News & Updates

Allegheny’s Playshop Theatre to Stage “Go Play Outside!” in an Outdoor Venue

While the bright lights of Broadway and theater districts throughout the nation remain mostly dark, Allegheny College’s Playshop Theatre will stage an outdoor performance festival “Go Play Outside!” on three weekends in late September and October.

The festival is open only to members of the Allegheny community. It will be staged in the Vukovich Center Courtyard on Saturdays and Sundays at 1 and 4 p.m. The festival is scheduled for Sept. 26–27, Oct. 2–3 and Oct. 10–11.

Allegheny Professor Beth Watkins, right, directs the rehearsal of a scene from “Chiaroscuro.” Photo by Jacob McGee ’24

The performances will include “Sure Thing” by David Ives, “Poof!” by Lynn Nottage, “Sea Wall” by Simon Stephens, “Chiaroscuro” by Lisa Dillman, “Habitat” by Ben Slote, “Virtual Distances” and “Will You,” both choreographed by Betsy Getschman Sumerfield, and “Where Is the Hope?,” which is a series of short plays on climate change.

In the middle of the COVID-19 outbreak, rehearsing in a socially distant and safe environment has presented challenges for directors and the student actors alike.

Beth Watkins, Allegheny professor of communication, film and theatre, is directing three of the plays. “Chiaroscuro” is about a mother and daughter and how language can pull people together or push them apart. The actresses are experimenting with movement and verbal wordplay throughout the play. “Habitat” will be the premiere of a new work by Allegheny English Professor Ben Slote. It follows three birdwatchers in a western Pennsylvania field, on the lookout for a very secretive sparrow. “Sea Wall,” is a solo piece that is being performed by Rielly Steuernagel as part of his senior project in theatre performance. The play introduces its audience to the contentment of fatherhood, summer holidays and the abrupt drop to the bottom of the sea.

“Our goal in the Playshop is to produce live performances this fall in a way that is safe for the participants and the audience,” Watkins said. “We wanted actors and technicians to have a production experience and for audiences to be able to attend a play. So we’ve chosen several short plays, directed by faculty and students, as well as two dance pieces and a musical ensemble to present in an outdoor venue, the courtyard on the first level of the Vukovich Center.”

Seating will be limited to approximately 25 physically distant seats, and there will be four performances of each program over the three weekends.

“Our biggest challenge in rehearsal is less about maintaining physical distance — we’ve deliberately chosen small casts so, with a director, stage management team of two, and two to three actors per play, there are usually not more than six people at a rehearsal — but everyone is wearing face coverings, including the actors, and that has taken some work to get used to not seeing facial expressions or having mouths visible,” said Watkins. “We’ve been working on articulation and projection, since we are performing in an outdoor space, which is harder to control for ambient sound and weather conditions such as wind. Also, we’ve arranged the performance space into a thrust configuration with the audience on three sides, so that requires the actors to broaden their focus and movement so that audiences can see and hear them. It’s been a great learning experience for actors and directors alike, and our terrific stage management teams have been very helpful.”

The production staff meets regularly to review the safety protocols and ensure best practices during this unique process, Watkins said.

A dance is rehearsed for “Go Play Outside!” Photo by Derek Li

“Since we are performing outdoors on weekend afternoons, we have decided to rely on natural light. There will be costumes, limited props and small set pieces, and some recorded sound, but our emphasis will be on the live performance experience, with relatively little ‘design’ support,” said Watkins. “It is an opportunity to think about the earliest origins of theatre, in outdoor amphitheatres or on pageant wagons, and the essence of live performance, such as Lope de Vega’s ‘two boards and a passion.’”

Michael Mehler, Allegheny professor of communication, film and theatre, is directing several short pieces, about five minutes each, that focus on climate change. “I chose the specific pieces because they show people navigating human relationships at a time of crisis. It seemed like they’d reach audiences in this particular moment,” he said. “I have two sets of actors — each doing a group of plays. We’re trying to keep to pods to minimize possible exposure. During rehearsals, the biggest challenge has been to show intimacy without touching.”

That means the students need to act more with their bodies, since faces are less exposed and it’s hard to hear masked people from a distance. “We’re working on telling stories with movement and gesture alongside the spoken words,” said Mehler.

Also, he said, “we are incorporating one of our remote students — a first-year from Hawaii, Kaleialoha Froning — who will record a monologue that we’ll play back audio only during some of the performances. She and I are rehearsing the piece through video chat.”

Limited ticket sales are available by calling the box office at (814) 332-3414 or by going to

Main Photo: Rehearsals have been ongoing for “Go Play Outside!” on the patio of the Vukovich Center. Photo by Maria Cabrera ’24

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Allegheny College Senior Charles Allen Ross Awarded Dr. James H. Mullen, Jr. Student Prize for Civility in Public Life

Charles Ross
Charles Allen Ross

Allegheny College senior Charles Allen Ross has been awarded the Dr. James H. Mullen, Jr. Student Prize for Civility in Public Life, which annually recognizes student leaders who have demonstrated a strong passion for, and deep understanding of, civility on the Allegheny College campus and in community work.

Prize recipients exhibit a depth and breadth of activities, roles, responsibilities, and years of involvement that have a significant impact on civility and respect on the campus and beyond.

Ross is a community and justice studies major with minors in education studies and theatre. He has served as president of the Men of Color Advancement Association (MOCAA), an America Reads student tutor, and a member of the Allegheny football team, among many other roles on campus and in the community. Learn more about Ross on the Dr. James H. Mullen, Jr. Student Prize for Civility in Public Life website.

The Dr. James H. Mullen, Jr. Student Prize for Civility in Public Life is modeled after the national Allegheny College Prize for Civility in Public Life, which was established in 2011. The student prize was established in 2017 and renamed in honor of Mullen upon his retirement after 11 years of service as Allegheny’s president.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Allegheny Professor Emeritus Shares New-Age Vision in Off-Broadway Show

Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. Hold it and picture a field of poppies glistening in the sunlight among the rolling green hills. You are peaceful. You are floating among the clouds. Now exhale slowly and feel the love.

Joshua Searle-White has dropped plenty of coin to hear gurus share visions like this in workshop settings through the years. In the process he developed a love-hate relationship with the self-help and new-age movements — some of the philosophies and practices might seem strange and nonsensical, he says, but by the end of each weekend, he’s glad he stuck it out.

Joshua Searle-White in “The Weekend Workshop”
Joshua Searle-White rehearses his one-person stage production “The Weekend Workshop.” (Photos Courtesy Heather Curtis)

Searle-White, professor emeritus of psychology at Allegheny College, explores that relationship in a one-person stage production that he will preview in Meadville on October 26 before taking it to the bright lights of New York City in an off-Broadway show on November 3.

The play is called “The Weekend Workshop,” and it’s the story of a man who is pressured into going to a workshop because he is told he needs to “find himself.” Searle-White describes the show as “simultaneously a scathing critique of and a love letter to the self-help and new-age movements.”

“The new-age movement is low-hanging fruit,” says Searle-White, who retired in 2018 after 22 years of teaching at Allegheny. “It’s easy to make fun of it, but at the same time I love it.”

In “The Weekend Workshop,” the hero confronts the question: “What is the difference between something that is just goofy and something that is utterly profound?” The 90-minute production includes energetic staging, clever wordplay and lots of physical comedy.

Searle-White has behind-the-scenes assistance in the production from Dan Winston, a 2010 Allegheny graduate, who is the director; LeeAnn Yeckley, the technical director of Allegheny’s Playshop Theatre, who is the stage manager, and Noah Stape, a junior at Allegheny, who is the lighting operator.

“When Josh came to me with his idea for an original show and asked me to direct, I had no hesitations,” says Winston. “It’s unlike any other show I’ve ever worked on or seen. Josh performs it entirely on his own, splitting himself between seven unique and fully-realized characters. You’d think having only one actor on stage would make the show monotonous or that it would be difficult to have interactions between characters, but we worked really hard on fleshing out each character and blocking the show so that you feel like the characters are really alive in front of you, even when Josh is playing someone else.”

The show grew out of one of the courses Searle-White taught called “The Human Potential Movement,” and it takes on all sorts of new-age practices from eye-gazing to trust falls and cuddle puddles. Searle-White plays all the characters, which include the unnamed hero, Steve, Kip, Candy, Max, Star Thunder Hawk Flower (yes, that’s really what she calls herself!), and, of course, the Guru. “Everything that I make fun of in this play, I have done myself,” he says. “I love all of it. But I also resist it with my entire being. I sign up for workshops, but then when the time comes actually to go, I start making up excuses for why I shouldn’t or imagine all the other things I could be doing instead. But despite my resistance, and despite the many difficulties with these workshops, I keep going.”

The production in New York City is part of the three-month United Solo Theatre Festival, which features one-person shows and is the largest of its kind in the world. Searle-White and his crew will have 15 minutes to prepare the stage, 45 minutes for a technical rehearsal, 90 minutes for the play, and then 15 minutes to clear the stage. “It’s a real challenge,” he says.

Searle-White is not new to the stage, having appeared in some Meadville Community Theatre productions. He has also taught storytelling at Allegheny. “I’ve always loved the creative process. I’ve written stories and performed them for years, but I’ve never tried a full-length show until now,” he says. He currently is working on another play aimed at college students that will explore the issues of sexuality, relationships and consent, which will debut in Meadville in the spring of 2020.

“The Weekend Workshop” will be staged at 7 p.m. on Saturday, October 26, in the Montgomery Performance Space on Allegheny’s campus. The show is free and open to the public; the show is recommended for adults only (not suitable for children). The one-time staging off-Broadway will be held in Theatre Row at 410 West 42nd St. in New York City at 2 p.m. on Sunday, November 3. The theater holds about 60 patrons, and admission will be $54.

In the meantime, take another deep breath. Feel the love. Namaste.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Allegheny Theatre Professor Mark Cosdon Lends Expertise to Australian TV Show

Allegheny theatre professor Mark Cosdon in London with Australian stage and screen performer Noni Hazlehurst

Mark Cosdon, Allegheny College professor of theatre and performance studies, appeared on a recent episode of the Australian television show “Who Do You Think You Are?”.

Cosdon’s segment was recorded in August in London, where he met with Noni Hazlehurst, an immensely popular Australian stage and screen performer who was featured in the episode. “Who Do You Think You Are?” is a documentary genealogy series that profiles celebrities and traces their family trees with affiliates around the globe.

“For over two decades I have been researching the Hanlon Brothers and the history of popular entertainments,” Cosdon said. “This work culminated in my book The Hanlon Brothers: From Daredevil Acrobatics to Spectacle Pantomime, 1833–1931, about a famed family of aerial and slapstick comedy performers. While I regularly field inquiries from other historians whose work intersects with mine or from those conducting research into their family’s roots, being approached by Warner Brothers to participate in ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ was certainly a most unusual and satisfying experience.

“Noni Hazlehurst is a beloved Australian performer. Her great-grandfather Patrick Carmody was employed by the Hanlon Brothers for nearly 10 years. We shot the first segment alongside the Thames and then traveled to the Theatre Royal Haymarket in the West End to shoot a second segment.”

The episode is available hereCosdon’s segment begins at 29:20 and continues through approximately 36:20.

Video shared with permission of Warner Brothers, Australia.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Allegheny’s Playshop Theatre to Present “Detroit”

The Allegheny College Playshop Theatre will present Lisa D’Amour’s “Detroit” from April 12-15 in the Gladys Mullenix Black Theatre in the Vukovich Center for Communication Arts.

Student actors, from left, Simon Brown, Cayla Brandon, Mark Shimkets, and Marina Varvaro.

Show times are Thursday, April 12, through Saturday, April 14, at 8 p.m., and Sunday, April 15, at 2:30 p.m. Directed by Professor Mark Cosdon, the show will feature five Allegheny students: Mark Shimkets, Marina Varvaro, Simon Brown, Cayla Brandon, and Noah Stape. “Detroit” runs approximately 90 minutes and is performed without an intermission.

“‘Detroit’ is a comically dark play about the suburbs of any midwestern American city, racked by financial hardship, addiction, and the fracturing of the American dream,” Cosdon says. “Suburban neighbors meet for a barbecue and slowly develop a friendship that will be tested while laying bare the American psyche. ‘Detroit’ is an agonizingly funny play with serious ramifications for all of us. Thematically, the Pulitzer-nominated ‘Detroit’ will feel readily accessible and familiar to anyone.”

“Detroit” features the work of two visiting guest artists, Andrea Ball and Chuck Hatcher. Ball’s scenic design captures the look of a first-ring suburb’s neighboring houses. Hatcher, a sound designer long associated with Cornell and the University of Cincinnati, has created a soundscape that conveys the aural realness of the suburbs.

In addition, Allegheny professors Michael Mehler and Miriam Patterson designed “Detroit’s” lights and costumes, the Playshop’s Sandy Everett is the technical director, and senior Amanda Fallon is the stage manager. More than 30 students were involved in the building process for the sets, and will work on its running crew as deckhands, dressers, and board operators.

Tickets are free for current Allegheny students, but they are encouraged to reserve tickets here. All others can purchase tickets by calling the box office: (814) 332-3414. Tickets are $10 for adults, and $8 for non-Allegheny students, Allegheny employees, and senior citizens. Due to strong language and themes some might find unsettling, “Detroit” is recommended for audiences over 14.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Allegheny to Host Visiting Scholar Who Will Address Issues of Race in Shakespearean Theater

Ayanna Thompson, a Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar and one of the world’s foremost authorities on issues of race in Shakespeare and the impact of nontraditional casting on audiences today, will speak at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, February 15, in Ford Chapel at Allegheny College.

A reception will follow in the Ford Chapel Oratory. The free event is open to the public.

Thompson’s talk is titled “Shakespeare, Race, and Performance: What We Still Don’t Know.” She is president-elect of the Shakespeare Association of America and a professor of English at George Washington University, specializing in Renaissance drama and issues of race in/as performance.

She is the author of “Teaching Shakespeare with Purpose: A Student-Centered Approach,” “Passing Strange: Shakespeare, Race, and Contemporary America” and “Performing Race and Torture on the Early Modern Stage.” She wrote the new introduction for the revised “Arden 3 Othello,” and is the editor of “Weyward Macbeth: Intersections of Race” and “Performance and Colorblind Shakespeare: New Perspectives on Race and Performance.”

Currently on the editorial boards of the “Shakespeare Quarterly,” “Renaissance Drama” and “Shakespeare Bulletin,” she has served on the board of directors for the Association of Marshall Scholars.

Thompson will be on Allegheny’s campus for a two-day program on February 15–16 that will include classroom discussions, meeting with students, and her public lecture.

Phi Beta Kappa is a national scholastic society which has had a chapter at Allegheny since 1902. It was founded in 1776, has chapters at 286 colleges and universities, and has more than half a million members throughout the country. The Visiting Scholar Program gives undergraduates the opportunity to spend time with some of America’s most distinguished scholars. The 15 men and women participating during 2017–2018 will visit 110 colleges and universities with chapters of Phi Beta Kappa, spending two days on each campus.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Playshop Theatre Presents “Love and Information”

Allegheny’s Playshop Theatre will present “Love and Information,” a play by Caryl Churchill, at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, February 22-24, and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, February 25, in the Gladys Mullenix Black Theatre in the Vukovich Center for Communication Arts on the Allegheny campus.
In a whirlwind of 57 scenes and 100 characters, playwright Caryl Churchill snapchats a world awash in data, examining the ways that our exponentially growing environment of information impacts our interactions, feelings, and relationships. Screenwriter Tony Kushner calls Churchill “The greatest living English playwright” and this brilliant, funny and poignant play reveals a master work of contemporary theatre.
The cast includes 17 Allegheny students, Professor Daniel Crozier is the director, Associate Professor Michael Mehler is designing set and lights, and Miriam Patterson is designing costumes.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

‘Romeo and Juliet’

The Allegheny Playshop Theatre, now celebrating its 88th season, will stage William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” Nov. 16-19. Performances are at 8 p.m. Nov.16-18 and at 2:30 p.m. on Nov. 19 in the Gladys Mullenix Black Theatre.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for non-Allegheny students, senior citizens, and Allegheny employees. Admission is free for Allegheny students with identification, but they are asked to make reservations. For more information or to order tickets, contact the Playshop Theatre box office at (814) 332-3414.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Patterson Wins Ezekiel Board’s Choice Award

Costume Shop Supervisor Miriam Patterson was honored with the Ezekiel Board’s Choice Award for the costume design of the Playshop Theatre’s November 2016 production of “A Civil War Christmas.” The designs of the Board’s Choice recipients will be put in an exhibit to tour some of the colleges in the USITT Ohio Valley Section, and they will also be displayed at the national USITT conference in Fort Lauderdale in March.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Allegheny’s Playshop Theatre Presents ‘Romeo and Juliet’

The Allegheny Playshop Theatre, now celebrating its 88th season, is performing “Romeo and Juliet” November 16-19. Performances are at 8 p.m. Nov. 16-18 and at 2:30 p.m. on Nov. 19 in the Gladys Mullenix Black Theatre.

William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” is a centuries-old tragic tale of star-crossed lovers, feuding families, and “violent ends,” taking place in Verona, Italy. The play captures the passions of teenagers experiencing independence, love, and familial duty during an important phase of their lives. Beth Watkins is directing the play, with stage-manager Rachel Ellis, Betsy Sumerfield choreographing the dance and stage combat scenes, and Jim Bulman serving as dramaturg for the production.

“We are conceiving the production as a rehearsal of ‘Romeo and Juliet’,” said Watkins, “where the audience will see actors warming up and preparing to rehearse. They will be wearing rehearsal clothes, adding hats, skirts, collars, and various costume pieces throughout our Act I. As the play progresses, wooden rehearsal swords will become steel, lighting will move from rehearsal light to full stage light, and scenery and props will become more ‘of the world of the play.’ By our Act II, we will be fully located in Verona, Italy in the late 15th century.”

The play will feature Thomas Cassidy ‘21 as Romeo and Emily Wilson ‘19 as Juliet. Also in the cast are Chloe Spadafora, Cayla Brandon, Kaleel Van Vorhees, Mark Shimkets, Alyssa Johnson, Nia Shuler, Maximus Levinsky, Draigh Ricketson, Noah Stape, Dominic Bell, and Kai van Rosendaal.

Though the play has been performed across the world thousands of times, it has maintained its fame over the years for a reason.

“I am so excited to be a part of this show,” Wilson said. “It’s one of those stories that has been written off as somewhat cliche, but it’s such an iconic play and is definitely still worth seeing and performing. You get to become part of a community and a history of people all connecting to the same text, one that is able to span the centuries and bring people from all backgrounds and walks of life together.”

The Playshop Theatre has also invited the Meadville Area High School ninth grade to attend a special morning matinee, to align with their freshman year curriculum studies of “Romeo and Juliet.”

Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for non-Allegheny students, senior citizens, and Allegheny employees. Admission is free for Allegheny students with identification, but they are asked to make reservations.

For more information or to order tickets, contact the Playshop Theatre box office at (814) 332-3414.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research