Auditions for Men on Boats

The play: MEN ON BOATS by Jaclyn Backhaus

Directed by Jeremy Duncan Pape

  • Audition Dates:
    • Sunday, November 17, 2019, 6-9 pm
    • Monday, November 18, 2019, 6-10 pm
    • Callbacks: Nov. 21 
  • Performance Dates: March 6 – March 28, Founders Theater
  • Rehearsals Begin: Thursday, January 2


In 1869, ten explorers set off to chart the Green and Colorado Rivers, under the guidance of John Wesley Powell, a one-armed, Civil War veteran and personal friend of President Grant; a government-sanctioned journey following in the footsteps of the deserters, lone adventurers, and countless indigenous people who have previously braved the wild rapids leading through Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico, and through the most dangerous waterway of all: the Grand Canyon.

Along the way they make friends, they get on each others’ nerves, they suffer loss of boat and supplies, they doubt, struggle, name mountains after themselves, they posture and pretend, they quit while they’re ahead, and they repeatedly brave dangerous rapids to reach the other side. As boats capsize and supplies are lost, as belts tighten and nerves fray, the company draws together as a band of brothers, even as three members fear the outcome of the final waterfalls and make the fateful decision to leave before the end.

In Men On Boats, Jaclyn Backhaus’ original, hilarious, and delightful adventure dramedy, the conquering men out to chronicle the land in service of America, God, and Manifest Destiny, are given voice and movement by actors who are anything and everything but cis males, and the bravery, determination, foolishness, humanity, and true grit of the historical explorers is memorialized, while the historical moment of their journey is viewed with a critical lens.

Cast Breakdown:

We plan to adhere to the playwright’s wishes for this play, which are as follows:
“The characters in Men On Boats were historically cisgender white males. The cast should be made up entirely of people who are not. I’m talking about racially diverse actors who are female-identifying, trans-identifying, gender-fluid, and/or non-gender-conforming.” – Jaclyn Backhaus

JOHN WESLEY POWELL The Leader of the expedition. A one-armed crazy-face with a fiery temper and an excitable soul. Powell hates suits and loves adventure.

WILLIAM DUNN A hunter. A trapper. An innovator. Dunn wears beaver skin always.

JOHN COLTON SUMNER Widely known to be the Bear Grylls of the 1860’s. Sumner went snowshoeing through the Rocky Mountains in winter because “no one had done it yet.” Obviously, he survived.

OLD SHADY Powell’s older brother and the oldest crew member on the mission. He does not like people.

BRADLEY The youngest member of the expedition. Genuinely loves people.

O.G. HOWLAND Doesn’t have any friends. Tobacco addled. Is the older brother of…

SENECA HOWLAND Is not OG’s twin. Also a smoker. These brothers are pretty calm.

FRANK GOODMAN A red-faced British man quite thrilled to be in the American West, though he is made more for the howling gales and the lost winds than for the sun and heat.

HALL Makes the maps. Packs light. Doesn’t have time for this.

HAWKINS Can make eggs in all styles. Does the inventory. Has his theories.

TSAUWIAT Chief of the Utes. Composed and wry in sharp contrast to the explorers.

THE BISHOP Wife of the chief and equally contrasting to the explorers. Her opinion hangs in the air, potent.

MR. ASA A strange man in a nifty hat. He is perhaps an angel of comfort, or a fever dream. After all, isn’t this story all because of him?