Directed by Jackie Rosenfeld, senior lecturer in the School of Theatre, “Men On Boats” by Jaclyn Backhaus follows the history of the one-armed Captain John Wesley Powell and his crew of nine crazy but loyal volunteers as they journey the course of the Colorado River and become the first “white men” to explore the Grand Canyon. In this hilarious and true(ish) 21st century mash-up of the original voyage, 10 actors, none of whom are cisgendered male, embody these explorers as they suffer loss of boat and supplies, brave dangerous rapids, name mountains after themselves, and get on each other’s nerves.
Rosenfeld said she selected the play for this year’s SummerStage Festival because ‘Men On Boats” gives an age-old history lesson a totally different frame of reference. She also describes it as “a play intended for lovers of history, nature and adventure.”
“As Jaclyn Backhaus wrote ‘Men on Boats’ about the first expedition of the Grand Canyon, her cast of characters were originally intended to be played by men,” Rosenfeld said. “Yet, she found herself wishing she could play these kinds of characters who seek adventure and exploration. She recognized characters like these were almost never written for anyone but men to play. So, she wrote the characters to be played by adventurers who were not born as men.
“I chose this play for SummerStage because I believe Backhaus gives this historical narrative an entirely new and exciting perspective,” she said, “and because, I, too, want to spend the summer with these explorers!”
Audience members can expect to see “a satirical retelling of the first U.S. government-sanctioned exploration of the Grand Canyon,” Rosenfeld explained, “complete with moments of gut-busting humor and times of tremendous fear and despair. It is heroic and rugged, reflecting on the truths of bravery, teamwork and colonialism.”