Men On Boats

Men on Boats

Ten explorers. Four boats. One Grand Canyon. Men On Boats is the true(ish) history of John Wesley Powell’s 1869 expedition, when the one-armed captain and a crew of insane yet loyal volunteers set out to chart the course of the Colorado River. Using convention made familiar in Broadway blockbuster Hamilton, this thrilling and comical new play helps modern audiences envision Powell’s historic trip using 19th-century customs but 21st–century language. And one more thing that helps us understand these men out of their comfort zone… all the men are portrayed by women, in a gently exaggerated style that both highlights and mocks the clichés of the hero adventurer archetype. Join us for a wild ride down the uncharted rivers! Written by Jaclyn Backhaus.

Rated PG13

A thrilling, gender-flipped slice of manifest destiny.” – TIME OUT NEW YORK

Off-the-canyon-walls funny. Paddle or portage your own boat to the theater–but get there!”


Sponsored by Lanier Center Ramada
Opening Night Reception catered by All Catered Events



7:30pm, Feb 15, 17, 19-23, 2019
2:30pm, Feb 16 & 23, 2019

Special Events

Free Stage Tour (a peek behind the scenes!) – at the Lake Lanier Olympic Boat House (!!), 3105 Clarks Bridge Road, Gainesville, Jan 31, 2019 at 6:00pm

Preview Performance: $10 tickets! (Preview tickets go on sale Jan 28, 2019)
Feb 14, 2019 at 7:30pm

Free Opening Night Reception: In the lobby following the performance with the cast and crew, catered by ACE Catering,  Feb 15, 2019

Talk Back with Cast & Crew: a lively (and free) Q&A session following the performance on Tuesday, Feb 19, 2019


UNG-Gainesville’s Ed Cabell Theatre, 3820 Mundy Mill Rd., Oakwood, GA 30566

BUY Tickets

Ticket Information

Tickets are $18/$20 for adults, $16-18 for seniors and $12/$14 for students*. You can click the link below to choose your own seats and print your own tickets – or call the Box Office at 678.717.3624. The Box Office can also make arrangements for ADA seating or, if you have a group of 12 or more, a group discount of 20% off — making a night of live theatre a great option for friends and family.

Children in the Theatre: We love children, we HAVE children… (and of course we have BEEN children). Still, we recognize that not all children love theatre – yet. Out of respect for other patrons’ theatre experiences, all patrons must be ticketed and over the age of 5. Parents should also be sure to check performance ratings in making decisions about bringing children to the theatre.

*UNG and BU faculty/staff/students must contact the Box Office for specially discounted tickets.

Create your own package!

Purchase tickets to this production AND to one other production at the same time and you’ll get an automatic 10% discount; 3 to 4 shows will receive a 15% discount, and 5 shows or more gets an automatic 20% off. Discounts will be shown (with your savings) in the payment screen.*UNG and BU faculty/staff/students must contact the Box Office for specially discounted tickets.

Artist Spotlight

Guest Costume Designer Cole Spiivia  – Click HERE to see a Q&A with Cole and some of her research!

Guest Lighting Designer Evan Freeman

GTA Resident Designer (UNG) Larry Cook (Scenic Design) – Click HERE to see a Q&A with Larry

Q&A with GTA Resident Director (UNG) Elisa Carlson (Director)Elisa Carlson

What do you consider to be this production’s biggest challenge?

There are a series of sequences in the play involving the characters running rapids on the Colorado river, in row boats.  Making these seem and feel real to the audience, just by the use of actors, lighting, sound and a few props, will be our biggest hurdle.

What about this production excites you the most?

Working with a company of outstanding all-women actors, and figuring out how to make the boat sequences work!  I’m also thrilled to have Kyle Cantrell creating music and playing live for the production.  It’s a hilarious, high-spirited play and we have had a wonderful time working on it so far.

Why is this play written with an all-female cast?*

The playwright loved the story and wanted to make it accessible for women to tell, too.  Adventure stories often sideline women and this play puts them front and center.

Why is it so important that modern audiences learn about the Powell expedition?

At the time, it must have seen simply insane to try it.  Imagine running rapids down uncharted rivers in 1869, in row boats, through four states, including the whole of the Grand Canyon.  It’s an astonishing accomplishment.  These were hearty, accomplished soldiers and frontiersmen (for the most part) but none of them had ever run a rapid before.  They shouldn’t have been able to make it through, yet most did.

 Why have you decided to include live music in the show?   

Live music helps the audience feel immersed in the world of the play.

* Playwright Jacklyn Backhaus’s explanation for how the play is written (from The Theatre Times website):

At first glance, the cast of Men On Boats doesn’t appear to match the title. While the historical figures in the play were indeed cisgender Anglo males, the cast is entirely comprised of actors who are anything but cisgender Anglo males. Women play all the roles. It’s not done in a campy way; rather, it is done as a way to add a fresh lens to the often male-centered world of expeditions. According to Backhaus, “It’s interesting for me to take that idea of male conquest, give it to someone who usually doesn’t have that right, and put that into the roles themselves. It begs the question of what histories are we lacking.” Backhaus questioned why she could write a play about an all-male expedition team, but not be in the show. From here, the theatrical framework of the play began to take shape. Men On Boats poses the questions: What histories are we lacking when history is only told by straight white men? And, what new perspectives do the historical and dramatized expeditions take on when the story is told in this way?

Not unlike the mega-hit Hamilton which re-imagines the Founding Fathers as people of color, Men On Boats offers a new perspective on a time period when women weren’t given the same opportunities as men. And, to Backhaus’ credit, the fact that women play the roles is never an issue or a punch line. By and large, Men On Boats doesn’t address the elephant in the room and, to me, this allows it to go further. All in all, the production speaks to struggles and situations that span people of all identity markers.


Check back to see what patrons are saying about this comedy adventure!