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Genius of Steve Jobs is Examined Onstage

Free play takes audience to China, shines a light on human cost of technology

EVANSTON, Ill. --- “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” a play detailing how the former Apple CEO’s passions and obsessions changed the world, will run from Sept. 27 to Oct. 20 at Northwestern University.

The play marks the sixth season of ETOPiA: Engineering Transdisciplinary Outreach Project in the Arts, an outreach initiative that seeks to inspire cross-disciplinary dialogue about the role of science and technology in society.

It is free and open to the public with advance reservations strongly recommended.

Performances will take place in a classroom in the heart of the Technological Institute, where engineering and science students spend many of their waking hours in lecture halls and labs. Each performance will include a post-show discussion led by Northwestern faculty and students.

A harrowing tale of pride, beauty, lust and industrial design, “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” illuminates how Jobs and his obsessions have shaped our lives. The play takes the audience all the way China to investigate the factories where workers toil to make smartphones, shining a light on our love affair with devices and the human cost of creating them.

“This play is a riveting exposé of the sometimes quirky, sometimes shocking secrets behind Steve Jobs’ genius and the legacy of industrial innovation that he left behind,” said Matthew Grayson, producer of the annual ETOPiA event and associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science.


“The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” written by Mike Daisey, will feature Lance Baker, a Joseph Jefferson Award-winning Chicago actor who has appeared onstage at the Goodman Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Theater Wit and others.

The ETOPiA production is a remount of the 16th Street Theater’s production, in which Baker starred in February.

“An exemplary, hysterical, coyly mobilizing work of theater,” wrote New City’s Johnny Oleksinski of the 16th Street Theater production. “It’s one virus worth spreading.”

“If any audience members leave without thinking differently about the devices in our pockets, they weren’t listening honestly,” wrote Kris Vire of Time Out.

Performances will be held at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays in room L361 of the Technological Institute, 2145 Sheridan Road, on Northwestern’s Evanston campus. 

For reservations and more information, go to ETOPiA's website.

-Sarah Ostman, editor/writer at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, is the author of this story.

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