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SummerStage 2014 Offers Entertainment for the Entire Family

Summer events include “The Pirates of Penzance,” “The Hundred Dresses” and more

EVANSTON, Ill. --- SummerStage 2014 events range from an irreverent musical adaptation of a Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera to a return engagement of a popular Imagine U family production and a National Theatre Live broadcast of a classic Shakespeare tragedy.

Presented by Northwestern University’s Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts -- formerly known as the Theatre and Interpretation Center at Northwestern University -- the summer line-up includes stage productions for children and grown-ups, a live broadcast of a Broadway musical and a documentary about Tony- and Emmy Award-winning actress and singer Elaine Stritch. 

Events will include National Theatre Live broadcasts of Academy Award-winning director Sam Mendes’ “King Lear,” starring Simon Russell Beale in the title role on June 17; Alan Ayckbourn’s “A Small Family Business” on July 22; and Simon Stephen’s "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” on Aug. 5. Stage events will include The Johnny Mercer Foundation Songwriters Project -- “Songwriters in Concert” on June 28; an Imagine U Family Series encore run of “The Hundred Dresses” from July 10 to 27; and the return of Imagine U storyteller Rives Collins in “Kids Brave and True: An Evening of Songs and Stories” on July 22 and 26.

Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance,” directed and fight choreographed by Matt Hawkins, runs from July 18 to Aug. 2. Northwestern Professor Emeritus Dominic Missimi returns to Northwestern on July 21 to direct a one-night-only concert “The Steve Show: A Musical Revue,” featuring the songs of Stephen Sondheim, Stephen Schwartz and Stephen Flaherty, and an all-star Northwestern alumni cast. In addition, the Wirtz Center will screen the documentary “Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me” on Aug. 4 and a film screening of “Memphis,” the Broadway musical captured live in performance on July 29.

Single tickets and discounted tickets for groups of eight or more go on sale Wednesday, May 14, and can be purchased through the Wirtz Center Box Office at (847) 491-7282 or online at Wirtz Center.


The following SummerStage 2014 season events will be held in venues on the University’s Evanston campus, including the Josephine Louis Theater, 20 Arts Circle Drive; Ethel M. Barber Theater, 30 Arts Circle Drive; or the Hal and Martha Hyer Wallis Theater, 1949 Campus Drive, as noted. For more SummerStage 2014 information, visit


National Theatre Live (NT-Live) is sponsored by Aviva and supported with public funding by Arts Council England. The Wirtz Center’s NT Live broadcasts are sponsored by a generous grant from The Alumnae of Northwestern University. Single tickets are $10 to $20. Discounts are available for groups of eight or more.

• “King Lear,” 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 17, at the Josephine Louis Theater. Academy Award winner Sam Mendes (“James Bond: Skyfall,” “American Beauty”) returns to the National Theatre to direct Simon Russell Beale (“Timon of Athens,” “Collaborators”) as King Lear. An aged king decides to divide his kingdom between his three daughters, according to which of them is most eloquent in praising him. His favorite, Cordelia, says nothing. Lear’s world descends into chaos.

• “A Small Family Business,” 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 22, at the Ethel M. Barber Theater. A riotous exposure of entrepreneurial greed by Olivier Award-winning playwright Alan Ayckbourn  (“Bedroom Farce,” “A Chorus of Disapproval”). “A Small Family Business” returns to the National Theatre for the first time since its 1987 premiere. Jack McCracken is a man of principle in a corrupt world. But not for long. Moments after taking over his father-in-law’s business, he’s approached by a private detective armed with some compromising information. Jack’s integrity fades away as he discovers his extended family to be thieves and adulterers, looting the business from their suburban homes. Rampant self-interest takes over and comic hysteria builds to a macabre climax.

• “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” (Encore), 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 5, at the Ethel M. Barber Theater. Based on the acclaimed novel by Mark Haddon, adapted by Simon Stephens and directed by Marianne Elliott, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” was hailed by The London Times as ‘a phenomenal combination of storytelling and spectacle,’” winning seven Olivier Awards in 2013, including Best New Play. Fifteen-year-old Christopher has an extraordinary brain -- he’s exceptional at math while ill equipped to interpret everyday life. When he falls under suspicion of killing his neighbor’s dog, he records each fact about the event in the book he is writing to solve the murder mystery. His detective work takes him on a frightening journey that upturns his world.


• The Johnny Mercer Foundation Songwriters Project -- “Songwriters In Concert,” 8 p.m. Saturday, June 28, at the Josephine Louis Theater. This one-night-only concert will feature the new work of emerging songwriters from around the world in genres from pop and folk to music theatre and country. Single tickets are $10 to $30. For more on the Mercer Project, visit them online


Northwestern’s Imagine U hourlong productions are designed to give children aged 6 to 10 and the “big people” in their lives an insider’s look at the magical world of theatre.

• Imagine U Family Series presents “The Hundred Dresses,” by Ralph Covert and G. Wiley Mills and based on the book of the same name by Eleanor Estes, directed by Rives Collins, July 10 through July 27, at the Hal and Martha Hyer Wallis Theater. Back by popular demand, “The Hundred Dresses” returns to the Wallis Theater. Wanda Petronski -- the new girl at school -- claims to have 100 beautiful dresses at home while wearing the same faded blue dress every day. Classmate Maddie Martin joins the rest of the kids at the elementary school in teasing Wanda for speaking strangely, having a funny last name and living in the wrong part of town. When the teasing gets out-of-hand, Maddie is faced with a tough decision. This family production is recommended for ages 6 and up. Single tickets are $10.  Discounts are available for groups of eight or more.

• Imagine U Family Series presents “Kids Brave and True: An Evening of Songs and Stories,” 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 22, and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 26, at the Hal and Martha Hyer Wallis Theater. Join master storyteller and Northwestern faculty member Rives Collins in an evening of songs and stories celebrating the hero in all of us. Complementing the themes addressed in “The Hundred Dresses,” this program showcases the breadth of human compassion and courage. General admission is $5.


• “The Pirates of Penzance,” music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W.S. Gilbert, stage and fight direction by Matt Hawkins and music direction by Ryan T. Nelson, July 18 through Aug. 2, at the Ethel M. Barber Theater. Wacky, irreverent and as entertaining today as it was when it opened in 1879, “The Pirates of Penzance” spins a hilarious tale of sentimental pirates, bumbling policemen, dim-witted young lovers, dewy-eyed daughters and an eccentric Major-General. The beauty and whimsy of Gilbert and Sullivan’s classic score is suffused in this new 90-minute adaptation with a modern sensibility and comic timing. Single tickets are $5 to $30. Discounts are available for groups of eight or more.

• “The Steve Show: A Musical Revue,” created and directed by Dominic Missimi, 7:30 p.m. Monday, July 21, at the Ethel M. Barber Theater. The songs of Stephen Sondheim, Stephen Schwartz, and Stephen Flaherty are celebrated in this revue directed by Northwestern faculty emeritus Dominic Missimi. It features an all-star Northwestern alumni cast, including Brian Bohr, Lily Cummings, Devin DeSantis, Nate Lewellyn, Christine Mild, Eliza Palasz, Zach Piser and Elizabeth Stewart. Single tickets are $5 to $30.  Discounts are available for groups of eight or more.


The Wirtz Center’s summer film series celebrates the joy of live performance and the artists who make it all happen by capturing the energy of the stage on the screen.

• “Memphis,” film screening, book by Joe DiPietro, music and lyrics by David Bryan and directed for the stage by Christopher Ashley, 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 29, at the Ethel M. Barber Theater.  Memphis” is set in the smoky halls and underground clubs of the segregated 1950s, where a young white disc jockey named Huey Calhoun (Chad Kimball) falls in love with everything he shouldn’t: rock ‘n’ roll and an electrifying black singer (Montego Glover). The winner of four Tony Awards, “Memphis” is an original story about a cultural revolution that erupted when his vision met her voice, and the music changed forever. The show features explosive dancing, irresistible songs, a tale of fame and forbidden love and roof-raising rock 'n' roll. General admission is $10 to $20.

• Film screening, “Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me” (Chiemi Karasawa, 2014, United States, video, 81 minutes), 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 4, at the Ethel M. Barber Theater. At 87, Broadway legend Elaine Stritch remains indisputably in the spotlight. In this revealing and poignant documentary, the uncompromising entertainment veteran is showcased on and off stage via rare archival footage and intimate cinema verite. By turns bold, hilarious and moving, the film connects Stritch’s present to her past, and is an inspiring portrait of a one-of-a-kind survivor. General admission is $10.

For more information SummerStage 2014 events, visit Wirtz Center.   


A three-year construction project underway on the southeast end of the Northwestern University campus has closed Arts Circle Drive to traffic. Free parking for evening and weekend events remains available, but the project impacts handicapped parking and patrons requiring special access to Evanston campus theaters, as the parking structure is not accessible to patrons unable to climb stairs. For the most current information on the construction project and drop-off locations for patrons requiring special access to our theaters, visit Wirtz Center.