New musical offerings headline Wirtz Center 2022-23 Mainstage season

The Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts at Northwestern University announces its 2022-2023 season filled with musicals, dramas and theater for young audiences by celebrated theater-makers.

“This season’s programming offers audiences both reimagined classics and compelling original stories,” said Tanya Palmer, assistant dean and executive artistic director for Northwestern’s School of Communication.

The season kicks off with Imagine U’s “Me… Jane: The Dreams and Adventures of Jane Goodall,” Oct. 22-Nov. 6 in the Josephine Louis Theater, directed by Northwestern Professor Rives Collins. Join young Jane Goodall and her special friend Jubilee as they learn about the world around them and the importance of protecting all living species.

During the show’s run, approximately 800 third-graders from Evanston/Skokie School District 65 will view the performance as part of a new partnership between Northwestern University and District 65 schools to bring live theater to community youth. For more than a decade, the Wirtz Center at Northwestern has presented Imagine U’s popular performance series created especially for families with young children.

“We are excited to highlight two Northwestern alumni this fall including director Jessica Fisch and playwright Sofya Levitsky-Weitz, who are returning to the Wirtz Center after establishing national careers in theater, television and film,” said Palmer.

“As You Like It” is a joyful new musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s famous play, directed by Fisch, an alum of the MFA directing program. This immersive dream-like tale of faithful friends, feuding families and lovers in disguise runs Nov. 11-20 in the Ethel M. Barber Theater.

“be mean to me,” a new play by Levitsky-Weitz, an alum of the MFA in writing program, will conclude the fall performance schedule Nov.18-20 in the Hal and Martha Hyer Wallis Theater. Northwestern assistant professor of theater Halena Kays directs this portrait of the power of friendship and the damage we can inflict on ourselves in the name of love, desire and ambition.

The Wirtz Center Flexpass is now available through Dec. 31, 2022, for $115, including six admissions to any 2022-23 Wirtz production or The Waa-Mu Show. Flexpasses may be redeemed for six tickets to one performance, two tickets to three performances, or any other combination during the 2022-23 season. Single tickets will go on sale Sept. 20.

The Wirtz Center box office is located in the lobby of the Ethel M. Barber Theater at 30 Arts Circle Drive on Northwestern’s Evanston campus. Box office hours are Tuesday through Friday from 10 am to 5 pm and Saturday from noon to 4 pm The box office is closed on Sunday and Monday.

For more information, visit the Wirtz Center website or call the box office at 847-491-7282.

The Wirtz Center has outlined guidelines related to COVID-19 for the safety of its student performers, staff and crew members, and patrons. Patrons are encouraged to check the website prior to visiting as the guidelines can change.

2022-2023 Wirtz Center Mainstage season:

Imagine U: “Me…Jane: The Dreams and Adventures of Young Jane Goodall”
Oct. 21-Nov. 6, 2022
Josephine Louis Theater

Imagine U’s “Me…Jane: The Dreams and Adventures of Young Jane Goodall” is adapted by Patrick McDonnell and Aaron Posner (C ’86) from McDonnell’s book and features music and lyrics by Andy Mitton. Northwestern theater professor Rives Collins directs. The production is recommended for audiences age five and up.

Before she became a renowned humanitarian, conservationist and animal activist, Dr. Jane Goodall was a little girl with a special toy chimpanzee named Jubilee. Together, Jane and Jubilee discover the miracles of nature on their shared outdoor adventures, and young Jane imagines spending the rest of her life helping animals in Africa. Later, she will do just that! In this musical adaptation, join young Jane and her special friend as they learn about the world around them and the importance of protecting all living species.

“Me…Jane” was commissioned by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and was first produced at the Kennedy Center during the 2017-18 season.

“As You Like It”
A musical adaptation of William Shakespeare’s “As You Like It”
Nov. 11-20, 2022
Ethel M. Barber Theater

“As You Like It” is an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s play by Shaina Taub and Laurie Woolery and features music and lyrics by Taub. The production is directed by Jessica Fisch (’15 MFA).

Named one of The New York Times’ “Best Shows of 2017,” this ravishing new musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s play is an immersive dream-like tale of faithful friends, feuding families and lovers in disguise. Forced from their homes, Orlando, Duke Senior, his daughter Rosalind and niece Celia are banned to the Forest of Arden, a fantastical place full of chance encounters and self-discovery where all are welcomed and embraced. Lost amidst the trees, the refugees find acceptance under the stars in this open-hearted celebration of the healing power of community.

“be mean to me”
Nov. 18-20, 2022
Hal and Martha Hyer Wallis Theater

“be mean to me” by playwright Sofya Levitsky-Weitz (’15 MFA), is directed by Halena Kays, assistant professor of theater at Northwestern.

At 17, Meril and Jean are best friends who can finish each other’s sentences. At 27 they are struggling to reconnect and make sense of their shared past. Moving fluidly across a decade of change, growth, divergent choices, immense love and deep hurt, the playwright paints a portrait of the power of friendship, and the damage we can inflict on ourselves in the name of love, desire and ambition.

“Blood Wedding”
Jan. 27-Feb. 5, 2023
Josephine Louis Theater

Federico Garcia Lorca’s tragedy “Blood Wedding” is translated by Caridad Svich and directed by MFA directing candidate Ismael Lara, Jr. (’22 MFA).

When a young bride-to-be receives a visit from a former paramour on her wedding day, a family blood feud threatens the celebration and sparks a deadly dance of love and deception, family and revenge, beauty and betrayal. This contemporary translation of Federico Garcia Lorca’s pulsing, lyrical “Blood Wedding” is a seductive tale of passion and vendetta set in the Spanish countryside, capturing the inevitable power of individual desire over the stifling demands of familial obligation.

Feb. 17-26, 2023
Ethel M. Barber Theater

Based on the short story “The Ugliest Pilgrim” by Doris Betts, “Violet” features music by American composer Jeanine Tesori (“Fun Home,” “Caroline, or Change,” “Shrek The Musical” and “Thoroughly Modern Millie”) and lyrics and book by Brian Crawley. Guest artist Mikael Burke directs.

As a girl, Violet was struck by a wayward axe blade when her father was chopping wood, leaving her with a visible scar across her face. With enough money finally saved, she’s traveling across the Deep South in 1964 towards a miracle — the healing touch of a TV evangelist who will make her beautiful. Along the way, a chance encounter with a young Black soldier forces Violet to confront the ugliness of racism and the possibility for true transformation and self-acceptance.

Imagine U: “The Snowy Day and Other Stories by Ezra Jack Keats”
Feb. 24-March 5, 2023
Hal and Martha Hyer Wallis Theater

Adapted for the stage by Jerome Hairston from the books by beloved author Ezra Jack Keats, Imagine U’s “The Snowy Day and Other Stories” is directed by Detra Payne, assistant professor of instruction in the theater department. The production is recommended for audiences age three and up.

The wonder of a fresh snowfall, the delight of whistling for the first time, being inclusive in one’s friendships, and the awe in finding a special treasure. These pleasures all come to life in “The Snowy Day and Other Stories by Ezra Jack Keats.” His books were among the first to use multiracial casts of characters, inspiring the newly launched TV series “Sesame Street.” Packed with humor and fun, this Caldecott Winner celebrates the joy in the small moments of a child’s world.

Danceworks 2023
March 3-5, 2023
Josephine Louis Theater

Northwestern will present its annual dance showcase featuring new works by acclaimed and nationally recognized guest choreographers and faculty.

April 21-30, 2023
Josephine Louis Theater

Pulitzer Prize winning-playwright Paula Vogel’s “Indecent” will be directed by ’23 MFA directing candidate Kelsey Leigh Ervi.

Inspired by the true events surrounding the controversial 1923 Broadway debut of Sholem Asch’s “God of Vengeance” — a play seen by some as a seminal work of Jewish culture and by others as an act of traitorous libel — “Indecent” charts the history of an incendiary drama and the path of the artists who risked their careers and lives to perform it.

The 92nd annual Waa-Mu Show
May 5-14, 2023
Cahn Auditorium

Produced, written, composed, orchestrated and performed entirely by students, The Waa-Mu Show provides undergraduates with an unparalleled education in new musical theater development.

Northwestern’s oldest theatrical tradition, each year more than 100 students participate in creating an original musical that inspires audiences, challenges the artists involved and engages the surrounding communities.

May 19-28, 2023
Ethel M. Barber Theater

A finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize, “Everybody” by Brandon Jacob-Jenkins will be directed by ’23 MFA directing candidate Katie Lupica.

This modern riff on the 15th-century morality play “Everyman” follows Everybody (one member of the cast is chosen by lottery at each performance) as they journey through life’s greatest mystery — the meaning of what it is to be alive — and why it must come to an end.

“Unlike anything you might have seen…unusual, unconventional and eye-opening,” says the Huffington Post of the play. “It is not only provocative and involving, it is also funny. Wildly funny, in fact.”

The Wirtz Center is a member of the Northwestern Arts Circle, which brings together film, humanities, literary arts, music, theater, dance and visual arts.

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