Villanova Theatre presents Sarah Ruhl’s EURYDICE

by Patricia Bradford

VILLANOVA, PA – Villanova Theatre proudly presents Sarah Ruhl’s poetic reimagining of the classic Greek myth, Eurydice, directed by James Ijames and on stage September 22–October 4, 2015. On the heels of Sarah Ruhl’s successful keynote address at the Philadelphia Theatre Research Symposium this past spring, Villanova Theatre is thrilled to stage this iconic work by one of America’s leading female playwrights.

Life and death exist side-by-side as we follow Eurydice across the river Styx and into the underworld where she reunites with her departed father and struggles to relearn the language of the living. Eurydice’s husband Orpheus risks his own life when he resolves to sing Eurydice back to life by following her into the depths of Hades. Eurydice must then decide whether to follow Orpheus out of death or to remain with her beloved father in her strange new home. In Eurydice, nothing is what it seems – although everything seems familiar in this bittersweet story that features a rain-filled elevator, talking stones, and a portrait of hell where the devil rides a child’s tricycle.

Ruhl’s re-telling of this classic tale emphasizes a strong female voice by reassigning the original narrative of the classic Orphic myth from the male voice to the female heroine. Set in a time reminiscent of the mid-twentieth century, when women were encouraged to look pretty and leave the thinking to the man, this piece playfully examines female agency in a male-dominant culture. Written in dedication to Ruhl’s deceased father, the story also explores the connection between a father and daughter; unbroken even by death.

Setting the tone for this whimsical play is Villanova professor James Ijames, who made his Villanova Theatre directorial debut with last season’s Michael and Edie. An award-winning actor, playwright, director, and recent 2015 Pew Fellow, Ijames seeks to highlight the themes of “reclaiming identity and renewing relationships—but to do so through the lens of an Alice in Wonderland-esque looking glass. We really travel down the rabbit hole together on this one, and the story contains elements that will speak to each and every one of us differently.”

A seasoned team of inventive designers joins Ijames in creating the visual and aural world of this “rhapsodically beautiful” play (The New York Times). Three-time Barrymore Award winner Janus Stefanowicz’s costumes evoke the fashion of time gone by with stylish elegance and retro simplicity. Parris Bradley designs an industrial-inspired, transformative set that connects the realm of the living with the world of the dead. Lighting designer Jerold Forsyth and sound designer Alex Bechtel complete this exciting team of artists to create a visual fantasy world supported by a soundscape reminiscent of the past.

Ijames directs a gifted ensemble who will bring this beautiful fable to life: second-year graduate student Rebecca Jane Cureton (Eurydice), acting scholar Stephen Tornetta (Orpheus), first-years Kevin Esmond (Father), Chris Monaco (Nasty Interesting Man), and a chorus of Stones played by second-year Megan Rose and first-years Elizabeth Meisenzahl and Rachel O’Hanlon-Rodriguez.

Eurydice runs at Villanova Theatre from September 22nd- October 4th, 2015. Speaker’s Night immediately following the October 1 performance will feature commentary from Villanova University Classics Professor Dr. Valentina DeNardis (see full biographical information below). 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

James Ijames, M.F.A, is an Assistant Professor of Theatre and a Philadelphia-based actor, director and playwright. He has appeared regionally at Arden Theatre Company, Philadelphia Theatre Company, the Wilma Theater, Baltimore Center Stage, and InterAct Theatre Company. Ijames’s plays include The Most Spectacularly Lamentable Trial of Miz Martha Washington, Moon Man Walk, The Threshing Floor,and Osiris:Redux. His Barrymore Awards include the 2011 F. Otto Haas Award for an Emerging Theatre Artist, Awards for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Play for Superior Donuts and Angels in America, and, most recently, the 2014 Barrymore for Outstanding Direction of a Play for his work on The Brothers Size. In 2011, Ijames received an Independence Foundation Fellowship in Performing Arts to train and create a new solo piece with Emmanuelle Delpeche and Shavon Norris called FRoNTiN. This summer, Ijames was granted a 2015 Pew Fellowship. James is a member of the InterAct Core Writers Group and a mentor for The Foundry. He received a B.A. in Drama from Morehouse College in Atlanta,and an M.F.A. in Acting from Temple University. In his second year on the faculty of Villanova’s Theatre Department, Ijames teaches Acting and Collaborative Theatre Making.

Sarah Ruhl’s Plays include In the Next Room, or the vibrator play (Pulitzer Prize finalist, Tony Award nominee for best new play), The Clean House (Pulitzer Prize Finalist, 2005; The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, 2004); Passion Play, a cycle (Pen American award, The Fourth Freedom Forum Playwriting Award from The Kennedy Center); Dead Man’s Cell Phone (Helen Hayes award); Melancholy Play; Eurydice;Orlando, Demeter in the City (NAACP nomination), Late: a cowboy song, Three Sisters, and most recently,Stage Kiss and Dear Elizabeth. Her plays have been produced on Broadway at the Lyceum by Lincoln Center Theater, off-Broadway at Playwrights’ Horizons, Second Stage, and at Lincoln Center’s Mitzi Newhouse Theater, and downtown at Clubbed Thumb and Classic Stage Company. Her plays have been produced regionally all over the country, with premieres at Yale Repertory Theater, the Goodman Theater, Berkeley Repertory Theater, Arena Stage, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Madison Repertory Theater, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Cornerstone Theater, and the Piven Theatre Workshop in Chicago. Her plays have also been produced internationally in London, Germany, Australia, Canada and Israel, and have been translated into Polish, Russian, Spanish, Norwegian, Korean, German and Arabic. Originally from Chicago, Ms. Ruhl received her M.F.A. from Brown University where she studied with Paula Vogel. In 2003, she was the recipient of the Helen Merrill Emerging Playwrights Award and the Whiting Writers’ Award. She was a member of 13P and of New Dramatists and won the MacArthur Fellowship in 2006. She was recently the recipient of the PEN Center Award for a mid-career playwright, the Feminist Press’ Forty under Forty award, and the 2010 Lilly Award. She is currently on the faculty at Yale School of Drama and lives in Brooklyn with her family.

Dr. Valentina DeNardis is Director of Classical Studies at Villanova University. She received her Ph.D. in Classics at New York University. Her scholarly interests include Latin poetry, Greek and Roman material culture, gender in the ancient world, and the classical tradition. She spent much of her youth on the stage and enjoys exploring the intersection between the ancient and modern worlds in art and life.

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. 

Theater/Organization Villanova Theatre
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Theater/Organization Address: 800 East Lancaster Avenu Vasey Hall Villanova, Pennsylvania 19085 (Map It)
Theater/Organization Phone: (610) 519-7474

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