Performance Programs

Performance Programs > 2023-24 Season >  Theatre & Drama

Arbor Falls

written by Caridad Svich

Department of Theatre & Drama
February 15 – 18, 2024 • The Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre

In a small town called Arbor Falls, a preacher wrestles with their faith as they try to hold onto the last vestiges of a church with barely a congregation to call its own. The sharp divide between the preacher and the residents of Arbor Falls splinters further when a strange traveler arrives in town, exposing the conflicting values of each side. 

Arbor Falls premiered at Illinois State University in 2022.

FUN FACTS: Arbor Falls is part of Svich’s American Psalm seven-play cycle that began with Red Bike. Arbor Falls was a finalist for the 2020 American Blues Theater Blue Ink Playwriting Award and for the 2019 National Playwrights Conference (O’Neill Theater Center).

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Creative Team

Dr. Tiffany Trent

Assistant Director
Kate Ivanov

Scenic Designer
Sophia Chen

Costume Designer
Sarah M. Oliver

Lighting Designer
William Webster

Sound Designer
Henry Reynolds

Shavonne Coleman

Resident Intimacy Choreographer and Cultural Consultant
Raja Benz

Hair and Makeup Designer
Brittany Crinson

Voice Coach
Jeremy Sortore

Music Director
Tyler Driskill

Fight Director
Emilia Vizachero

Production Stage Manager
Charlotte “Lottie” Stallings

‡ SMTD Student

+ SMTD Guest Artist

Assistants to the Creative Team

Assistant Lighting Designer
Gabriela Ribeiro Znamensky

Assistant Dramaturgs
Brooke Galsky, Grace Walton

Associate Sound Designers
Nicholas West, Clayton Wade

Assistant Voice Coach
Mary-Kate Sunshine Mahaney


Mackenzie Holley

Bella Detwiler

Tessie Morales

Nathan Goldberg

Zachary Gergel

Churchgoer 1
Hannah Long

Churchgoer 2
Schnadè Saintïl

Sophia Santos Ufkes

u/s Preacher
Mary-Kate Sunshine Mahaney

u/s Lover, Cheyenne, Traveler
Sophia Santos Ufkes

Production Crew

1st ASM  Eleanor Haas

2nd ASMs  Eliza Anker, Katy Dawson, Aspen Kinomoto, Tate Zeleznik

Shop Crews

Costumes  Sammer Ali, Katy Dawson, Maya Liu, Aspen Kinomoto, Esmay Pricejones, Kayti Sanchez, Ellie Van Engen, Maddie Vassalo, Summer Wasung, Emily Weddle & Theatre 250/252/262 students

Theatrical Lighting Shira Baker, Abi Farnsworth, Sydney Geysbeek, Ethan Hoffman, Elianna Kruskal, Brandon Malin, Megan Mondek, Christian Mulville, Gabriela Ribeiro Znamensky, Kathleen Stanton-Sharpless, William Webster, Andrew Wilson, Miles Zoellick & Theatre 250/252/262 students

Painting  Ellie Vice (Lead), Seri Stewart (Lead), Bella Rowlinson, Martha Sprout, Angela Wu, Amber Walters, Gilayah McIntosh, Lauren Streng, Ceri Roberts & Theatre 250/252/262 students

Props  Eliza Anker, Danielle Bekas, Andy Blatt, Madysen Casey, Aquila Ewald, Dallas Fadul, Audrey Hollenbaugh, Lucy Knas, Teresa Morales, Charlotte Stallings, Audrey Tieman, Banks Krause & Theatre 250/252/262 students

Scenery  Marium Asghar,  Anna Forberg, Miles Hionis, Hannah Kryzhan, Michael Russell, Sophia Severance, Lauren Streng, Eliza Vassalo, Nathaniel Steever, Robert Beckemeyer,& Theatre 250/252/262 students

Production Office  Justin Comini, Shelby Holloway, Esther Hwang

Running Crew

Light Board Operator  Naomi Rodridguez

Sound Operator  Jenny Rong

Deck Crew (scenery)  Eliza Vassalo

Deck Crew (props)  Hannah Kryzhan

Wardrobe Head  Matthew Eggers

Wardrobe Crew  Kayti Sanchez

Design & Production Faculty Advisors

Head of Design & Production  Christianne Myers

Stage Management  Nancy Uffner

Scenic Design  Jungah Han, Kevin Judge

Costume Design  Christianne Myers, Sarah M. Oliver

Lighting Design  Jess Fialko

Sound Design  Henry Reynolds

Staff Mentors

Laura Brinker, Brittany Crinson, Heather Hunter, Chad Hain, Richard W. Lindsay Jr., Beth Sandemaier

Department of Theatre & Drama


David Gier, Dean
Paul Boylan Collegiate Professor of Music

Department of
Theatre & Drama

Dr. Tiffany Trent

Department Manager/Artistic Administrator
Kathryn Pamula

Walgreen Events Manager
Nickie Smith

Performance and Studio Manager
Arie Shaw

Walgreen Office Coordinator

Tyler Brunsman

Christina Traister (Area Head), Halena Kays (Directing Advisor), Daniel Cantor (Acting Advisor), Raja Benz, Mark Colson, Antonio Disla, Jake Hooker, Holly Hughes, Tzveta Kassabova, Geoffrey Packard, Jeremy Sortore, Malcolm Tulip, Tiffany Trent

Christianne Myers (Area Head), Laura Brinker, Patrick Drone, Jess Fialko, Jungah Han, Kevin Judge, Richard W. Lindsay Jr., Sarah M. Oliver, Henry Reynolds, Nancy Uffner

Theatre Studies/Playwriting
Amy E. Hughes (Area Head), José Casas, Shavonne Coleman, Antonio Cuyler, Antonio Disla, Jenna Gerdsen, Jake Hooker, Petra Kuppers, Ashley Lucas, Mbala Nkanga, Jay Pension, Alexis Riley, Emilio Rodriguez, Karin Waidley

Arts Management
Michael Avitabile, Antonio Cuyler, Matthew Dear, Aaron Dworkin, Afa Dworkin, Ken Fischer, Gala Flagello, Andrew Kuster, Jonathan Kuuskoski, Kari Landry, Jay LeBoeuf, Robin Myrick, Jay Pension, Jesse Rosen, Omari Rush, Anna Sampson, Ari Solotoff

Scott Crandall, Holly Hughes, Tzveta Kassabova, Malcolm Tulip

Professors Emeriti
Alan Billings, Peter W. Ferran, Erik Fredricksen, Jessica Hahn, Philip Kerr, Priscilla Lindsay, Janet Maylie, Vincent Mountain, John Neville-Andrews, OyamO, Leigh Woods

University Productions Administrative Staff

Executive Director
Jeffrey Kuras

Sr Administrative Specialist
Christine Eccleston

Sr Administrative Assistant
Nathan Carrillo

Information Systems Manager
Henry Reynolds

Facilities Manager
Shannon Rice

Performance Halls
House Manager
Kelley Krahn

Lead Backstage Operations Manager
Dane Racicot

Senior Backstage Operations Manager
David Pickell

Backstage Operations Managers
Tiff Crutchfield, Alex Gay, Yvette Kashmer, Robbie Kozub

University Productions Production Staff

Production Manager

Paul Hunter

Assistant Production Manager

Michelle Williams-Elias

Lead Technical Director (Walgreen)

Richard W. Lindsay Jr.

Theatrical Scenery Manager (Power)

Chad Hain

Lead Scenic Carpenter

Devin Miller

Scenic Carpenter

Heather Udowitz

Charge Scenic Artist

Beth Sandmaier

Associate Theatrical Paint Manager

Madison Stinemetz

Theatrical Properties Manager

Patrick A. Drone

Associate Theatrical Properties Manager

Danielle Keys

Senior Properties Artisan

Dan Erickson

Properties Stock and Tech Coordinator

Kat Kreutz

Theatrical Lighting Manager

Heather Hunter

Associate Theatrical Lighting Manager

Jorrey Calvo

Sound Designer/Engineer

Henry Reynolds

Senior Costume Shop Manager

Laura Brinker

Assistant Costume Shop Manager

Leslie Ann Smith

Lead Cutter/Draper

Tj Williamson


Seth Gilbert, Sarah Havens


Rene Plante, Marcia Grace

Lead Costume Crafts Artisan

Elizabeth Gunderson

Costume Stock Manager

Theresa Hartman

Wardrobe Manager

Rossella Human

Visiting Theatrical Hair and Makeup Manager

Brittany Crinson


Arbor Falls is produced by special arrangement with the Playwright and Elaine Devlin Literary, Inc., 1115 Broadway, 121st floor, New York, NY 10010

The performers in this production were students in the Department of Theatre & Drama. The designers for this production were students, faculty, and/or guests of SMTD. Scenery, costumes, properties, sound, and lighting were realized by the students and staff of University Productions, the producing unit of the SMTD. Thank you for supporting our educational mission.

Caridad Svich (Playwright) received a 2012 OBIE Award for Lifetime Achievement in the theatre, a 2012 Edgerton Foundation New Play Award and NNPN rolling world premiere for Guapa, and the 2011 American Theatre Critics Association Primus Prize for her play The House of the Spirits, based on Isabel Allende’s novel. She has won the National Latino Playwriting Award (sponsored by Arizona Theatre Company) twice, including in the year 2013 for her play Spark. She has been short-listed for the PEN Award in Drama four times, including in the year 2012 for her play Magnificent Waste. Her works in English and Spanish have been seen at venues across the US and abroad.

She sustains a parallel career as a theatrical translator, chiefly of the dramatic work of Federico Garcia Lorca, as well as works by Calderon de la Barca, Lope de Vega, Julio Cortazar, Victor Rascon Banda, Antonio Buero Vallejo, and contemporary works from Mexico, Cuba, and Spain. She teaches creative writing and playwriting at Rutgers University – New Brunswick and Primary Stages’ Einhorn School of Performing Arts. She has taught playwriting at Bard, Barnard, Bennington, Denison, Ohio State, ScriptWorks, UCSD, and Yale School of Drama. Website:

Arbor Falls is an exploration of “…life, love, the mess of all things human” (p. 49). A part of the American Psalm seven-play cycle, it is a poignant unfolding of what we believe to understand of a small town with an even smaller population that bears the weight of its dwindling community. Is it battling the lack of sustainability for the life they know and love, or is the true battle that of the preacher’s wavering faith?

Caridad Svich was born in the United States, with her parents being of Cuban, Argentine, Spanish, and Croatian descent. Svich, with her nuanced storytelling, explores the intersection of spirituality, morality, and the unraveling fabric of a close-knit community. Not unlike many of the plays she’s written, this play explores the idea of wander and migration as well as belief systems and spiritual emotions. With the fluidity of practice in a spiritual place not cemented by traditional religion, we see the folks of Arbor Falls explore whether their reality or what remains behind from their ancestors flows on forever or is easily blown away by the next strong gust of wind. Caridad Svich wrote, in the article “Economic Precarity and Resiliency in Theatre: an American Psalm,” “As a child of immigrant, working-class parents, I am inevitably drawn perhaps to stories about the disenfranchised and disaffected in our political landscape.”

As the director, cast, and production team dug through the layers buried between the lines of the text, we found that there was much more to this piece than an invitation of critical reflection toward an ambiguous religion; it also playfully, poetically, and in some moments painfully teeters around ambiguity to get you to critique, identify with, or reflect on, at any given moment, your own beliefs around political, social, and religious understandings and doings, among many other human realities. Arbor Falls is not too different from Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Dexter, or even Detroit. We share this world with you because in each of our worlds, there are “… no answers for how we can all seek kindness,” only commit oneself to seeking and giving.

~Shavonne Coleman, dramaturg

I have always loved how theatre allows us to practice walking in other people’s shoes. When I read Caridad Svich, I encounter a storyteller who requires me to practice seeing other folks in my shoes. Instead of the familiar temporary immersion in someone else’s story while ultimately knowing that I reside as myself and in my sphere, this playwright demands a kind of Advanced Neighborliness through imagining someone else laying claim to stories that I think belong to me.

This script from Caridad Svich’s American Psalm play series challenges us to accept that characters’ stories may be true for myriad embodiments or representations or identities of actors if we will choose to face our histories, chronologies, intersections, and the ambiguities of our religious pluralism. For me, Arbor Falls reflects how our national narrative claims a faith foundation when it’s convenient, and then denies religious embeddedness when it’s inconvenient. Svich challenges us to wrestle with the difficulty of that extraction and undercurrent. Simultaneously, the play celebrates that we can choose community and care: most character names reflect their role and relationship; they are framed in terms of what they contribute to the greater good, framed by what they are able to share. In naming only Cheyenne, Svich anchors the question of what it means to share space.

The delightful and diligent student cast, faculty and student designers, and wider production team imagined and collaborated and mirrored together, collaging contemporary life with ancestral echoes such as Caridad Svich conjures in her poetry. Our playwright weaves a sense of global locality/local globalism that holds the tension of placing hospitality to the outsider alongside taking care of home. Always, she invites us to practice what is true.

~Dr. Tiffany Trent

Chair and Associate Professor, Department of Theatre & Drama