skip navigation

UB Theatre and Dance presents Men on Boats by Jaclyn Backhaus

Part of the 2017 – 18 Department of Theatre & Dance: Season of Innovation
Get tickets now.

September 10, 2017 – Buffalo, NY – UB Theatre and Dance will present Men on Boats by Jaclyn Backhaus this October, directed by Eero Laine. This play chronicles the 1869 expedition to chart the Green River and Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, lead by John Wesley Powell. The play comically highlights the American mythos of western “exploration.” Through clever satire and contemporary style 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 historic 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 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.

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 historic 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:
Department Website: