and Villanova graduate student Kate Ryan Singer is Nellie Ewell. General Wayne Elementary School fourth-grader Audrey Goldman appears as Young Alma and Great Valley Middle School sixth-grader Grey Tampa portrays Young John.
Summer and Smoke’s production team includes scenic designer Hiroshi Iwasaki, costume designer M. Lisa Ford, lighting designer Jerold R. Forsyth, sound designer Matt Callahan, properties designer cdavid hall-cottrill, and dramaturg Joe Leduc.