Stephen Reaugh, a second-year graduate student studying English literature, didn’t plan on pursuing the theatre, especially in grad school. However, a few months in Ireland changed his mind.
While studying English as an undergraduate at Allegheny College, Reaugh spent “almost all [his] time” in the theatre department, performing in shows like Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” and Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labour’s Lost.” He hadn’t walked through the doors of Vasey Theatre, though, until he was persuaded by his fellow Abbey Theatre Summer Studio students.
“I hadn’t done a lot of theatre [since undergrad] until this past summer,” Reaugh said. “I did the Abbey Summer Studio. There were some theatre students, who were also part of the class, and as part of the Summer Studio, at the end of your time in Dublin you put on a devised show at the Abbey Theatre at the Peacock Stage…After two weeks, I kept thinking, ‘I forgot how much I love this.’”
The show that Reaugh and his peers devised was called “I’m All Wounds.” He describes it as “a series of brief scenes, interacting with the Irish theatre we had read up to that point. We were making fun of it sometimes, and paying respect to it other times.”
After realizing how much he’d missed being on the stage, Reaugh started to think about auditioning for this fall’s show at the Villanova Theatre: “Godspell.” He got a little push from the theatre students he befriended in Dublin, saying he was “lovingly coerced” into auditioning. He wouldn’t change a thing.
“We had so much fun rehearsing [Godspell]. It’s the most banal thing to say, but we actually enjoyed it,” Reaugh said. “That doesn’t often happen in shows--we had so much fun. We just played. ‘Godspell’ is all about playing, trying to reckon with this crazy narrative of Jesus’ life. They do this primarily through clowning through it. We took that and sort of ran with it.”
Reaugh performed in the ensemble, portraying the character of Herb, who he describes as a class clown type.
“He has one moment where he gets serious and he sings this beautiful little solo,” Reaugh said. “I had a lot of fun doing it. It came at a point in my life where I really needed it…It’s been light and really fun.”
While “Godspell” is known for its revolutionary nature, Villanova Theatre took it even further, choosing to do a gender-blind casting. For those unfamiliar, that means that the directors chose whoever was best for the roles, regardless of if their gender corresponds with the character’s written gender. At Villanova, this choice led to the two main characters, Jesus and Judas, being played by women.
Reaugh said that the company’s choice to do a gender-blind cast was “particularly useful,” especially in our current political climate, and mentioned that Villanova Theatre has a history of pushing boundaries.
“Villanova Theatre isn’t afraid to shake boundaries, and they’re definitely aware of when they do it…This show, in particular, was a good choice because it showed how important it is to hear voices that don’t often get heard,” Reaugh said.