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Critically-Acclaimed Irish Play Makes Its American Debut at Villanova Theatre


Villanova Theatre presents the U.S. premiere of Stacey Gregg's imaginative and innovative play Lagan, directed by Villanova alumna Kathryn MacMillan ('01). Set in post-Troubles Belfast, Lagan transcends time and place in its exploration of history, legacy, and the impact of war. In a poetic and rhythmic collage of voices, ten lives act as tributaries feeding into a single river -- the Lagan, which flows through Northern Ireland and its capital city. Lagan will flow through Villanova Theatre February 7-19, 2017.

Stacey Gregg, a star on the rise in Irish theatre, has crafted a thrilling kaleidoscope of stories in this critically-acclaimed new work. Lagan is built on a foundation of interlocking monologues from ten characters in four families. Though these characters are connected by blood, circumstance, or country, they have been cut off from one another by intergenerational conflicts, politics, religion, and the inability to be vulnerable. Together they paint an engrossing portrait of neighbors who have witnessed the tumult of war and the sudden, disorienting calm of peace.

A son reluctantly returns home to find the landscape of Belfast transformed. A woman trapped between the living and the dead talks to her son's ghost. A young man finds love unexpectedly. Gregg masterfully and intimately weaves these lives together with her inventive form, in which characters are physically close, yet separated by their inability to communicate. In a time when technology is striving to make communication easier, faster, and constant, Gregg challenges the legitimacy of this new "language" in a play that employs poetic, fragmented speech, yet skillfully immerses the audience in her compassionate vision of a city in transition. Here, specters of all kinds abound, and each soul bears the weight of their nation's violent past, producing a vivid, touching mosaic of humanity. But can a city ever really escape its past?

According to the production's dramaturg, Rachel O'Hanlon Rodriguez, "Lagan is a beautiful testament to both the pain we carry and our hopes for the future, as well as a call to action for us to begin embracing each other as fellow human beings who share the same capacity for light and darkness. In our current world, which is constantly shifting and filled with violence and acts of terror, Lagan is a reminder that such traumas live long after the fighting has stopped."

Lagan provides intimate and absorbing insight into the people and city with a past like no other. The Troubles, described as a guerrilla war, was a 30-year conflict that divided Northern Ireland from 1968-1998. On one side stood the Catholic Republicans who believed in a united Ireland, on the other the Protestant Loyalists who identified as British and believed Northern Ireland should remain a part of the United Kingdom. These spiritual political beliefs exploded in the form of violence throughout 1968-1998 with the formation of military groups such as the IRA (Irish Republican Army) and the UDA (Ulster Defense Association), each of which sought to defend their own freedoms. This violent civil war cost the lives of more than 3,500 people. As neighbors attacked neighbors, walls divided neighborhoods, creating literal and spiritual barriers that continue to haunt the city of Belfast. In recent years, Lagan's relevance has increased due to the Scottish Independence Referendum (2014) and Brexit (2016.)

Director Kathryn MacMillan says, "The play shows two sides to Belfast -- the fast-paced international city and the memory of a hardscrabble, sometimes violent center of the sectarian Troubles -- and some of its characters are left behind in the 'new Belfast.' It's a timely play for an American audience, as our political season has revealed a class of Americans who feel abandoned by globalism, culture, and technology."

This production comes on the heels of last year's 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 spring, Villanova welcomes guest artists from the Abbey for a variety of events (full details below).

A skilled team of award-winning designers supports MacMillan in transforming Villanova Theatre into the vibrant, imaginative world of the LAGAN. Meghan Jones's multifaceted set design presents a collage of locales to evoke an evolving Belfast in transition; Janus Stefanowicz's costumes subtly conjure various generations within a contemporary Belfast; Lighting Designer Jerold Forsyth and Sound Designer John Stovicek will create ambience that suggests both past and present. Andrea Ainsworth, one of the leading voice and text specialists in Ireland, will serve as the Dialect Coach for the production, as well as conduct a Shakespeare workshop during her two-week residency. She has been the Voice Director of the Abbey Theatre since 1995, working closely with both Irish and international directors on all productions in the Abbey and Peacock theatres including premieres of plays by Seamus Heaney, Tom Murphy, Frank McGuinness, Marina Carr, Conor McPherson, Tom Kilroy, and Mark O'Rowe. Barrymore nominated actress, and Villanova alumni, K.O. DelMarcelle rounds out the team as Movement coach to allow actors to experiment with the radical fluidity of time and space within LAGAN.

The cast includes acting scholars Chris Monaco (Ian), Megan Slater (Anne), and Dan Cullen (Terry), second-year Graduate Assistants Patrick McAndrew (Emmet) and Kasey Phillips (Joan), part-time graduate student Kelly McAnally (Fiona,) first-year Graduate Assistant Sisi Wright (Tracey,) first-year graduate student Nikitas Menotiades (Taximan), and Villanova undergraduate students Luke Hensley (Phil) and Allyce Morrissey (Aoife).

Lagan runs at Villanova Theatre from February 7-19th, 2017. Following the performance on Thursday, February 16th Villanova Theatre will host Speaker's Night featuring the insights of Owen McCafferty (see full biographical information below), as well as those of the production's director and dramaturg.

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 are $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

Kathryn (KC) MacMillan is the resident director of Lantern Theater Company, where she has been a company member for fifteen seasons. Directing credits at the Lantern include Mrs. Warren's Profession, Arcadia, The Beauty Queen of Leenane (named Best Production of the 2012/13 season by Philadelphia Weekly), The Breath of Life (Barrymore nomination: Outstanding Overall Production of a Play), and The Hothouse (Barrymore nominations for Direction & Outstanding Production). Regional theatre credits include InterAct, Inis Nua, and Flashpoint, as well as several shows for Theatre Horizon, including I Am My Own Wife (Barrymore winner, The Virginia Brown Martin Philadelphia Award & nods for Direction & Outstanding Production). She was an actor in the Barrymore-nominated ensemble of Philadelphia Artists' Collective's The Fair Maid of the West. KC is excited to return to Villanova again since directing The School for Lies three years ago; she earned her M.A. in Theatre here at Villanova in 2001.

Born in Belfast, Stacey Gregg studiEd English at Cambridge and has worked with Paines Plough, Tinderbox, the National Theatre, and the Bush Theatre in London. Perve, her first full-length play, premiered at the Peacock in 2011 and was subsequently awarded the BBC Radio Drama Award at the Stewart Parker Trust Awards in 2012. Her other plays include Here Before, Shibboleth, Cows Go Boom, and Scorch, which she is adapting for television with Kudos. In 2015, she wrote an episode of The Frankenstein Chronicles for Rainmark Films/ITV Encore. She is currently writing three episodes of Neil Jordan's Riviera.

Owen McCafferty is the 2017 Charles A. Heimbold Jr. Chair of Irish Studies in its College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The visiting writer-in-residence program offers Irish Studies students the enriching experience of a close classroom experience with one of Ireland's finest playwrights. Prolific in his work, McCafferty has written nearly 20 full stage productions-earning him numerous awards and positive reviews from publications including the New York Times, The Guardian and The Irish Times. McCafferty was born in Belfast, Ireland. In 1985, he joined the Belfast Writers' Group, and his first production, Winners, Losers and Non-Runners, was performed at the Old Museum Arts Centre in Belfast in 1992. McCafferty followed up with two more plays in 1993 and 1994 and found continued success in the next millennium. His 2003 play, Scenes from the Big Picture, won the John Whiting Award, the Evening Standard's Charles Wintour Award for New Playwriting and the Meyer-Whitworth Award-marking the first time any playwright had won all of these awards in one year. Quietly (2012) won Best New Play at the Irish Times Theatre Awards and the Fringe First Award at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2013. In 2016, Quietly enjoyed a three-month run Off-Broadway, at the Irish Repertory Theatre in New York. Currently, McCafferty is writing the book and lyrics for Mojo Mickybo: The Musical as well as an adaptation of Julius Caesar for the children's Ark Theatre in Dublin. He has also been commissioned for a play called Beneath for The Abbey Theatre in Dublin. The Abbey produced McCafferty's Quietly and co-produced Death of a Comedian (2015) and has a longstanding relationship with Villanova University through the Abbey Theatre Exchange Program.

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 Charles Widger 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 Irish Heritage Events in collaboration with the Center for Irish Studies, the Department of English, and members of the Theatre department. A list of associated events is below.
Speaker's Night with Owen McCafferty - February 16th, following 8pm Lagan performance, Villanova Theatre
Quietly by Owen McCafferty (A Play Reading) - March 14th, 7pm, Connelly Center Cinem

ABOUT THE PLAY: "Do you want to know why I'm here?" Northern Ireland are playing Poland on the pub TV as Jimmy and Ian, two middle-aged Belfast men with a shared past meet tonight for the first time. A powerful story about violence and forgiveness, "Quietly" debuted at the Abbey Theatre as part of the Great Irish Writers Season in November 2012

Owen McCafferty Play Production (TBA) - April 26th-30th
Villanova Theatre has added a 5th show to close out its 2016-2017 mainstage season - an exciting play by Heimbold Chair Owen McCafferty, to be announced in February.

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