By Daisy Moriarty ’25
This year’s fall play is Men on Boats by Jacklyn Backhaus, which follows the true story of John Wesley Powell and his crew on their journey to chart the Green River, Colorado River, and Grand Canyon in 1869.
Backhaus notes that the cast should not be made up of “cisgender white males,” though the 1869 expedition consisted of only “cisgender white males.”
The Frederick Gunn cast has been working hard to get into character and even went on a trip to practice paddling in a river. Audrey Richards, who plays John Wesley Powell, states, “The trip down to the river truly proved to me how intense of an expedition this was for John Wesley Powel and his crew. I had a difficult time making sure I wasn’t getting pulled downstream.”
Men on Boats is a very physical play, which adds an extra challenge for the cast, as they have to remember both choreography and their lines. Jo Wimler, who plays William Dunn, the crew’s second in command, brings up another challenge. She states, “I think the hardest part about playing William Dunn is making sure that every action, every line, and every movement I have is an attempt for people to believe I am correct over Powell, our expedition leader.”
Meanwhile, the crew has been working on costuming, painting the set and props, and building the boats that will be used on stage.
The cast and crew also make sure to have fun during rehearsals, often dancing and doing gymnastics between scenes. Each cast member has different moments of the show that they especially enjoy. Jo notes, “I get to perform a very fun part where I slow-motion swim across the rapids/stage and get to do some fun, manly gestures to the crowd. It is definitely a very stereotypical dude moment, but I love it.” Mr. Burnham, who is directing Men on Boats, agrees that slow motion is one of his favorite aspects of the show. He states, “Many moments of the story are funny, moving, ridiculous, and highly theatrical… it is always entertaining when you have actors move into a committed slow-motion moment and the storytelling becomes even more dynamic. It’s so fun!”
Men on Boats will be in TPACC on November 10, 11, and 12. We cannot wait to see how it turns out and appreciate the hard work of the cast, crew, and everyone involved with the play!