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By Jaclyn Backhaus
Co-Directed by
Maureen Shea & Sarah Hickler

Ten explorers. Four boats. One Grand Canyon. Men On Boats is the true(ish) history of an 1869 expedition, when a one-armed captain and a crew of thrill-seeking yet loyal volunteers set out to chart the course of the Colorado River.

SEPTEMBER 25–27, 2020

Men On Boats was presented by special arrangement with Dramatists Play Service Inc., New York.

On this page you'll find detailed programmatic information
as well as notes from directors, designers, and the cast
about how our production of MEN ON BOATS
took shape over the past few months.
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A note from the company on

Land Acknowledgment

The Men on Boats company and crew invite you to identify the Indigenous Territory you are watching from tonight using this link:

You will find a list of nonprofits serving Indigenous and Native American populations here. In addition to the incredible violence and persecution that Native Americans have suffered at the hands of white Europeans and Americans throughout history, Indigenous peoples have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. We encourage you to learn about these organizations, Native communities, and the issues that affect them today.

I wonder if the government will sanction this land once our expedition is over.

It all comes down to how dangerous it is to inhabit.

Well the Natives have lived in these lands for centuries.

Well, they’ve also probably named all this land already. And here we are, naming it after ourselves.

Men on Boats, Act 1 Scene 8

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A note from

Maureen Shea & Sarah Hickler, Co-Directors

Men on Boats is about a trip into the unknown, much like we’re all experiencing today. The journey is dangerous; the outcome doubtful. But the explorers are full of hope, at least until the river gets the best of some of them, when their fears overtake their convictions.

We originally chose and conceived this play over a year ago for the stage. Re-envisioning this action-packed story for an online platform has been a wild process, education, and collaboration into new territory. Since casting the actors last March, we’ve worked entirely remotely, lost three actors who took leaves of absence or were too far away to “reach” with our technology (China), re-cast and rehearsed entirely in Zoom for the first three weeks of our process, and just days ago moved to our live-streaming platform, vMix. We’ve never been in a room together because of COVID-19. We have been truly “distanced,” working at first from different cities, states and continents, and more recently from different rooms and buildings on the same campus here in Boston. Our very notion of what theatre “is” has been challenged. Can we really be what we think of as “live” online? Can we maintain our sense of community and collaboration with each other, our bonds with our audience, re-create the electricity that we know can take place in the air, “live,” between performers and audience from a platform stage—with home viewers on a Transmedia platform?


Directing credits: Music-Theatre Group and Circle Rep in New York, the Philadelphia Drama Guild, Los Angeles Women’s Shakespeare Company, and the Huntington Theater, Coyote, the Nora, The Theater Offensive, and Theatre on Fire in Boston. Shea’s production of How I Got That Story was presented at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts as a finalist in the American College Theatre Festival. She was artist-in-residence at the Iowa Playwrights Lab and the Toneelacademie in Maastricht, the Netherlands, and directed Henry V and King Lear for the Company of Women, an all-female Shakespeare troupe led by Kristin Linklater and Carol Gilligan. Most recently, her production of Robbie McCauley’s Sugar was presented at New York Live Arts by Lumberyard Contemporary Performing Arts. She is Professor in the Performing Arts Department at Emerson College, where she teaches directing, dramatic literature, and Shakespeare.


Sarah Hickler is an actor, performer, director, movement specialist and theater educator. Her devised movement/theater and interdisciplinary performance work has been produced in theaters, museums and galleries throughout New England, at Austen Art Center (CT), Theater Lab and Lincoln Center Festival (NYC), and Mercury Theatre (U.K.). She performs regularly with Action Theater ensembles and Susan Dibble Dance Theater. She has directed for Sedona Shakespeare, LA Women’s Shakespeare Co., Sun Valley Shakespeare, M.I.T Shakespeare Ensemble and Emerson Stage. She was resident movement director/choreographer for LA Women’s Shakespeare Co. and Actor’s Shakespeare Project, and has been movement director/choreographer on over thirty professional and college productions in Boston, Los Angeles and NYC.

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Notes from

Ann Rees Berry, Dramaturg


Men on Boats is a play that charts and navigates as much terrain as its titular subjects do. It is a play about history. It is a play about gender. It is a play about race. It is a play about John Wesley Powell’s 1869 exploration of the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon. It is a play about an adventure as well as one that questions the very premise, goals, and consequences of said adventure. Men on Boats explores the idea of what it means to create a historical legacy, and how those narratives are shaped in real time. Every new river run or course charted, former soldier and expedition leader Powell was fastidious about transcribing every detail into his beloved journal, making sure to keep track of his and his fellow white men’s discoveries along their United States government-sanctioned journey. More than any of his other crew members, Powell seemed conscious of how history is made and the importance of written memory. He knew that if they succeeded in their expedition, their names would still be remembered long after they were gone. In a manner of speaking, Powell was correct; he would be lauded for the expedition and his journals covering it (which became published as The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons in 1875) by both the press and the U.S. government. The rest of his party, however, have now mostly faded from historical memory, reduced to mere footnotes in accounts concerning and centralizing Powell. The subjects of history are chosen in real time, by the press, by a nation’s rulers, by any institution or person wielding a large amount of power.


a blog post

Despite the initial unity shared by the crew of men on Powell’s 1869 expedition, their paths diverged both during and after their mission in drastic and even fractious ways. Some did not make it out of their journey alive, and even those who did were forever altered by their experiences running rivers. Here is a summation of where each man’s path lead them after the end of their time as Men on Boats


Emerson Stage debut! Emerson College credits: Emerson Shakespeare Society’s Smike (Stage Manager). Thanks to my friends for their constant support!

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Notes from

Sarabeth Spector, Scenic Designer

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Emerson Stage credits: New Play Workshop: Mad Moon (Assistant Scenic Designer), Flora, the Red Menace (Assistant Scenic Designer), and The Last Days of Judas Iscariot (Props Master). Emerson College credits: Rareworks Theatre Company’s What Every Girl Should Know (Scenic Designer); EVVY38 (Props Master). Thank you to the amazing Men On Boats production team for their unwavering support through this process, especially Piper Phillips, and Luciana Stecconi.

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A message from

Ceilidh Welsh, Costume Designer


Emerson Stage credits: Flora, the Red Menace (Costume Designer), Lucky Stiff (Assistant. Costume Designer), and Good Breeding (Wardrobe Supervisor). Emerson College credits: Kidding Around’s Women Who Weave (Costume Designer) and She Kills Monsters (Costume Designer, EVVY Award); Rareworks’ Marty and Tad (Costume Designer); and Mercutio Troupe’s Stalling (Costume Designer). Other Credits: EVVY Awards 37 (Wardrobe Supervisor/ Stitcher) and EVVY Awards 38 (Wardrobe Stylist Executive Assistant/Wardrobe Supervisor) Thanks to Amy Pinto and Tea Club.

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Meet the

Lighting Designer


Selected Emerson Stage credits: Working: A Musical, Stupid F##king Bird (Assistant Lighting Designer). Selected Regional: Bristol Valley Theatre’s The Roommate (Programmer) and Sherlock Holmes (Assistant Master Electrician). Professional: Neopolitical Cowgirls’ Hysteria (Assistant Lighting Designer). Thank you to Mom, Dad, and Nick for being my biggest cheerleaders, and for the entire cast and crew for such a wonderful experience.

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Meet the

Sound Designer


Emerson Stage credits: 10 Out of 12 (Sound Design). National credits: Oregon Shakespeare Festival's Shakespeare in Love (U.S. national premiere), Twelfth Night, and Romeo and Juliet; and Shakespeare & Company's Cymbeline. Recent Boston credits: Apollinaire's Chelsea People, Curious Incident..., Prudencia Hart, etc.; New Rep's Man of La Mancha (Norton Award); SpeakEasy Stage Company's Shakespeare in Love (Norton Award); many others at Boston College, Boston University, Northeastern, Brandeis, Greater Boston Stage Co., Gloucester Stage, and Israeli Stage. David teaches Songwriting and Musical Theatre Writing at Boston Conservatory at Berklee. Listen at

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Meet the

Props Lead


Emerson Stage credit: Stupid Fu##ing Bird. Regional prop credits: Moonbox Productions’ Cabret; CentAstage’s Noire Hamlet; Brandeis University’s Circle Mirror Transformation; Gloucester Stage’s The Agitators, Barefoot in the Park; Lyric Stage Company’s Breath and Imagination, Little Shop of Horrors, and The Cake. Thank you to everyone in the prop shop.

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Meet the 

Stage Manager


Emerson Stage credits: Spring Awakening (First Assistant Stage Manager), What Remains Hidden (Is Still Known) (Second Assistant Stage Manager), Stardust (Second Assistant Stage Manager), Flora, the Red Menace (Production Supervisor), and Love and Information (Assistant Production Supervisor). Emerson College credits: Rareworks’ What Every Girl Should Know (Lighting Designer) and Musical Theatre Society’s Spring Awakening (Assistant Stage Manager). Thank you to my family, Lilian, Angela, Sivan, Tim, and Deb for all of your love and support these past three years.

Meet the

Men On Boats Cast


ALIEYAH BROWN (Sumner), BFA '23, Theatre & Performance. Emerson Stage debut! Emerson College credits: Stop Kiss (Mrs. Winsley) with Flawless Brown and the Flawless Brown Showcase. Other credits: The Matchmaker (Dolly Levi), Pippin (Berthe), and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Rona Lisa Perretti).


SYDNIE COOPER (Seneca Howland/The Bishop), BFA '22, Acting. Emerson Stage credit: The Last Days of Judas Iscariot (Saint Monica). Thanks to my family and friends, the ones who I love the most, for always instilling positivity, love, and craziness in me.


SHANNON HORSEY (O.G. Howland/ Tsauwiat), BFA '22, Acting. Emerson Stage credit: Good Breeding (Hera). Emerson College credit: Emerson Shakespeare Society's Helen (Helen). Much thanks to the cast, creative, and production teams.


HAWA KAMARA (George Young Bradley), BFA '23, Musical Theatre. Emerson Stage debut! Other credits: Flawless Brown Stage’s LOUD (Ensemble). Sending love to family and friends.


CLAIRE LAYDEN (Old Shady), BFA '21, Acting. Emerson Stage debut! Emerson College credits: Mercutio Troupe’s Stalling (Director) and IPSEITY (Faye); and Kidding Around’s Women Who Weave (Meleager/Zeus). Other credits: EVVYs 39 (CoHost), Stroopwafel (Member), Mercutio Troupe (Artistic Director). Thanks to the whole team for their hard work and commitment to making theater in safe conditions.


HOPE MATTHEWS (Dunn), BFA '22, Acting. Emerson Stage debut! Emerson College film credit: After (Reagan). Other credits: Into the Light (Mary), Collected Stories (Lisa), Seussical (Getrude) in Yorktown, Virginia. Thanks to my parents for supporting me and always encouraging me.


QUINN MCKENZIE (Goodman/Mr. Asa), BFA '21, Acting. Emerson Stage debut! Emerson credits include: Kidding Around’s A Mermaid's Tale and Full Fathom Productions’ Things That Shouldn't Be Written. Many thanks to their roommates for putting up with at-home rehearsals.


JESS MEYER (Hawkins), BFA '20, Theatre and Performance. Emerson Stage credits: New Play Workshop: Amanuensis (Assistant Director), Good Breeding (Props Master), and Measure for Measure (Assistant Props Master). Emerson College credits: Musical Theatre Society’s Heathers the Musical (Props Master); Rareworks’ Phoenix (Props Master); Kidding Around’s Alice in Wonderland (Caterpillar/White Rabbit); Mercutio Troupe’s Blood of My Blood (Rory), Coffee Table Play (Scenic Designer / Producer), I Hate You (Props Master), and Girl in the Machine (Assistant Director). Regional credits: YAZPLS LLC’s Noir Hamlet—Edinburgh Fringe 2019 (Assistant Stage Manager/5th Business). An endless thank you to their wonderful support system.


MEAGHAN ROBICHAUD (Powell), BFA '22, Acting. Emerson Stage debut! Emerson College credit: Emerson Shakespeare Society’s The Taming of the Shrew (Katherine). Other credits: Neo Political Cowgirls’ Hysteria (Dora) and Boston Lyric Opera’s The Handmaid’s Tale (Ensemble). Thank you to the cast and crew for welcoming me and to Maureen and Sarah for guiding us through these rough rapids.


MANDY RUBELI (Hall), BFA '21, Theater Education and Performance. Emerson Stage credits: Mad Moon (Olivioak) and the NewFest Reading of Buttons (Nell). Emerson College credits: Mercutio Troupe’s Stalling, Full Fathom’s White Witch, and the Clowning Curricular Project Snacking On My Mime Nuts. She is thrilled to be part of this project and thanks her family and friends for always supporting her.


ZEIANA ANDRADE (Understudy), BFA '22, Theatre and Performance. Emerson Stage credit: Good Breeding (Athena). Emerson film credits: Sanctuary Lost and Tuesday. Zeiana would like to send love to the entire cast and team that has worked so hard to keep this show running.


CLAIRE ASHBY (Understudy), BFA '23, Theatre & Performance. Emerson Stage debut! Emerson College credit: Time and Space (Jennifer). Thanks to Mom, Dad, and “Haus” for all of the love and support.

We'd like to recognize the great, hard work of


our first 'Hall,' who had to leave our cast through no fault of her own, and who has been cheering us on from China ever since.

Meet the Men On Boats

Artistic and Production Staff

Transmedia Consultant DEREK CHRISTIANSEN
Dramaturgy Advisor ALYSSA SCHMIDT

Lead Electrician Advisor TAYLOR NESS
Assistant Director LUCY KANIA
Assistant Scenic Designer PIPER PHILLIPS
Assistant Costume Designer DOMINIC LETTERII
Assistant Lighting Designer JOE MORALES
Production Electrician JOSIE BUCKON

Video Developer LUCY YUNQING MA
Wardrobe Supervisor HANA BROWN
Assistant Lead Electrician OLIVIA RETTEW
Assistant Production Sound Engineer MADDIE HANLEY
Assistant Stage Manager SARAH BORD
2nd Assistant Stage Manager CARLY ZAMOST
Production Assistant BLAKE BERGGREN
Company Manager MAIA TIVONY
Assistant Company Manager CARLEIGH ALLEN
Production Supervisor TIMOTHEY SULLIVAN
Assistant Production Supervisor MADISON SELBY and LOLA SPECTOR
Run Crew

Casper Apodaca, Lily Bucko, Hannah Bishop, Kaitlyn Bohlman, Samuel Clopper, Aidan Deal, Lia Goodwin, Tess Greenwald, Zachary Greenwald, Katherine Gustafson, Harvey Johnson, Kimstelle Merisma, Tyler Newton, Kailey Pelletier, Natalie Plourde, Erin Sullivan,

Tristan Webster, and Chuyun (Linda) Zhou



Steve Bohrer

Daniel Brokowski

Molly Coombs

Carlin Corrigan

Frankie Frain
Bill Gilligan

Lucy Ma

Tim MacArthur

Maurice 'Mo' Methot

Ryan McDonald

Taylor Ness

Jane Pikor
Rodolfo Ribas
Gabby Sumney

Keith Wise

Meet the

Emerson Stage Staff


Artistic Director—Annie G. Levy
General Manager—David Colfer
Production Manager—Timothey Sullivan
Technical Director—Keith Cornelius

Props Director—Ryan Bates

Costume Shop Supervisor—Richelle Devereaux-Murray

Resident Sound Designer—Arshan Gailus

Scenic Painter—Joe Keener

Assistant General Manager—Alix Bigley

Assistant Costume Shop Supervisor—Brian Choinski

Draper/Cutter—Laurie Bramhall

Sound Technician—Steven Deptula

Asssistant Properties Manager—Lauren Corcuera

Assistant Production Manager: Curricual Support—Jamie Carty


Stage and Production Management—Debra A. Acquavella
Scenic Design—Luciana Stecconi

Scenic Painting—Joe Keener

Costume Design—Tyler Kinney

Lighting Design—Scott Pinkney

Sound Design—Arshan Gailus


Emerson Stage Office Assistants—Carleigh Allen, Shannon Horsey, Kaitlin Phelan
Production Management Assistants—Anthony Feola and Caitlin Hudecheck

Videographer—Benjamin Bernard

Scene Shop Assistants—Talia Colten and Samuel Kisthardt

Scene Shop Staff—Jonah Barricho, Sean Dougherty,

Marco Giacona, and Emerson Hart

Paint Shop Staff—Emily Curtis, Serino Nakayama, Garrett Traer,

Fernando Rueda, Kimberly Ndegwa, Leah Heath, Isabella Kochakian,

Lauren Velentzas, and Noelle DeConzo.

Prop Shop Assistant—Alex Koplos

Prop Technicians—Delene Beauchamp, Dan Bovair, Evy Burch,

Oliver Hawke, and Ryan Rock

Costume Shop Office Assistant—


Craft Assistants—

Stock Assistants—

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