Mercer Theatre presents the comic adventure ‘Men on Boats’

Actors rehearse a play holding string
The cast rehearses for the play "Men on Boats." Photo courtesy of Frani Rollins

MACON – Mercer Theatre presents “Men on Boats” by Jaclyn Backhaus to the public Feb. 15-18 and 22-25.

The play is described as the “true(ish) history” of the 1869 expedition to the Grand Canyon led by John Wesley Powell. The one-armed captain and a crew of insane, yet loyal, volunteers set out to chart the course of the Colorado River. The twist? In Backhaus’ version, the explorers are all played by women in a commentary on gender norms and masculinity.

The result, based directly on Powell’s journals to create the script, was called a “rollicking history pageant” by the New York Times upon the production’s premiere. 

“History gets brought to life in a whole new way” because of the all-female cast, noted Frani Rollins, associate professor and program director for Mercer Theatre. “This is a fun, energetic and groundbreaking adventure.”

Rollins believes the collaboration between the team putting on the play at Mercer makes it worth a watch. “The designers, performers and management teams are incredible, and the show promises to be a thrilling exploration of one very cool historic journey,” she said.

Student Tori Kershaw is stage managing the production. As a student participating in a Mercer Theatre show, her experience has been that, “‘Men on Boats’ has been such a fun rehearsal process because of the freedom our director has given the actors to incorporate their personalities into each character.” 

Kershaw is excited for audiences to see how it all comes together. “Although we’re no Grand Canyon, the staging of the show has become quite the feat,” she said.

Tickets are available for each show at via Mercer Ticket Sales. Regular admission is $15 and $10 for Mercer-affiliated students, faculty and staff.

The final show in the Mercer Theatre season will be the drama “Rabbit Hole” in April 2024, a play that delves into the deep emotions of one couple who experiences a life-shattering accident. To find out about how to get involved, contact Frani Rollins at