EVANSTON, Ill. --- The 34th Mainstage season of plays and musicals at the Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts at Northwestern University features award-winning directors and playwrights, acclaimed alumnae and faculty, groundbreaking plays and musicals and The Waa-Mu Show. The season reflects on the evolving definitions of family and community and invites audiences to embrace the circumstances that unite and strengthen us.
The 2014/15 season will begin in October with “The Laramie Project,” a sobering account of modern-day prejudice and intolerance, directed by Northwestern faculty member Rives Collins. In November, Northwestern faculty emeritus Dominic Missimi directs “Little Women: The Musical,” based on Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel of personal discovery, tragedy and hope, adapted by Allan Knee.
The winter months bring sharp social satire to the Wirtz Center as Northwestern MFA directing candidate Jerrell L. Henderson directs Lynn Nottage’s quick-witted “Fabulation, or the Re-Education of Undine,” the story of a once successful business woman fighting her way out of social ruin and trying to reunite with her family along the way.
In February, the day before Valentine’s Day, will be Andrew Lippa’s “Wild Party,” a raucous and steamy prohibition tale of loosened inhibitions, burning jealousy and a fateful gunshot. The director of "Wild Party" will soon be announced. To close out the winter, Northwestern’s dance lecturer, Jeff Hancock, will provide artistic direction to “Danceworks 2015: Ties that Bind,” a full evening of cutting-edge dance that explores the connectivity of families and communities through a variety of unique and entertaining dance vocabularies.
The Wirtz Center’s spring season spans more than a century, beginning with Northwestern MFA directing candidate Aaron Snook directing Frank Galati’s adaption of John Steinbeck’s Depression-era classic, “The Grapes of Wrath,” a deeply moving testament to the strength of community and family.
Spring also will mark the 84th annual production of The Waa-Mu Show, following the success of last season’s “Double Feature at Hollywood and Vine” The Waa-Mu Show is a beloved Northwestern theatre tradition that continues to place itself at the forefront of new musical theatre writing, living up to its name as the “greatest college show in America” (Associated Press).
Finally, to close out the season, Northwestern MFA directing candidate Lauren Shouse directs Sarah Ruhl’s electrifying comedy “In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play,” a deliberate investigation of relationships, intimacy and what it means to seek connection.
Productions in the 2014/15 season will be held, as noted, in venues on the University’s Evanston campus: the Josephine Louis Theater, 20 Arts Circle Drive; Ethel M. Barber Theater, 30 Arts Circle Drive; Cahn Auditorium, 600 Emerson Drive; or Hal and Martha Hyer Wallis Theater, 1949 Campus Drive.
Subscriptions are now available for sale. The seven-play subscription for $28 to $148 represents a 20 percent savings off single-ticket prices. Except as otherwise noted, tickets and subscriptions can be purchased through the Wirtz Center box office at (847) 491-7282 or online.
The 2014/15 single-ticket prices are listed below; single tickets for all seven mainstage productions will go on sale Sept. 16.
“The Laramie Project” by Moises Kaufman and the Members of the Tectonic Theatre Project, directed by Rives Collins, Oct. 24 to Nov. 2, at the Ethel M. Barber Theater. Beginning in 1998, members of the Tectonic Theater Project made six trips to Laramie, Wyoming, over the course of a year and a half in the aftermath of the beating of Matthew Shepard and during the trial of the two young men accused of killing him. During the visits, they conducted more than 200 interviews with the people of the small Western town, some directly connected to the case. Named by Time magazine as "one of the 10 best plays of the year,” the breadth of the community’s reactions to the crime is crafted into a fascinating theatrical collage that explores the depths to which humanity can sink and the heights of compassion of which we are capable. Led by Northwestern University faculty member Rives Collins (“The Hundred Dresses,” “The Bluest Eye”), a new generation of actors brings to life a living mosaic of one community’s response to a tragedy that became a catalyst of cultural and social change in America.
“Little Women: The Musical,” book by Allan Knee, lyrics by Mindi Dickstein and music by Jason Howland, based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott, directed by Dominic Missimi, Nov. 7 to 23, at the Josephine Louis Theater. With her father away at war, the indomitable Jo March tucks herself away in the attic and begins writing a joyful and heartbreaking coming-of-age story while drawing inspiration from her colorful family, including her loving mother and three memorable sisters. Directed by Northwestern faculty emeritus Dominic Missimi (The Waa Mu Show, “Rent”), Alcott’s famous novel is reimagined in this lush musical featuring a powerful score soaring with the sounds of personal discovery, tragedy and hope -- the sounds of a young America finding its voice and one family’s astonishing journey to love and acceptance.
“Fabulation, or the Re-Education of Undine” by Lynn Nottage, directed by Jerrell L. Henderson, Jan. 30 to Feb. 8, at the Josephine Louis Theater. Undine is a quick-witted, sharp-tongued and incredibly successful businesswoman who rules every aspect of her world in downtown Manhattan. That is until her “perfect” husband suddenly disappears, running off with all of her money. Now pregnant and on the brink of social and financial ruin, she must return to her childhood home in Brooklyn and cope with the crude new reality of transforming her setbacks into small victories, all the while trying to reconnect to a family she has purposefully forgotten in pursuit of her own ambitious rise to self-perceived glory. This social satire, written by Lynn Nottage, is a classic comeuppance tale with a devilishly comic twist described by Variety as “clever and consistently entertaining.”
“Wild Party,” music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa, directed and choreographed by Matt Raftery, Feb. 13 to Mar. 1, at the Ethel M. Barber Theater. Lovers Queenie and Burrs decide to throw the party to end all parties in their Manhattan apartment. After the colorful arrival of a slew of guests living life on the edge, Queenie's wandering eyes land on a striking man named Black. As the decadent party reaches a climax, so does Burrs' jealousy which sends him into a violent rage. Gun in hand and inhibitions abandoned, Burrs turns on Queenie and Black. The gun is fired, but who's been shot? Andrew Lippa's raucous musical is a steamy prohibition tale steamrolling and roaring its way across the stage with direction and choreography from Matt Raftery (“All Shook Up,” Marriott Theatre’s “Guys & Dolls”).
“Danceworks 2015: Ties that Bind,” artistic director Jeff Hancock, Feb. 27 to Mar. 8, at the Josephine Louis Theater. “Ties that Bind”will create a full evening of cutting-edge dance that explores the connectivity of families and communities through a variety of unique and entertaining dance vocabularies, including contact improvisation, dance theatre, West African, modern, jazz, and salsa. Choreographers Kevin Durnbaugh, Jeff Hancock, Darrell Jones, Amanda Lower, Sophia Rafiqi, Amy Swanson and Joel Valentin-Martinez each will share their individual viewpoints on the powers of social unity and deconstruction using personal narratives as well as shared experiences from within their own community and drawing on a variety of themes including culture, gender, pride and tradition.
“The Grapes of Wrath” by Frank Galati, based on the novel by John Steinbeck, directed by Aaron Snook, April 4 to May 3, at the Ethel M. Barber Theater. Reduced to poverty by the loss of their Oklahoma farm during the Dust Bowl, the Joad family piles their few possessions into a battered old truck and heads west for California, hoping to find work and a better life. Led by the willful Ma Joad and her volatile young son Tom, the entire family encounters an epic journey, testing their resilience and calling on the strength in a community that is innately American. John Steinbeck’s classic novel comes to breathtaking life through song, movement and gritty portrayals in a theatrical adventure that is a soaring and deeply moving affirmation of the essential goodness that is the foundation of the American spirit and family.
“In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play” by Sarah Ruhl, directed by Lauren Shouse, May 15 to 24, at the Josephine Louis Theater. In a seemingly perfect, well-to-do Victorian home, proper gentleman and scientist Dr. Givings has innocently invented an extraordinary new device for treating "hysteria" in women: the vibrator. Adjacent to the doctor's laboratory, his young and energetic wife tries to tend to their newborn daughter -- and wonders exactly what is going on in the next room. When a new "hysterical" patient and her husband bring a wet nurse and their own complicated relationship into the doctor's home, Dr. and Mrs. Givings must examine the nature of their own marriage and how the doctor’s radical new therapy affects the entire household. This electrifying comedy questions the nature of relationships and intimacy and what it really means to seek connection.
The 2015 Waa-Mu Show, May 1 to 10, at Cahn Auditorium. Explore this year’s show through the exceptional student-written and student-orchestrated music and stunning performances that have earned Waa-Mu recognition as “the greatest college show in America.” Single tickets are $10 to $30 and will go on sale later this fall through the Wirtz Center box office. Subscribers may purchase tickets now with their season ticket order.
The Wirtz Center box office: http://www.communication.northwestern.edu/tic/season.php