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Villanova Theatre Maps the Language of Love and Loss in Irish Masterpiece

TRANSLATIONS transports audiences to Ireland to commemorate the 1916 Easter Rising

Villanova Theatre Maps the Language of Love and Loss in Irish Masterpiece

VILLANOVA, PA – Villanova Theatre proudly presents Irish treasure Brian Friel’s most celebrated play, Translations, directed by Valerie Joyce and on stage April 12– 24, 2016.

Translations follows English soldier and cartographer George Yolland to the fictional Irish town of Baile Baeg, where he finds himself falling in love with the local language and a local lass. But can their love flourish as Empire and colony collide? This lyrical play navigates the peaks and valleys of love, communication, and the quest for freedom--taking audiences on a journey across cultural and political boundaries. Hailed as a "modern masterpiece," Friel's captivating play begs the question: is the language of the heart universal? 

Friel’s hauntingly beautiful story brings both laughter and tears in its bittersweet portrait of an Irish community on the edge of collapse.  Nineteenth century Britain aims for progress and supremacy as they build a mighty empire—at the cost of another nation’s identity. And as the British soldiers map new boundaries in Irish land, the Irish people struggle to maintain the integrity of their heritage and homeland. Even in tumultuous times, a budding romance between British lieutenant and an Irish peasant girl transcends the limitations of politics and language.

Following the playwright’s passing this past October, Villanova honors the life and legacy of Brian Friel -- often referred to as “the Irish Chekhov” -- with this new production. Translations will transport audiences to a small town in 1833, a time when the Gaelic language is still alive in the hearts, minds, and voices of the Irish. Audiences will get a glimpse into life in a country on the precipice of change as the English descend upon the village to anglicize the language and develop new standardized maps.

Villanova professor and director Valerie Joyce, is known by audiences for her spectacular direction of Villanova Theatre’s musicals over the last decade. This year, Joyce is thrilled to share one of her favorite dramas with Villanova’s audiences, while honoring the 100-year anniversary of Ireland’s 1916 Easter Rising and the quest for independence. According to Joyce, “This play is universal because it explores a concept that is near and dear us all – the concept of home. Friel beautifully captures the challenges of finding a home in this world, a person to share it with, and a name to call it by.”

This production comes on the heels of the recent announcement that Villanova University has received a $1 million commitment from the Connelly Foundation to support a new Center for Irish Studies.  This gift will support Villanova’s ongoing partnership with The Abbey Theatre, Ireland's National Theatre. The Villanova-Abbey exchange brings Ireland's preeminent theatre practitioners to the University's campus to offer graduate and undergraduate courses, as well as workshops, conferences, lectures and other events. The joint venture enables a scholarly exchange giving Villanova students the opportunity to travel to Dublin to intern and study at The Abbey Theatre. This year, Villanova has launched a series of events around campus to commemorate the 1916 Easter Rising (full details below.)

A skilled team of award-winning designers supports Joyce in transforming Villanova Theatre into the rolling green hills of an Irish village. Scenic and Lighting designer Jerold Forsyth’s setting brings the small community to life with an earthy design.  The set crew loaded nearly six tons (or 12,000 pounds) of soil into the theatre, along with a number of large stones provided by the Villanova University landscaping team. Janus Stefanowicz’s authentic costumes depict the rural life of the 19th century Irish and British, while sound designer John Stovicek captures the lyrical melody of Ireland with an inspired soundscape.

Joyce directs a spirited ensemble of actors: second-year acting scholars Kyle Fennie (Doalty) and Stephen Tornetta (Manus) along with second-year graduates Rebecca Jane Cureton (Sarah), Amanda Coffin (Maire), Barry Brait (Jimmy Jack); and first-year acting scholars Dan Cullen (Lancey), Chris Monaco (Owen); first-year graduates Elizabeth Meisenzahl (Bridgit), Kevin Esmond (Hugh), and Sean Connolly (Yolland).

Speaker’s Night immediately following the April 21 performance will feature Villanova Theatre Department Chair and Irish Studies scholar, Rev. David Cregan, OSA, PhD (see full biographical information below).

Translations runs at Villanova Theatre from April 12th- 24th, 2016.  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


Valerie Joyce (Director) has been performing, directing, or designing on stage at Villanova Theatre for more than 20 years. Joyce directed last season’s The Threepenny Opera at Villanova, as well as earlier productions of The Light in the Piazza, Carousel, Batboy: The Musical, Annie Get Your Gun, Cabaret,and Tally’s Folly. ,Productions elsewhere include The Meat Opera and Up Your Ante for the New York and Philadelphia International Fringe Festivals, and Thank You for Sharing with Amaryllis Theatre Company. Valerie has also worked as a professional costume designer for local and regional productions, including Six Story Building (Off Broadway), The Real Thing (Arden Theatre Company), Moon for the Misbegotten (Venture Theatre), True West and Waiting for Godot (Lantern Theatre Company), Billy and Zelda (Opera Delaware), and The Comedy of Errors (Princeton Repertory), as well as many university productions.  She has also written a one-woman show dramatizing the lost stories of pre-emancipation African-American women entitled I Will Speak for Myself. 


Brian Friel, largely considered modern Ireland's leading playwright, was born to a schoolmaster and a postmistress in 1929. After working as a teacher in Derry for ten years, he married Anne Morrison and moved to Donegal to begin writing in earnest. His first significant theatrical success was Philadelphia, Here I Come, which debuted to rave reviews at the Dublin Theatre Festival in 1964. He went on to pen The Loves of Cass McGuire, The Mundy Scheme, The Freedom of the City, Living Quarters, Faith Healer, an adaptation of Turgenev’s novel Fathers and Sons, Dancing at Lughnasa (winner of three Tony Awards, a New York Drama Critics Circle award for Best Play and an Olivier Award for Best Play), and Wonderful Tennessee. In 1980 Mr. Friel joined Stephen Rea in founding the Field Day Theatre Company, where they first staged the Ewart-Biggs Peace Prize-winning Translations, an adaptation of Chekhov's Three Sisters. The Company’s productions explored the middle ground between the secular culture of Northern Ireland and the more traditional rural world. Famously reclusive, he has stated, “I am married, have five children, live in the country, smoke too much, fish a bit, read a lot, worry a lot, get involved in sporadic causes and invariably regret the involvement, and hope that between now and my death I will have acquired a religion, a philosophy, a sense of life that will make the end less frightening than it appears to me at this moment.”


David Cregan, O.S.A, Ph.D, is Chair of the Theatre Department and an Associate Professor at Villanova where he also teaches in the English Department.  Fr. David received his Ph.D. in Drama Studies at the Samuel Beckett School of Drama at Trinity College Dublin.  Before joining the Augustinians he spent four years in New York City working as a professional actor, where he performed in three tours (one in Europe), an off-Broadway production with the Light Opera of Manhattan, and various regional work around the country.  Since returning to Villanova in 2004, he has appeared twice on stage:  in Cabaret (2009) and Parade (2004).  In 2009, Fr. David appeared in London in A Tale of Two Cities, which subsequently aired on PBS.  During his time on campus, Fr. David has directed Fallen Angels, Everyman, Salomé, Woman and Scarecrow, Three Days of Rain, Uncommon Women and Others, Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me, Dead Man Walking, Godspell, and Murder in the Cathedral. Father David serves as the Artistic Director of Villanova Theatre and teaches Gender, Politics and Performance, Voice and Movement, Collaborative Theatre Making, Modern Irish Drama, and Theatre for Social Change.


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. 


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 six colleges – the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Nursing, the College of Professional Studies 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.


Villanova has announced a series of projects devised to commemorate the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin. The project is in collaboration with the Villanova Library, Irish Studies, and members of the Theatre department. By investigating the Rising itself—the people and ideas that shaped it—as well as the way its history has been written, challenged, and rewritten in the past century, we both remember the event and learn from it.

For more information on TRANSLATIONS and Villanova Theatre, please click here.