Death is dressed to kill in Villanova Theatre’s Everyman

Villanova re-imagines medieval morality play into high-fashion, gender-bending spectacle of sight and sound

VILLANOVA, PA – Modern meets medieval in Villanova Theatre’s production of Everyman, directed by Rev. David Cregan, OSA and on stage November 12 - 24, 2013.  Cregan has chosen to emphasize the universality of the tale, bringing the production solidly into the here and now with contemporary language and modern design.  

Mark J. Costello, an alumnus of the Villanova Master’s in Theatre Program, was commissioned to translate the fifteenth century morality play from Middle English into a more current vernacular in order to make the text as accessible as possible for today’s audiences. According to Costello, “It's an incredible honor that my alma mater supports my work so tangibly and deeply, and it is a privilege to work with them on this unique and challenging creative endeavor.”  

Believed to have been written in the mid- to late 15th century (the exact date and author are unknown), Everyman serves as a moral guide for the masses.  In the Middle Ages, sometimes referred to as the “Age of Faith,” the Roman Catholic Church was at the center of life in Western Europe, and the vast majority of people believed in a sovereign God as well as an afterlife where the soul lives on after the death of the body.  

Morality plays were originally used as an educational tool to reach the illiterate masses via public performance.  The goal of the morality play was to show the audience that, even though their lives may be full of sin, there is always time to repent and save one’s soul. Everyman, one of only five plays to survive the Middle Ages, takes the audience on a journey through the final hours of the eponymous Everyman, who represents all of mankind, and must answer to God for all the good and evil deeds he committed in his life. This allegorical tale weaves together poetry, music, and movement, bringing humanity’s greatest moral questions vividly to live in our own time.   

In what might be considered an unconventional casting choice, Cregan has cast Everyman as a woman.  The role will be played by first-year scholar Hallie Martenson. According to Cregan, "The beauty of this play is that its message and values travels through history from the 15th century up to today with ease.  Along the way it accumulates the particularities of every age and our production explores this reality, including pop music, punk fashion and even a little gender-bending!"

In addition to the gender-bending, Cregan’s production will blend the old with the new, as Top 40 hits and medieval spiritual hymns combine to create the soundscape for this otherworldly adventure. Christine Nass, a seasoned opera singer as well as the Assistant Director of Music Activities for Villanova University, will serve as the Music Director for Villanova Theatre’s production of Everyman, which will feature everything from Mozart to Lady Gaga.

Villanova brings this new translation to life with the help of a talented team of designers, including two outstanding graduate students: Courtney Boches (Costume Design) and Seth Thomas Schmitt-Hall (Scenic Design).  Boches’ symbolic costumes will fuse elements of punk rock and haute couture, in a design scheme that emphasizes the fleeting nature of fashion, trend, and ultimately, human life.  Schmitt-Hall’s elemental set design may resemble a cruciform to some, a runway to others, and boasts an eleven-foot tall skate ramp that will be used by actors throughout the performance. These student designs are supported by the work of Jerold Forsyth (Lighting Design), John Stovicek (Sound Design), and Brie Knight (Dramaturg).

Cregan directs a cast of dynamic and multi-faceted performers including Villanova scholars Hallie Martensen (Everyman), Mitchell Bloom (Death), Christine Petrini (Good-Deeds) and Peter Andrew Danzig (Cousin); graduate students Matt Basden (Five Wits), John Baxter (Confession), Victoria Rose Bonito (Goods), Lauren Fanslau (Kindred), John Hala (Five Wits), Jill Jacobs (Knowledge), Christen Mandracchia (Five Wits), Mikal Odom (Five Wits), Julia Salvo (Five Wits), Seth Thomas Schmitt-Hall (Fellowship), Emily Poworoznek (Beauty), and Meghan Winch (Angel), and undergraduate students Austin Haitos (Strength) and Brendan Farrell (Discretion).

Villanova’s re-imagined Everyman takes the audience on a spectacular, yet emotional journey through the contradictions, wants and failures of one person, creating a piece that is a joyous celebration of humanity, and a triumph of physical theatre.  Everyman translator Mark J. Costello will join the director, cast, and crew for Speaker’s Night immediately following the November 21st performance, in addition to special guest speaker Dr. Michael Tomko (see bio information below).

Everyman takes the stage at Villanova Theatre from November 12 - 24, 2013.  Villanova Theatre is located on the Villanova University campus in Vasey Hall (at Lancaster & Ithan Aves.). 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, M.A. in Theatre alumni, 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 Theatre: Villanova Theatre is a community of artist-scholars committed to transforming hearts and minds through the visionary production of classical, modern, and contemporary dramatic literature. Our work is fueled by the imaginative striving common to Villanova’ s accomplished faculty, versatile staff, and energetic graduate students. Together, we are devoted to creating a vibrant theatre enriched by and overflowing with the ideas explored in our classrooms. In all of our endeavors, we aim to share the dynamic experience of collaborative learning with our audiences in order to engage the intellect and stir the soul.  As a facet of Villanova University, Villanova Theatre serves the campus community as well as thousands of theatre-goers from the Main Line and the Greater Philadelphia area.  

The Villanova University Theatre Department came into being in 1958 under the leadership of Dr. Dick Duprey.  Today, Villanova’s Department of Theatre offers both a Master of Arts degree and a Graduate Certificate in Practical Theatre.  Students enrolled in the theatre program undergo a course of study that combines both scholarly and practical approaches to theatre.  Guided by award-winning faculty and staff who are actively involved in the region’s professional theatre industry, students gain knowledge and experience through hands-on production work and in-depth academic study in the areas of dramaturgy, script analysis, dramatic literature, playwriting, acting, and directing.

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.