Penn State Centre Stage set to perform ‘Men on Boats’ in Off-Centre production

STATE COLLEGE — Ten explorers! Four boats! One Grand Canyon!

That succinctly sums up “Men on Boats,” Penn State Centre Stage’s Off-Centre production with 7:30 p.m. performances tonight, tomorrow and Saturday at the Downtown Theatre Center, 146 S. Allen St.

Oh yes, there is also one unique distinction in this rousing adventure — there are no men in “Men On Boats!”

Remaining faithful to playwright Jaclyn Backhaus’ script, this Off-Centre production’s cast consists of 10 females, playing the one-armed Captain and his ragtag crew.

The author states that the characters on “Men on Boats” were “historically cisgender white males; the cast should be made up entirely people who are not.”

“Men on Boats” relates the rollicking travel journal of Major John Wesley Powell, the Civil War veteran, who heads up the 1867 expedition to explore and chart the Colorado and Green rivers, and the Grand Canyon.

With minimal staging, including the boats, the three month long journey finds Powell and his mostly loony crew, facing the perils of famine, mutiny and the roaring rapids.

Using non-traditional casting, J. Austin Eyer directs Penn State’s production, using carefully exaggerated theatrics. The show is comical, but never camp; pointed, but never political.

This rousing historical saga is a “provocative meditation on gender and historical memory.”

“Men On Boats” has a running time of approximately 90 minutes, and is played without intermission. All seating is general admission.

The director adds that “Men On Boats” is not meant to be a factual representation of ten men on the Colorado River in 1869. It sets out to do what live theatre does best “tell a story here and now.”

For more information, call 814-863-0255.

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