Villanova Theatre Re-Imagines Tina Howe’s Museum

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Original artwork and a cast of 41 faculty, staff, students, and alumni from the Villanova University community take center stage at the Villanova Theatre

VILLANOVA, PA – When Joanna Rotté decided to direct Tina Howe’s Museum, her vision was clear:  “It’s about the art.” In that spirit, Villanova has commissioned three local artists to design and create original artwork to be featured the production, on stage February 7 – 19, 2012.  

Museum brings together art aficionados, culture snobs, unruly undergrads, and one beleaguered security guard on the final day of a group show at a major art museum. The real show, however, is the parade of nearly fifty colorful characters (played by Villanova students, faculty, staff and alumni) who wreak havoc as they pass through the exhibit. This inspired, effervescent comedy by one of America’s most inventive playwrights looks at people looking at art – to mirthful and moving effect.

The exhibit, dubbed “The Broken Silence” by Howe, will take center stage in Villanova’s production.  Curated by director Joanna Rotté, Villanova’s exhibit will feature installations by three local artists: five soft sculptures by Ward Van Haute, three abstract paintings by Lawrence Anastasi, and seven found-object sculptures by Heather McLaughlin.

According to Rotté, “I want the audience to experience art in a way that is vital.”  Following each performance, audience members will be invited to explore the exhibit and to encounter the artwork first hand.  The lobby will also be transformed into a gallery, displaying personal artwork for sale by each artist. 

Van Haute, Anastasi, and McLaughlin play double-duty for Villanova’s production, as each of the artists plays a role on stage in addition to their contributions behind the scenes.  “This project has been unlike any other experience I have had as an artist.  I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to showcase my work while collaborating with these fine artists and contributing to a project of this scope,” said Van Haute.

Accenting the original artwork are production designs by the award-winning resident creative team: Parris Bradley (Scenic Design), Janus Stefanowicz (Costume Design), and Jerold Forsyth (Lighting Design).

According to Howe’s author’s note, it is her hope “that any group wanting to present Museum use the large cast size as a challenge and not as a restriction.”  Rotté has heartily embraced this challenge, casting 41 actors that range in age from 18-76.  According to Emily Walsh, a current graduate student who plays Tink, “The rehearsal room is full of familiar faces, old war stories, and new connections. It’s really quite amazing.”

The casting process for Museum began in April 2011 and took nearly nine months to complete. Rotté, who has been with the Villanova Theatre Department for twenty-seven years, has been the driving force behind this unique project.  Since April, Rotté has invited artists, actors, and members of the greater Philadelphia community to become a part of this production.  Beyond the forty-one characters on stage, the rehearsal room is full of stage managers, assistants, and consultants.  In this regard, Museum has become much more than “just another show” – it has brought an entire community together in the name of art.

Museum takes the stage at Villanova Theatre from February 7-19, 2012 with press opening on Wednesday, February 8th.  Villanova Theatre is located on the Villanova University campus in Vasey Hall (at Lancaster & Ithan Avenues.). Performances will be held Tuesdays – Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets run $21-$25, with discounts available for seniors, students and groups. Tickets may be purchased at the Villanova Theatre Box Office (M-S, 12 -5 p.m.) in person, by phone: (610) 519-7474, or online at www.villanovatheatre.org.

About Villanova University: Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's five colleges – the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Nursing and the Villanova University School of Law. As students grow intellectually, Villanova prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them.