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Wirtz Center to Present a Magical Visualization of ‘The Tempest’

Northwestern University stage production to star Lookingglass Theatre’s David Catlin

  • “The Tempest” blends movement, original music and Shakespeare’s transcendent language
  • Production features movement developed in cooperation with The Actors Gymnasium
  • Prospero to be portrayed by Northwestern theatre faculty member David Catlin
  • A video interview with David Catlin and director Hannah Todd is available online

EVANSTON, Ill. --- A re-envisioned Shakespeare play set on a remote island and heavy on sorcery and romance will launch the spring theater season on Northwestern University’s Evanston campus.

Through movement, original music composed by the director’s father and Shakespeare’s transcendent language, the 90-minute production re-imagines “The Tempest” on an island where its primal magic is conjured in the bodies and voices of a nine-actor ensemble, comprised of eight Northwestern students and a multi-talented faculty member.

The play’s key character is the omniscient Prospero, who stands apart, wielding the island’s power to manipulate monsters and spirits, kings and drunkards, a treacherous sibling and a daughter in love. But is Prospero’s ability to control the forces around him worth the isolation it brings? 

Performances of “The Tempest,” will take place at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 22; 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 23; 2 p.m. Sunday, April 24; 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 28; 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 29; 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 30; and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 1, at the Ethel M. Barber Theater, 30 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston campus.

A talkback discussion with the show’s director and cast will follow the April 22 opening night and April 28 performances.

The role of Prospero will be portrayed by Northwestern alumnus and theatre faculty member David Catlin, a founding member of the Lookingglass Theatre Company, the recipient of the 2011 Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre. An actor and director, the multi-talented Catlin teaches acting at Northwestern. Catlin also directed the Wirtz Center’s recent productions of “Moby Dick,” “The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley” and “The Little Prince.” 

The School of Communication production will be directed by Hannah Todd, a third-year directing MFA candidate at Northwestern. The Actors Gymnasium has cooperated with the Wirtz Center production as well as with a recently concluded winter class that developed the movement vocabulary that will be incorporated into the Northwestern show. Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi, artistic director, co-founder and master teacher at The Actor’s Gymnasium, co-taught the class with David Catlin and also will serve as the production’s choreographer. 

The Evanston-based Actor’s Gymnasium was established 20 years ago to bring a new physicality to the American stage. It specializes in circus, aerial and performing arts classes for adults and children, theater shows and award-winning event entertainment.

“The Tempest” marks the fourth collaboration between Northwestern University and The Actors Gymnasium. Past Wirtz Center co-productions have included “Manuscript Found at Saragossa,” “The Little Prince” and “Moby Dick.”

“I enjoy working in a very collaborative way and ‘The Tempest’ has exemplified the collaborative process,” Hernandez said. “It’s rewarding to see the Northwestern students I’ve worked with for years demonstrate the skills they have learned at the Actors Gym. Using core strength and body awareness to create their own physical vocabulary, the students were able to generate original ideas, and organically develop theatrical movement sequences that we have never seen before.”

While this Shakespeare play is filled with magic, the cast members are the most spellbinding part of theater, Todd said. 

“I’m excited to explore another kind of magic -- what humans can do, what their bodies and voices can conjure, how a human on a stage can become one person, then another, one creature, then another,” she added.

Hannah Todd is the co-founder of We Happy Few Productions (, a small theater ensemble in Washington, D.C., which provides unique perspectives on classic texts. 

John Todd, the director’s father, a recently retired health care lawyer and a non-professional musician, composed the production’s original music. The senior Todd has been a practicing musician and composer most of his life, and he and his daughter Hannah have been making music together since she was a toddler.

Their combined efforts include an oratorio based on the memoirs of Kathy Todd (Hannah’s paternal grandmother) and a suite of Shakespeare sonnets set to music. John Todd also has composed chamber works for various ensembles, including music for a dance performance at the Kitchen in New York City, and for an earlier production of “The Tempest,” directed by Hannah for the theater ensemble she co-founded in Washington.

“Collaborating with David Catlin and The Actors Gymnasium to explore the incredible things a human body can do, and with my own father to create the haunting original music to embody this world is un-imaginably exciting and magical,” Todd said. 

A behind-the-scenes video interview with faculty member and actor David Catlin (“Prospero”) and director Hannah Todd is available online


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

For additional information or to purchase tickets, visit or contact the Wirtz Center Box Office at 847-491-7282, or visit the new Arts Circle website at

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