VST, VSMT host awards dinner



Bridget Nyland

Villanova Student Theatre and Villanova Student Musical Theatre celebrated their collective success with the first annual Fall Recognition Reception. The event, which included the presentation of several awards and dinner, was held on Nov. 19 in Dundale Mansion.

University President Rev. Peter Donohue, O.S.A., in addition to Helen Lafferty and other theatre department faculty, attended the event in celebration of Villanova Student Theatre’s 20th anniversary season.

Approximately 40 people, including faculty, staff, administration and students, crowded the conference room in Dundale Mansion, filling the room with lively conversation before the speeches began. VST President Shauna Wagenheim kicked off the reception with an opening welcome. Wagenheim also gave a brief history of VST and expressed enthusiasm about the new arts facilities laid out in the Master Plan.

VST celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. As Wagenheim explained, since its founding in 1988, the group has put on two shows per year. This year, VST produced A.R. Gurney’s “The Dining Room” and will partner with Villanova Theatre to open Tim Robbins’ “Dead Man Walking” in February. In addition, the group is continuing workshops and community outreach.

This spring, the organization plans to return to some of their original productions. With growing room in St. Mary’s, new space is emerging for more productions.

“We look forward to the day when more theatre courses are offered for undergraduates, when our productions are more heavily supported by Villanova faculty and when resources are more readily available to us,” Wagenheim said. “Most of all, we look forward to the day when an Arts Center illuminates our campus and the hearts of all who perform there, watch there and become better people there.”

After a round of applause, Wagenheim then introduced VSMT President Dave McFadden. McFadden then welcomed the crowd on behalf of VSMT and introduced Jimmy Yandoli, VST vice president of Operations. Yandoli then introduced himself and discussed the night’s awards. Yandoli explained that the reception will now be an annual event, with VST and VSMT each presenting awards to people instrumental in founding or otherwise helping their organizations.

“It is a joy to be involved in an organization that has been going strong for 20 years and has been going on for each successive year, as interest in the arts continues to grow and more opportunities for theatre develop,” Yandoli said.

Yandoli then announced this year’s VST Award, which was presented to Michael Hollinger. After the undergraduate theatre program ceased in 1988, Hollinger (then a graduate student) inspired interested undergraduates to create their own extracurricular theatre group.

Now an award-winning playwright, Hollinger advised the group in its founding year, overseeing the production of an award winning one-act play, among other productions.

“It’s nice to know that even though there is a lack of theatre on campus and has been for so many year and appears to be a lack of interest and resources, there are faculty that encourage students to go out and do stuff and the work that they do,” Yandoli said.

The presentations concluded as Yandoli introduced VSMT Vice President Charlie Gillepsie. Gillepsie presented a joint award from VST and VSMT to John Dunphy for his involvement in the founding of both groups.

Dunphy, an avid theatre supporter, helped found VSMT and grabbed VST, which had been floating without a department for many years. Dunphy also directed VSMT’s first performance.

“John Dunphy has been very good to us,” Yandoli said. “He has taken us in and given us space.”

The reception concluded with a dinner that allowed the organizations to better know each other and the administration. Donohue personally introduced himself to students throughout the night and expressed great interest in the organizations’ works.

“It was nice for the students to actually see who is behind Music Activities and to see that people in administration care,” Yandoli said. “It was a nice night for the theatre groups to come together for this special occasion.”