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Constraint Fuels Creativity: Villanova Theatre commissions new plays and moves to online streaming for Fall 2020

Villanova will present Euripides’ BAKKHAI along with five new plays inspired by the myth and written by alumni in a digital ‘Festival of Dionysus’

Logo image for the series of performances. It depicts an overlay of two women in dance poses over a black background. The text says "Euripides' Bakkhai: a new version by Anne Carson & Bakkhai Variations"

VILLANOVA, PA – In preparation for returning to campus this fall, the leadership at Villanova Theatre worked tirelessly all summer to devise a course of action that would keep the graduate theatre program’s mission alive and well while preserving the health and safety of artists and audiences. So when the university announced a new policy prohibiting public events on campus until further notice, they were ready to respond with flexibility and innovation.

“As I often tell my students, ‘Constraint fuels creativity,’” said Artistic Director Michael Hollinger. “And the extraordinary constraints placed upon public performance by the Coronavirus have led us to some surprising and exciting solutions that, quite honestly, feel more like opportunities than fallback positions. Because the ground keeps shifting, we’ll roll these out one at a time throughout the academic year, as we become confident of our ability to produce work that is adventurous, engaging, emotionally vibrant, intellectually complex – and safe to participate in, for makers and audience members alike.”

Villanova Theatre is proud, therefore, to present their first public project since the global pandemic forced everyone off campus six months ago: a sweeping creative undertaking aptly titled Bakkhai Variations which, true to its source material, has taken on the character of a virtual ‘Festival of Dionysus.’ When it became clear that live performances of Euripides’ Bakkhai (originally slated for the fall opening of the new John and Joan Mullen Center for the Performing Arts) were increasingly untenable during a time of contagion, Villanova Theatre commissioned five MA in Theatre alumni to write short plays in response to the classic tragedy The playwrights were charged with creating new pieces that would reflect, refract and interrogate Euripides’ original play, in a recent adaptation by Anne Carson, and be able to be realized and transmitted remotely, in order to maintain safe distancing.

Made possible by a special fund that since 2013 has sponsored the Sue Winge Playwriting Award, a program designed to support the development of new plays at Villanova, the commissioned works by Jessica Bedford (’10), Mark Costello (’10), Alexandra Espinoza (’18), Alix Rosenfeld (’16) and Megan Schumacher (’18) – “knocked our socks off” according to Hollinger.

Villanova Theatre will stream the five new plays individually and together as a full-length film throughout the month of October. These world premiere offerings will be flanked by a Zoom reading of Anne Carson’s Bakkhai, placing them in the context of the original work that inspired them. To learn more about each play as well as the key release dates and personnel, please visit the fact sheet.

James Ijames, Villanova professor and one of Philadelphia’s brightest theatrical lights, will direct two of the pieces, with the other three led by a talented trio of visiting directors from within the region – Malika Oyetimein, Cat Ramirez and Tai Verley. Villanova professor, award-winning filmmaker, and MA in Theatre alum Hezekiah Lewis (’02) will serve the project as Director of Photography and Editor, and the creative teams will feature a mix of established and emerging professionals, as the department fosters collaborations between its students and theatrical veterans.

Registration is required with suggested donations ranging from $5-$25 at Registrants will receive a link to a password-protected website where each video will be published after its respective release date and for the duration of its run. Box Office questions may be directed to

Villanova Theatre is located on the Villanova University campus in the John and Joan Mullen Center for the Performing Arts (at Lancaster & Ithan Aves.). Bakkhai Varations performances will occur exclusively ONLINE. Tickets may be purchased online at or by phone at 610-519-7474. Please contact the Villanova Theatre Box Office via email at if you have any questions. Please be advised that due to reduced hourly staffing and social distancing guidelines, we are utilizing Google Voice to field Box Office calls. If you do not receive a call back in a timely fashion, please feel free to call or text us directly on Google Voice at 484-297-9693.

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.