St. Edward’s theatre spotlights tight-knit cast, boat crew in production

History has a way of writing itself, at least that is what is generally believed. “Men On Boats,” a play by Jaclyn Backhaus and directed by Shawn Sides, challenges this idea through the story of 10 men and four boats.

Mary Moody Northen Theatre is now selling tickets for the second production in its 46th anniversary season from Nov. 8 through 18.

Operating on a professional model, St. Edward’s students get the chance to perform alongside professionals and, with each performance, earn points toward membership in the Actors’ Equity Association, a union of professional actors and stage managers in the U.S.

The featured guest artists in this performance included Tyler Layton and KT Shorb.

“I have done many many plays and this is probably the most fun I’ve ever had,” Layton said. “I love working with these students they’re amazing…I’m really blessed.”

This play is based on journals left by Major John Wesley Powell, a one-armed Civil War veteran, and depict his 1869 expedition exploring the waterways of the Grand Canyon with a nine-man crew.

These journal entries came to life Saturday night on the MMNT stage.

Audiences were invited to share the many perils, both physical and emotional, the crew faced while traveling along the Colorado River. Commentary on Powell’s tendency to undermine his crew’s contributions to the expedition and the many faults with the American dream of “Manifest Destiny” were hard to miss in this satirical representation of one of America’s most historic moments.

The creative use of lighting and sound allowed the performance to showcase the strengths of the cast; each having to take acting to a new level to fully immerse the audience in the world of Powell and his crew.

Student actors Kaila Brinckmann (Hawkins) and Meg Court (Bradley) found the production to be a rewarding endeavor made by the University and Austin as a whole.

“Collaboration is one of the more challenging ways to put a show together, I think, but certainly one of the most fulfilling,” Court said. “And this is easily the most fun I’ve had putting a show together in a very very long time.”

Part of the play’s success was the clear bond shared between the small cast, Brinckmann said.

“The cast really really feels like a family, there’s only ten of us, and we’ve just gotten really really close and I think that shows in our performance,” Brinckmann said.

The production was teeming with humor, drawing laughs from the audience from the very beginning to the final line.

Pamela Brubaker, a retired professor from California Lutheran University was among the throng of people that filled the rotunda theater’s seats Saturday.

Brubaker was pleased by the light-hearted performance especially in light of the recent mass shooting that took place in Thousand Oaks, California, home of California Lutheran University.

“I like the parts that had’s been a heavy couple weeks for a lot of us…like in the places where things have happened [recently],” Brubaker said. “This [production] made me laugh, but it was also inspiring…and it showed their persistence in difficulty.”

Now embracing her retired life here in Austin, Brubaker attended quite a few plays held at MMNT and has already purchased the season ticket for 2018-19.

“They’re all really excellent and they can be very different, but I’ve never been disappointed,” Brubaker said.