Petersen-Penned Play Debuts at Villanova

By Ryan Hiemenz '23 | March 1, 2023
Poster of Chrysalis play

On Thursday, Feb. 16, “Chrysalis,” a play written by Kathryn Petersen, co-director of Arcadia University’s Theater program, debuted at the Court Theatre at Villanova University. Petersen, an associate professor of Theater at Arcadia, was invited to join a playwriting residency with Villanova Theatre in 2019. She had been planning and researching the story of “Chrysalis” for 15 years and saw this as a great opportunity to workshop the play. Now, after delays caused by COVID, her play has been performed publicly for the first time. Performances wrapped on Feb. 26.

“Chrysalis” explores the metamorphosis of Maria Sybilla Merian, a 17th-century illustrator and naturalist, and her teenage daughter, Dorothea, as they redraw the lines of their personal and professional relationship. Determined to be taken seriously for her scientific discoveries in a male-dominated field, Maria embarks on a risky investigation that ultimately challenges how well she and her daughter know themselves and each other.

To move her play from paper to a full stage production, Petersen worked closely with the director, Edward Sobel, an associate professor in the Theater department at Villanova. In an interview with The Villanovan Petersen notes, “For a playwright, a first production is so important because you go from two dimensions to three, but you also realize that this is only one interpretation of your play, and another director and another set of designers and actors might interpret it differently.” 

Petersen is a member of the Dramatist’s Guild and has had eleven plays produced and two published. As a professional actress herself, Petersen is also a member of the Actor’s Equity Association and has appeared in over 70 productions.