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Trial of the 20th Century Brought to Northwestern Stage

John Logan’s “Never the Sinner” at Louis Theater Oct. 14 to 23

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October 7, 2011 | by Judy Moore

EVANSTON, Ill. --- On the heels of “Red,” John Logan’s six-time Tony Award-winning bio-drama about painter Mark Rothko, Logan will be the guest of honor Oct. 14 at a reception at Northwestern University two hours before the opening night performance of his first play, “Never the Sinner.”

As a School of Communication alumnus and 2011 Hope Abelson Artist-in-Residence at Northwestern, John Logan will launch the 2011-12 Mainstage season at the Theatre and Interpretation Center (TIC) at Northwestern University. “Never the Sinner” will be staged from Oct. 14 to 23 at the Josephine Louis Theater, 20 Arts Circle Drive, on Northwestern’s Evanston campus. Performances are at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. 

Directed by founding Victory Gardens Theater Artistic Director Dennis Zacek, “Never the Sinner” recreates the 1924 “trial of the century,” in which renowned attorney Clarence Darrow defended Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, who confessed to the kidnapping and murder of a 14-year-old Chicago boy in their attempt to perform the perfect crime. The trial captivated the nation, and the self-described Nietzschean supermen pled guilty, but claimed they themselves were victims of a flawed system.

Audience members also will have the opportunity to attend an Oct. 14 pre-show discussion featuring School of Law faculty who will examine the 1924 Leopold and Loeb trial and a post-show talkback featuring Logan.

Zacek, who played the role of Clarence Darrow in the 1995 Victory Gardens production, says the TIC production has been revised by Logan and is “a leaner and meaner version” than the one he appeared in. “The version we are presenting has never been done before, as John has continued to work on it,” said Zacek. “It took him a while to figure out what he could eliminate successfully.”

Appearing with Northwestern students will be Northwestern theatre faculty member and Goodman Theatre Resident Artistic Associate Henry Godinez as Cook County State’s Attorney Robert Crowe and acclaimed Chicago actor and former Milwaukee Repertory ensemble member Torrey Hanson as Darrow. The eight-person cast of Logan’s gripping drama asks audiences and the drama’s jurors alike if Leopold and Loeb are heartless murderers or much like all of us? 

In addition to the Oct. 14 to 23 ticketed performances, the special events include:

• A 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 14 reception honoring Logan that will take place at the Louis Theater will be followed by the 8 p.m. opening night performance and a post-show discussion led by Logan in the Louis Theater. These events are hosted by the Northwestern University School of Communications and the Abelson Artist-in-Residence program. Admission is free for both events, but reservations for the pre-show reception are recommended. 

• A 6:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 14 pre-show panel discussion for opening night audiences at the Ethel M. Barber Theater, 30 Arts Circle Drive, will examine the actual 1924 Leopold and Loeb case. The program will be hosted by faculty from the Northwestern School of Law. Admission is free and open to the public.

• Post-show discussions with the cast and creative team members will follow the 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 16, and 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 20, Louis Theater performances. An additional 12:30 pre-show discussion with Northwestern law faculty members will precede the 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct 16 performance. All discussions are free and open to the public.

The production is sponsored by a generous grant from the Alumnae of Northwestern. This program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.

Single tickets are $10 to $25; tickets for groups of eight or more are $8 to $22 each; $5 tickets are available exclusively to Northwestern students with valid IDs on advance ticket purchases only. Tickets may be purchased through the TIC Box Office at (847) 491-7282 or www.tic.northwestern.edu. Reservations for the opening night pre-show reception may be made at tic@northwestern.edu.