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Pulitzer Prize-Winning Play Opens at Northwestern University

‘Anna in the Tropics’ focuses on the threat of change that makes factory workers irrelevant

  • “Anna in the Tropics” is Cuban-American Nilo Cruz’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play
  • Cruz’s drama will be the final play in the Wirtz Center’s spring 2016 Mainstage season
  • Goodman Theatre’s Henry Godinez also directed the Chicago premiere of the play in 2005

EVANSTON, Ill. --- A literary masterpiece by Tolstoy, the steamy tropics and the American dream clash in Nilo Cruz’s upcoming Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Anna in the Tropics.” 

Cruz’s poignant and poetic drama -- which is set in a cigar factory in 1929 Florida -- will conclude Northwestern University’s spring 2016 Mainstage theatre season on the Evanston campus.

Presented by the School of Communication’s Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts, Cruz’s play will be staged from May 13 through May 22, at the recently renovated Josephine Louis Theater. 

Directed by Goodman Theatre resident artistic associate and Northwestern theatre professor Henry Godinez, Cruz’s award-winning play focuses on the threat of change in a world where time is money, and the efficiency of encroaching machination makes factory workers irrelevant. 

“Anna in the Tropics”

Cruz’s play takes place in Tampa at a time when factory mechanization was on the rise. It follows a group of Cuban immigrants who maintain the cigar rolling industry with pride. As they toil away in the factory hand rolling each cigar, a well-dressed and well-spoken lector arrives and reads Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina” to them, igniting their passions even as they struggle to uphold tradition in the face of encroaching modernity. 

Nilo Cruz

Cuban-American playwright Nilo Cruz became the first Latino honored with the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for “Anna in the Tropics” in 2003. Ever since, “Anna In The Tropics” has been produced in theaters throughout New York, Chicago and elsewhere across the country. In addition to this award-winning work, Cruz has authored 11 other plays, a musical and four adaptations of previous works.

The School of Communication production will feature a 15-member cast of Northwestern undergraduate students.

“For much of this cast, the cultural backdrop of ‘Anna in the Tropics’ is not as foreign to them as ‘Anna Karenina’s’ Russia is for the workers in Santiago and Ofelia’s cigar factory,” Godinez said. “Many of these students personally understand the immigrant experience, or understand what it is to live outside the dominant culture, but in this play they have the opportunity to immerse themselves in a time and place unlike their own, where listening was a communal experience.”


“Anna In The Tropics” will be staged at 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 13; 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 14; 2 p.m. Sunday, May 15; 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 19; 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 20; and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 22 at the Wirtz Center’s recently renovated Josephine Louis Theater, 20 Arts Circle Drive, on the University’s Evanston campus. 

Post-show discussions with the show’s cast and creative team will follow the May 13 and May 19 evening performances. 

Josephine Louis Theater

The updated Louis Theater now features 288 comfortable new seats, two internal aisles, more wheelchair accessible seating, a reconfigured floor that reduced the rake (sloping angle) of the theater and seating that is broken up into six sections.


Tickets are $25 for the general public; $22 for Northwestern faculty and staff and seniors over age 62; $10 for full-time students under age 30 with current IDs; and $5 for Northwestern students on advance purchase only, or $10 at the door.

Additional information or to purchase tickets is available online or contact the Wirtz Center Box Office at 847-491-7282, or visit the new Arts Circle website.

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