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The 88th annual Waa-Mu Show ‘For the Record’ will feature the untold stories of history-making women

Journalist who inspired the story will participate in May 9 post-show discussion

A Chicago journalist embarks on a project to chronicle the lives of history’s most incredible women, including groundbreaking mathematician Gene Grabeel, French swordswoman and opera singer Julie D’Aubigny and early civil rights leader Ida B. Wells in the 88th annual Waa-Mu Show.

Presented by the Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts at Northwestern University, the entirely student-written and orchestrated musical “For The Record” will run May 3 to 12 in the Cahn Auditorium, 600 Emerson Street, on the Evanston campus.

Amisha (Amy) Padnani, editor at The New York Times and creator of “Overlooked,” the Times’ series chronicling the lives of forgotten women, will attend the May 9 performance and participate in a post-show discussion. Padnani inspired the themes of “For the Record.”

Though Grabeel, D’Aubigny and Wells dedicated their careers to changing the world, their stories have been largely overlooked in historical records. Now one woman’s quest to reveal their lives will end up shaping her own. Inspired by incredible true stories, “For The Record”asks how we can learn from our past in order to create a more enlightened future.

Co-chaired by Northwestern School of Communication seniors Gabby Green, Ziare Paul-Emile, Alex Rothfield and Lindsay Whisler, “For The Record” features a team of nearly 100 students, including 16 writers, a music team of 36 and a cast of 29, with more students involved in the artistic and business teams. 

Speaking about this year’s show, School of Communication student writing coordinators Lauren Katz (‘21) and Carly Mazer (‘20) highlighted the relevance of the theme.

“I am excited to be working on this show because the topic is so raw and revalent to what is going on in the world today,” Katz said.

“I am thrilled to have so many brilliant minds working together to make this show possible,” Mazer said. “Collaboration and inclusivity are so important and especially pertinent to this subject matter.”

“For The Record” is directed by School of Communication lecturer Stephen Schellhardt, with associate director and choreography mentor Amanda Tanguay. The music is directed by School of Communication lecturer Ryan T. Nelson.

“With Waa-Mu, I get to watch young professionals hone their craft and skills in a supportive, positive and diverse environment,” Schellhardt said. “I believe this year’s show will reflect the passion and talent of our enormously talented student body, and that makes me beyond excited to bring this show to life.”

The historical women in “For The Record” are:

Holly Hinchliffe as Gene Grabeel by Sean Su PhotographyGene Grabeel (1920 - 2015) was an American home economics teacher-turned-mathematician and cryptanalyst who founded the Venona Project. Grabeel’s work directly helped uncover a Russian mole in the Manhattan Project, the U.S. government’s operation that created the atom bomb during World War II.


Lydia Weir as Julie DAubigny by Sean Su PhotographyJulie D’Aubigny (1673 - 1707) was a bisexual French swordswoman and opera singer who dueled her way through Paris society and fought sexism on the opera stages. When Julie’s female lover was sent to a nunnery by her family, D’Aubigny helped her escape by faking her death and setting the nunnery on fire.


Amira Danan as Ida B Wells by Sean Su PhotographyIda B. Wells (1862 - 1932) was a Chicago-based investigative journalist, educator and an early leader in the Civil Rights Movement. Wells centered her life around combating prejudice and violence, specifically documenting the resurgence of lynchings in the United States in the 1890s, and she eventually helped found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Waa-Mu tickets are $25 (tier two) and $30 (tier one) general admission, $22 for seniors and educators, $20 for NU faculty and staff and $10 for full-time students with valid ID.

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

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

Related events:

Amy Padnani courtesy of The New York TimesPost Show Discussion with Amisha Padnani
May 9, 7:30 p.m.
Cahn Auditorium
600 Emerson Street
Post-show event included with admission

New York Times editor Padnani works on the obituaries desk, where she launched “Overlooked,” a series telling the stories of remarkable people who never received a New York Times obit. The project won her a publisher’s award and has inspired a television series. Her work has also inspired the themes of the 88th annual Waa-Mu Show “For the Record.” Padnani will participate in a post-show discussion with the creative team immediately following the performance. 

The New York Times and Wirtz Center will host a pre-event reception with Padnani for the Times’s Home Delivery and All Access Plus subscribers. For information about eligibility for event tickets and reception email

Wee-Mu 2019
May 11, 3 p.m.
Cahn Auditorium
600 Emerson Street
Tickets $5 

Back by popular demand, Imagine U and The Waa-Mu Show present Wee-Mu 2019. With lights, costumes, song and dance, award-winning Northwestern faculty member Ryan T. Nelson and members of The Waa-Mu Show will lead young audiences through the process of putting together a brand-new musical. Families are invited behind the scenes of what Associated Press calls “the greatest college show in America,” for an interactive session with the cast, crew and creative team of this year’s Waa-Mu Show “For the Record.”

The Cutting Room Floor Cabaret
May 30, 8 p.m.
Mussetter-Struble Theater
1949 Campus Drive
Tickets $10 general; $6 students

Each year many student writers create songs that, for one reason or another, don’t make it into the final Waa-Mu Show. For the first time, The Waa-Mu Show is pleased to present “The Cutting Room Floor,” a cabaret-style performance featuring the student written songs that didn’t make it into this year’s production. As The Waa-Mu Show strives to make every voice heard, it is pleased to share these exciting musical numbers, along with a few Waa-Mu classics, in a fun cabaret-style evening hosted by the 2019 co-chairs. The program runs one hour with no intermission.

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