The Spanish Tragedy is Coming to Villanova

Leah Cardinale, Staff Writer

With talk of class registration abuzz, many students are searching for interesting classes to take in the fall. Dr. Alice Dailey and Dr. Chelsea Phillips’ ambitious project, a year-long interdisciplinary exploration of Thomas Kyd’s Renaissance revenge play, The Spanish Tragedy, is being offered as an honors course, entitled “Legacies of Revenge.”

“Legacies of Revenge” aims to bridge the academic and theatrical studies of Shakespeare. Dailey and Phillips applied for the Grant for Research for Arts and Science Professors (GRASP), and were awarded $15,000 from the College of Arts and Sciences to go towards this project.

“Our course is founded on the belief that for students to appreciate this drama fully, they must engage in a sustained textual and performative investigation,” the professors’ application for the grant read. “Our dual modes of inquiry will cross-pollinate and inform one another, providing students a significantly richer learning experience.”

The project will begin with a graduate course and an undergraduate course in the fall and ends with a production of The Spanish Tragedy in the spring of 2024. 

In the fall, we’ll bring together undergraduate and graduate students from multiple departments into shared classrooms, fostering a rich intellectual and artistic space,” Phillips said. “In the spring, we’ll take that experience into the rehearsal room and ultimately create a public performance where we can share our work with a wider audience.” 

Dailey and Phillips will be bringing along an experienced performer who has acted in every play of the Shakespearean canon in a residency that will take place in the spring of 2024. This performer will help enrich students’ experience by presenting first-hand knowledge of the English Renaissance plays. “Legacies of Revenge” will also include a weekend trip to the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, VA. On this trip, students will see three plays from the same time period as The Spanish Tragedy, attend workshops with actors on blocking and elocution, hear a lecture by an internationally renowned early modern drama scholar, tour the Blackfriars Playhouse and experiment with using its stage.

We are excited to have an opportunity to work extensively with students and colleagues in our wonderful Theatre programs and to produce an important but infrequently staged play here at Villanova,” the professors said. “We look forward to all that we and our students will learn about this dramatic genre in the process of getting our hands dirty—or bloody?—with The Spanish Tragedy.”

All the creative and educational work will be documented in a digital archive. 

I’m thrilled at the collaboration and community-building that the project will entail,” Phillips said. “This is a fantastic opportunity to model the kind of scholar-artistry—intellectual inquiry and practical application—that is at the heart of a liberal arts education at Villanova.”