Donohue honored for outstanding theatrical direction

Courtney Scrib

During the whirlwind that has been Inauguration Week, Rev. Peter Donohue, O.S.A., has stood center stage. Ironically, it is his work behind the scenes that has garnered Rev. Donohue even greater attention.

On Aug. 18 Donohue received a Barrymore Award nomination for his direction of “Urinetown.” It marked the sixth time he has been nominated for Outstanding Direction of a Musical from the Theater Alliance of Greater Philadelphia.

In addition to Donohue, Villanova saw other members of the musical honored. Outstanding Supporting Actress nominee, Tonilyn Longo (’06), was recognized for her role as Penelope Pennywise.

Meanwhile, adjunct faculty member Barby Hobyak-Roche and part-time instructor Jim Ryan were honored for their accomplishments in choreography and musical direction, respectively.

According to Longo, the success of “Urinetown,” which was performed last spring at the Villanova Theatre, was a result of Donohue’s guidance and support.

During the first read-through, he advised the cast to treat each of the characters like a real person. Rather than instruct the actors and actresses on how to make the play feel real, he encouraged them to find their own way.

As a result, the humor and satirical style that characterizes the play came naturally.

“In that regard, he is the best director you could ever ask for,” Longo said. “He allowed us so much freedom. He wanted us to make our own discoveries.”

For the past 13 years, Donohue served as the chairperson of Villanova’s theater department, where he committed himself to teaching and inspiring both undergraduate and graduate students.

His efforts did not go unnoticed. Prior to the “Urinetown” nomination, Donohue had also been nominated for his work on “Parade,” “Children of Eden,” “Into the Woods,” “Evita,” and “Chicago,” in which he won the 2002 Barrymore Award for best musical direction.

When production first began for “Urinetown,” the University still had not announced its choice to succeed Rev. Edmund Dobbin, O.S.A.

Although cast members and crew were all aware of the buzz that had been circulating around their director, neither they nor Donohue allowed the speculation to interfere with the musical. In fact, even after Donohue was named the 32nd president, it remained business as usual. With the exception of a few missed rehearsals (and quicker turnover in maintenance repairs at the Villanova Theatre), there were no substantial changes.

“Even though he had more responsibilities, it didn’t change his dedication and interest to the theater,” Longo, who is currently pursuing her masters in Education at Duquesne University, said. “He would make fun of himself and joke about how important he was when he was asked to attend a basketball game. He didn’t change a bit as a person.”

While Donohue’s humor and vivacious personality has captivated countless audiences, it is his genuineness that people admire, and remember, most.

“His ability to stay down to earth is what sets him a part,” Longo said. “He makes you feel comfortable with him, which makes you not be afraid to take chances. He helped build such a strong and happy program. We want to keep his tradition alive.”