Villanova Theatre Stages U.S. Premiere of MUSWELL HILL, Now thru 2/24

Villanova Theatre will produce the U.S. premiere of Muswell Hill by award-winning English playwright Torben Betts, tonight, February 12-24, 2013.

This startling, funny, and ultimately poignant play - nominated for Best New Play at the Off West End Theatre Awards in 2012 - follows six characters in a posh London suburb in the wake of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti that left 100,000 people dead and two million homeless. Betts's tart, timely skewering of contemporary communication weighs the promise and limitations of technology with both wit and compassion, revealing profound truths about the struggle to be human in a dehumanizing age.

Playwright Torben Betts will speak immediately following the February 21st performance of the play. Hailed as a "Playwright of the Possible," (David Pownall, Plays Two), whose plays are "like the best work of Edward Albee," (Michael Billington, The Guardian). Betts' critically acclaimed work has been performed internationally across Europe, Australia, and the United States. Muswell Hill received the Time Out Critics Choice Award in February 2012 and was nominated as Best New Play at the Off West End Theatre Awards. When asked what inspired him to write Muswell Hill, Betts recounted:

"One winter's night a few years ago I was reading alone in a pub (my favourite pastime) when I noticed that the 30-something couple at the table opposite were engrossed in their respective smartphones. They were clearly an item, but it seemed to me they could have been in separate rooms/cities/countries...Then the couple, without looking up or discontinuing their endless thumbwork, began a fractured conversation about the Haitian earthquake that had occurred the previous day. They were expressing their horror and amazement at this tragedy and its appalling loss of life in such a way that they might easily have been discussing the weather."

Muswell Hill premiered on February 8, 2012 at the Orange Tree Theatre in London, England under the direction of Sam Walters. This past spring, Director and Villanova University professor Harriet Power spent five months researching the process of new-play production in London, which culminated in the article "Over There," published by American Theatre magazine Dec. 2012. While abroad, Power saw the Orange Tree Production of Muswell Hill and sensed it might be an exciting piece to direct at Villanova. According to Power, "I was immediately struck by the sharp, funny, familiar, and utterly natural interplay of Betts' dialogue and characters. There is something truly universal about the search for happiness and the ways in which we often subvert ourselves in our attempts to attain it. In that regard, Torben is really a modern-day Chekhov."

After encountering Betts' "profound and highly original theatrical voice" (The Daily Telegraph), Power knew she wanted to bring Muswell Hill to an American audience. Moreover, she hoped Torben might be able to come to the states - to work with Villanova students, to visit New Dramatists in New York, and to anchor Villanova's Speaker's Night on February 21st. With the generous support of Villanova's Center for Liberal Education, Graduate Arts & Sciences, the University Honors Program, and the English Department, Power's dream has become a reality.
Villanova Theatre brings Muswell Hill to life with the support of a stand-out creative team: Daniel Boylen (Scenic Design), Jerold Forsyth (Lighting Design), Marla Jurglanis (Costume Design), John Stovicek (Sound Design), Sarah Doherty (Dialect Coach), and Lizzy Pecora (Dramaturg).

Power directs a cast of experienced and energetic actors including acting scholar Ahren Potratz (Mat); graduate students Victoria Bonito (Jess), Madeline Iacobucci (Karen), and Seth Schmitt-Hall (Simon); undergraduate Sarah Moya (Annie); and guest artist Joe Guzman (Tony).

Muswell Hill takes the stage at Villanova Theatre from tonight, February 12 - 24, 2013. Villanova Theatre is located on the Villanova University campus in Vasey Hall (at Lancaster & Ithan Ave.). 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.

HARRIET POWER (Director) is a Professor of Theatre at Villanova, where she teaches graduate directing, acting/directing styles, and undergraduate directing and Creativity. Favorite productions among the 20 she has directed for Villanova Theatre include Shakespeare's As You Like It, Tony Kushner's adaptation of Corneille's The Illusion, the Feydeau farce Le Dindon, three of Chekov's four major plays (Uncle Vanya, Three Sisters, The Cherry Orchard), and both parts of Kushner's Angels in America, codirected with James J. Christy. Part Two of Angels, Perestroika, earned three Barrymore Awards including Outstanding Ensemble of a Play, Outstanding Direction, and an additional six nominations. An active professional director and three-time Barrymore nominee for Outstanding Direction, she served as Associate Artistic Director of Act II Playhouse from 2008-12, where she directed The Mystery of Irma Vep, Sylvia Starring VU theatre alumna Jessica Bedford, her seven-actor adaptation of The Tempest, Boeing-Boeing starring VU alumnae Jessica DalCanton and Kristen Chouiniere, Any Given Monday (2010 Barrymore Award, Outstanding New Play), and the first American production of The Pride of Parnell Street by Sebastian Barry, the spring '06 VU Heimbold Scholar. Other recent directing: Why I'm Scared of Dance by Jen Childs (Pittsburgh's City Theatre & Act II), Three Sisters at Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre, recently named "Best Production" by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and "Best Theatre Experience 2012" by critic John Glass. Overseas work includes directing Donald Margulies' Dinner With Friends in Rome, Italy at Teatro L'Arciliuto, coproduced by The English Theatre of Rome and the American Embassy (winner of Best of Rome citation in Trova Roma), and, with husband Robert Hedley (current head of MFA Playwriting at Temple, former VU Chair of Theatre), 5 months' research into London's new-play production, culminating in the article "Over There," published by American Theatre magazine Dec. 2012. Upcoming projects include dramaturging It's My Party, a new play by Jen Childs about women and comedy at 1812 Productions.




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