Press Releases

Georgetown University Theater & Performance Studies Program Presents Aphra Behn’s “The Rover” for a contemporary audience

Prof. Maya E. Roth adapts and directs this witty Restoration comedy by the first professional woman writer in English literature


WASHINGTON, DC — A new adaptation of English playwright Aphra Behn’s Restoration-era comedy The Rover, presented by the Georgetown University Theater & Performance Studies Program (TPST) March 26 – April 4 in the Davis Performing Arts Center’s Gonda Theatre, explores the proto-feminist work through a contemporary lens, and incorporates the playwright herself as a character. Prof. Maya E. Roth adapts and directs, weaving Behn—a fascinating figure who was the first professional woman writer in English literature and also a spy—into the production as a framing figure. Roth involved a team of students in dramaturgy and script edits.

Set in Italy at the time of Carnivale, “The Rover” blends a love story with intrigue, comedy, and  social critique. Exhilarating, witty, and filled with sexual misadventure and s/wordplay, “the play flows with laughter and theatrical vitality,” says The New York Times, and the London Evening Standard called it “off-the-leash mischief-making.” The work was wildly popular at the time of its premiere in 1677, but adapter and director Roth notes that the play is not often done now. “We hope to demystify it in the context of the #MeToo generation, using historical research as a touchstone.” 

The production stages a poetic world inspired by the Silk Road, emphasizing the cultural crossings inherent to the story. Culminating the GU Theater & Performance Studies Program’s 2019-20 season theme at the Davis Performing Arts Center, “Dreams of Crossing: Borders, Climates, Acts,” Roth sets this production of “The Rover” “not in Naples [as originally written] but in Venice, which as a major port city at the time reflected not only wealth, the Sea and distinct traditions of Carnevale, but also diverse influences from the Silk Road.” The adaptation also features non-traditional cross-gender casting to explore queerness and the breaking of gender binaries in the spirit of Behn’s own life and poems.

Roth strives to make the play come alive for a contemporary audience. “As adapter I have listened closely and reframed some language to help us better hear what is at play, from comedic tropes to wordplay….Seeking sexual freedom and license, the play has acute resonance with this generation’s reading of it.”

Noting the playwright’s significant influence on later generations of women writers and feminist critics, Roth says Behn is held up as a groundbreaking figure and a mystery, both. “Famous (and infamous enough) in her own time to merit burial in Westminster Abbey, albeit not in the Poet’s Corner, she fell into obscurity for more than two centuries.” She says, “In the early modernist era, British novelist and essayist Virginia Woolf wrote in A Room of One’s Own (1928): “All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn which is, most scandalously but rather appropriately, in Westminster Abbey, for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds.”  

The design team connects a team of professional DC artists with Georgetown’s Home Season: Costume Design by Kelsey Hunt, Scenic Design by Emily Lotz, Lighting Design by John Alexander, Sound Design by Justin Schmitz, Technical Direction by Bethany Taylor, Production Management by Alberto Segarra, Fight Choreography by Jon Ruben, mask design by Ryan Davis, and Props Design by Tommy Wang.

Showtimes include the following: 

Thursday, Friday and Saturday, March 26-28 at 8 p.m.

Sunday, March 29 at 2 p.m. 

Thursday, Friday and Saturday, April 2-4 at 8 p.m.

Tickets for Friday/Saturday evening are $18 general | $15 faculty, staff, alumni, senior | $10 student. For all other performances, tickets are $15 general | $12 faculty, staff, alumni, senior | $8 student. To order, visit or call 202-687-ARTS (2787) Monday-Friday 3-6 p.m.
Buy tickets for The Rover.

A truncated performance for middle schools will be held the morning of Friday, April 3. For more information, contact Vanessa Gilbert, Community Engagement and Development Manager for the GU Theater & Performance Studies Program/Davis Performing Arts Center, at (new window).

The Davis Performing Arts Center, Gonda Theatre is located on Georgetown University’s main campus at 37th and O Streets, NW, Washington, DC 20057.  

Georgetown University Theater & Performance Studies Program

Housed in the Davis Performing Arts Center, the Georgetown University Theater & Performance Studies Program features a nationally recognized faculty of leading scholar/artists and professional practitioners who offer a dynamic interdisciplinary major that emphasizes the interaction of artistic and analytic inquiry. The Program has rapidly attracted significant national attention for its distinctive curriculum, which integrates the political and international character of Georgetown, a commitment to social justice, and high-quality, cutting-edge production seasons, including world premieres. In 2012, Backstage selected the Program as one of the top five college theater programs outside of New York City. 

Media contact:

Laura Mertens | | 202-687-6933

Georgetown University Department of Performing Arts