MEN ON BOATS arrives in the contemporary theater company from this week

Ten explorers, four boats, and one mission: to map the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. In 1869 Major John Wesley Powell and his team embarked on an adventure, and now in 2022, you can see him on stage at Men on Boats by Jaclyn Backhaus at The Contemporary Theater Company in Wakefield from August 12 to September 10.

Based on Powell’s diary chronicling the voyage, Backhaus’ play follows the real Powell expedition with some unique twists. In the script, Backhaus writes, “The characters in Men on Boats were historically white cisgender men. The cast should be made up entirely of people who aren’t.”

“It’s a chance to see the reshaping of a historic event right before your eyes,” says Olivia Merritt, who plays Seneca Howland on the show.

In Men on Boats, we see this group of adventurers on harrowing journeys through the rapids and around the campfire bickering over who has taken more than their fair share of tobacco.

“We see their feelings for each other on land and how that changes as they fight for their lives on the river,” says director Maggie Cady.

Although the show is set in the 1860s, it uses modern language, which makes it lively and relevant to the present.

“With a mix of very physical scenes in the water and character scenes on land, the show keeps you engaged and interested at every turn,” says Cady.

The cast of the show includes Sofia DaSilva, Paula Glen, Autumn Jefferson, Rebecca MagnottaOlivia Merritt, Tina Moore, Carson Pavao, Reed Reed, MJ Santry and Katie Westgate.

The show will take place inside the Contemporary Theater Company theater at 327 Main Street in Wakefield. The theater is air-conditioned with a full bar with local beer, wine, spirits, sodas, and specialty cocktails.

The show has previews from August 12 to 13 and runs from August 19 to September 10.

More information about the show and tickets can be found on the theater’s website at or by calling the box office at 401-218-0282.

Earnest A. Martinez