Fr. Donohue takes the stage

Mary Beth Grady

If you have seen a show in Vasey, there is a good chance it was something Fr. Peter Donohue directed.  You might have seen the slide-show history of the buildings and legends of Villanova narrated by him, or have had him as a teacher in dramaturgy, musical theatre,or the theatrical experience.  Many have eaten a dinner he has cooked at Burns Hall, attended one of his Masses, or seen students dance the dance he teaches his theatrical experience classes (informally called the Fr. Peter dance).  You might know he is the chairperson of the theatre department or have heard of his five Barrymore nominations and Barrymore award.

Fr. Peter Donohue did not become a big deal when his presidency was announced.  He was already a big deal.  For those who have wondered how he made himself into a staple of Villanova theatre, here is a little slide-show history of this Villanova legend.

Fr. Peter began performing in plays as a child for the same reason many of us probably started activities we have come to love: he wanted to emulate his older brother.  He continued acting throughout high school and on into college, becoming involved in musicals his junior and senior years at Villanova.  After Villanova, he went on to receive his master’s from Catholic University and to become a high school English teacher.  

His story could end there if his vocation director had not called him in the summer of 1985 to tell him to return to Villanova for three years.  Dr. Christy, a former teacher of his, asked if he would take a role in a play called Playboy of the Western World.   Fr. Peter agreed and became involved in Villanova theatre once again.  

Around that time Villanova’s theatre was undergoing some restructuring and a production manager was needed.  The task fell on Fr. Peter’s shoulders.  He still believed he would finish his three years and return to high school teaching.  However, he instead ended up getting a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois and returning to Villanova in 1992 to direct the University’s theatre program.

Since Fr. Peter has been at Villanova, the philosophy of the program has remained the same, but there have been some changes though.  The play season has been shortened to maintain the quality of plays at Villanova.  The facility has gotten a little harder to work around.  The fine arts requirement has been added, and the B.F.A. in art and the undergraduate theatre major have been removed.  However, the fundamental focus on scholarly and practical approaches to theatre has remained.  

When asked the best part about theatre at Villanova, Fr. Peter smiled as if there were many “best-parts” to his current job.  After a little thought, he settled on an answer and replied, “Directing.  I’ve worked with a lot of talented young people.”  He avowed the nostalgia of auditioning for Vasey’s next musical “Urinetown” and attributed credit for all the awards he has received to the casts he has worked with.  

What will he miss the most as he takes on his new responsibilities? The casts. “They’re who I’ll miss the most,” he said.