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Wirtz Center’s MFA Lab Series Delights, Challenges and Excites

The next wave of Northwestern University’s MFA series artists will collaborate onstage

  • Experience the work of emerging directors and designers before they become famous
  • The MFA series begins Feb. 12 with “Equivocation”
  • Three upcoming Lab series shows directed and designed by graduate students
  • The groundbreaking pieces are works of today’s famous playwrights

EVANSTON, Ill. --- The MFA Lab series -- a set of three stage productions by the next generation of artists -- matches talented young theatre directors from Northwestern’s MFA program with emerging designers from its partner MFA program in stage design for exciting and unexpected collaborations.

These promising artists are the next wave, given the freedom to create together on bold, risk-taking productions of plays by today's most groundbreaking writers.

All three shows are presented by the School of Communication’s Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts.


All of the following performances will take place on Northwestern’s Evanston campus at the Wirtz Center’s Hal and Martha Hyer Wallis Theater, 1949 Campus Drive.

• The MFA Lab series begins with “Equivocation” by playwright and Jesuit priest Bill Cain, directed by MFA directing candidate Michael Cotey, a Chicago-based director and actor. “Equivocation” will be staged at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 12; 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 13; and 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 14. Set in 1605 England, “Equivocation” tells the story of a foiled terrorist plot to assassinate the King and blow-up Parliament with 36 barrels of gunpowder. Playwright William Shagspeare receives a royal commission to write the “true history” of the plot in order to create a new soul for his bitterly divided and chaotic country. But as “Shag” and the acting company of the Globe rehearse the King’s version, they discover that the government’s version might, in fact, be a cover-up. Now “Shag,” the greatest writer of his time and of all times, must navigate the dangerous politics between writing a lie and losing his soul, or writing the truth and losing his head.

• The LAB series continues in May with playwright and Episcopal seminarian Mark Schultz’s “Everything Will Be Different.” Performances will take place at 8 p.m. Friday, May 13; 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, May 14; and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 15. Directed by MFA directing candidate Susan Bowen, the play follows Charlotte, a 15-year-old, grieving the loss of her mother. Charlotte’s relationship with her father is put to the test as she discovers sex, ambition and "beauty products." Inspired by a Euripides play, but with its sights set firmly on contemporary America, “Everything Will Be Different” charts a teenager's mind-bending odyssey to escape her childhood and fill the gaping hole that's been hollowed out by grief.

• Concluding Northwestern’s MFA series is Will Eno’s “Middletown,” directed by MFA directing candidate Sonny Das. Performances will take place at 8 p.m. Friday, May 27; 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, May 28; and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 29. “Middletown” tells the story of Mary Swanson, who has just moved to Middletown. She is ready to start a family and eager to live in a small-town community, but life there is complicated. Neighbors are almost strangers, strangers almost friends, and moments of connection are sincere and fleeting. In a world where the town’s citizens are defined by their role, what happens when one no longer knows what that role is? Or perhaps never did. Deftly painted by Pulitzer finalist Will Eno, “Middletown” is a playful and poignant portrait of a town with two lives.​​

Tickets for each of the MFA Lab Series productions are $10 for the general public and $5 for full-time Northwestern students on advance purchase.

More information is available online.

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