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Men On Boats: Exploring Gender and the American Mythos of Manifest Destiny

UB Theatre and Dance presents the highly anticipated production of Men on Boats by Jaclyn Backhaus this weekend, directed by Eero Laine. This play chronicles the 1869 expedition to chart the Green River and Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, led by John Wesley Powell. The play comically highlights the American mythos of western “exploration.” Through clever satire and contemporary themes, Backhaus recounts and retells history from a modern perspective.  This is best illustrated by a note from the playwright on casting the play: “The characters in Men on Boats were historically cisgender white males. The cast should be made up entirely of people who are not.”

Originally the playwright set out to write a historical account of Powell’s adventures but questioned why she was writing a play full of characters she would never get to play herself. She instead decided to take the idea of masculine adventure and interrogate it by giving it over to those who might not otherwise have the opportunity to explore such ideas–making casting an integral part of the script. This resolutely defiant and brilliant choice, when combined with the witty, sardonic, and tongue-in-cheek moments Baukhaus provides in her text, results in a strikingly creative, unquestionably bold, and undeniably entertaining play that both celebrates and parodies one of the most illustrious exploration stories in US history.

“The intention is not to just perform a great story with different bodies, but it is actually to comment on the history and the way it is played and replayed… It’s a sophisticated twist. It’s intentional, it’s a conscious casting choice. And it makes for great theatre.” Said Director Eero Laine, noting how Men on Boats is not unlike other productions that present well-known histories in a theatrical, perception-altering way, such as Hamilton.

The production will feature Julia Kreiter in the part of leading man, John Wesley Powell, with Peter-Gaye Jarrett as William Dunn and Tori Lawrence as  John Colton Sumner. Men on Boats will also feature Michaela Pace, Tylar Benedetto, Michaela Pascuzzi, Lauren Veruto, Jessie Miller, Gemini Zajac, and Jaimee Harmon. This production features 10 theatre majors and provides experiential learning opportunities for 30 students in design and production.

To prepare the cast for these roles, the cast will explore how they embody the spectrum of what it means to be “gendered” this fall with Janet Werther, Dance Dramaturg and UB Alum. Werther will provide physical theatre workshops on Embodying Gender and Gendered Movement.

Under Laine’s direction, Men on Boats will be a lively, highly entertaining account of the expedition, using a contemporary lens to complement on the heroic tale and expose new perspectives on how historical events are interpreted.


Oct 25 – 28, 2017 at 7:30 PM
Oct 29, 2017 at 2:00 PM


University at Buffalo
North Campus
Center for the Arts
Black Box Theatre


$20.00 General Public
$10.00 Student Admission

Tickets can be purchased either online through and
or by visiting the Center for the Arts Box Office in the main lobby of the CFA on the University at Buffalo’s North Campus. (Tues – Fri, 12-6 PM & 90 Minutes prior to the performance)

General Information: (716) 645 – 2787
Charge: (877) 987-6487
Groups: (716) 645-0611
*On School Time Performances call (716) 645-6771


John Wesley Powell                                                          Julia Krieter

William Dunn                                                                      Peter-Gaye Jarrett

John Colton Sumner                                                        Tori Lawrence

Old Shady                                                                              Michaela Pace

Bradley                                                                                  Tylar Benedetto

O.G. Howland / Tsauwiat                                              Michaela Pascuzzi

Seneca Howland / The Bishop                                    Lauren Veruto

Frank Goodman / Mr. Asa                                            Jessie Miller

Hall                                                                                          Gemini Zajac

Hawkins                                                                                Jaimee Harmon



General Information: (716) 645 – 2787
CFA Website: ubcfa.or
Department Website: