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Wirtz Center presents punk-feminist play ‘The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls’

Witches, evil stepmothers and ravenous bears take the stage in coming of age story

EVANSTON - A Russian American girl returns to her native land to find herself, only to encounter a landscape more sinister and disorienting than the fairytales she grew up with. Will she succeed in battling wits with the villains in her story or be gobbled alive?

Find the answer in Northwestern University’s Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts’ presentation of “The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls,” directed by M.F.A. directing candidate Caitlin Lowans, April 27 to May 6 in the Ethel M. Barber Theater, 30 Arts Circle Drive on Northwestern’s Evanston campus.

Once upon a time -- in 2005 -- a young “devushka” named Annie returns to her native Russia to lose her American accent. Underneath a glamorous post-Soviet Moscow studded with dangerously high heels and luxurious fur coats, bubbles an enchanted motherland teeming with wicked witches, evil stepmothers and ravenous bears.

As lines between folk tale and reality disappear, Annie must become the heroine of an adventure more dangerous than any childhood fairytale: her own. This subversive story carries a powerful message for young women living in a world where there are no princes and not everything ends happily ever after.

Punctuated with feminist punk rock music and Russian folktales, Meg Miroshnik’s award-winning play was a finalist for the 2012 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and winner of the Alliance/Kendeda Graduate Playwriting Award. Miroshnik is a recipient of a 2012 Whiting Award and holds an MFA in playwriting from the Yale School of Drama where she studied with Paula Vogel.

“As Annie travels through the newly capitalistic Moscow to connect to her cultural past and secure a prosperous future, she encounters several young Russian women using traditional folk tales as a blueprint for navigating their post-Soviet lives,” said director Lowans. “These old stories of gobbling bears and crafty witches help these women make sense of the new society in which a young woman can trade her body for expensive clothing and material security.

“But using the stories of the past limit the future the young women can have. It is through banding together and authoring their own stories, that these young women can free themselves and change their course,” Lowans said.   

Performances of “The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls” are Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $25 for the general public; $22 for seniors (62+) and area educators; $20 for Northwestern University faculty, staff and emeriti; $10 for children and full-time students; and $6 in advance or $10 at the door for Northwestern students. 

“The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls” is recommended for audiences age 12 and older due to strong language, frank talk about sex, stylized violence, people in undergarments and a bear.

Tickets are available online at the Wirtz Center website, by phone at 847-491-7282 or in person at the Wirtz Center box office in the Barber Theater lobby, 30 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston.    

Box office hours are Tuesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m. The box office is closed Sundays and Mondays. 

The Wirtz Center is a member of the Northwestern Arts Circle, which brings together film, humanities, literary arts, music, theater, dance and visual arts. 

Topics: Theatre

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