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The 89th annual Waa-Mu Show will present ‘State of the Art’; tickets on sale Dec. 2

Northwestern students continue storied tradition of creating new musicals

The 2019 Waa-Mu Show 'For the Record.' Photo by Justin Barbin
The 2019 Waa-Mu Show 'For the Record.' Photo by Justin Barbin

The co-chairs of Northwestern University’s 89th annual Waa-Mu Show have announced the title and theme for its upcoming production. “State of the Art,” a tale of street artists and city elites clashing over free expression, will run May 1 to 10, 2020 at Cahn Auditorium, 600 Emerson St., on the Evanston campus.

Tickets will go on sale online Dec. 2 on the Wirtz Center website. Beginning Jan. 7, 2020, tickets can be ordered by phone at 847-491-7282 or in-person at the box office, which is located in the Barber Theater lobby, 30 Arts Circle Drive.

The Waa-Mu Show is written, composed, choreographed and co-produced by more than 100 Northwestern students. The Waa-Mu 2020 co-chairs are fourth-year undergraduate students Emma Griffone, Olivia Worley, Jon Toussaint and Leo Jared Scheck. Spearheading the writing process are writing coordinators Ruchir Khazanchi, Emmet Smith, Matthew Threadgill and Mikey Walden, all School of Communication third years.

“State of the Art” follows a covert group of artists vandalizing world-renowned pieces of street art in a not-so-distant future metropolis. When the mayor’s misfit child crosses paths with the vandals, the city elite find themselves caught between their dream for the city to take its place on the national stage and the truth behind these young citizens’ acts of resistance.

“This is a story that comes from the students in this community, for this community,” said co-chair Toussaint. “I’m excited to keep guiding Waa-Mu toward the future while honoring its deep-rooted traditions and storied past.”  

“The story we’re constructing offers a voice to a group of people who are often silenced,” said writing coordinator Threadgill. “We have some exciting ideas for the music and the aesthetics of the show and I cannot wait for Northwestern and local audiences to see it, be surprised by it and hopefully, feel enlightened.”

“I'm passionate about this year's show, ‘State of the Art,’ because it focuses on issues that have always been extremely important but have risen to a fever pitch as the election draws near -- topics like gentrification, class inequity and climate change,” said co-chair Scheck. “These are matters for which the timer to resolution is quickly running out, and I think it's important that we present questions on these issues to our audience not only in an entertaining and thought-provoking manner.”

The Waa-Mu production began as a musical revue that was a joint effort of the University's Women's Athletic Association (WAA) and Men’s Union (MU) during the 1928-29 academic year. In 2010, under music theater professor David H. Bell, the format changed to a book musical. Called “the greatest college show in America” by Associated Press, Waa-Mu has been an important launching pad for many respected performers. 

Past cast members include Walter Kerr in the 1930s; Claude Akins, Sheldon Harnick, Cloris Leachman, Paul Lynde, Charlotte Rae and Tony Randall in the 1940s; Warren Beatty, Penny Fuller and Garry Marshall in the 1950s; Karen Black, Frank Galati, Ann-Margret and Tony Roberts in the 1960s; Laura Innes and Shelley Long in the 1970s; Gregg Edelman, Ana Gasteyer and Megan Mullally in the 1980s; Zach Braff, Brian d'Arcy James, Heather Headley, Jason Moore and Kate Shindle in the 1990s; and more recently, Jenny Powers.

For more information visit The Waa-Mu Show website.

The Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts annually mounts more than 40 productions in theater, music theater and dance. Undergraduate actors, managers and playwrights, alongside graduate actors, designers, directors and dramaturgs, collaborate on works both classic and contemporary for audiences of all ages. The Center adheres to and reflects the academic mission of the University, the curricular needs of the theater and performance studies departments and the educational priorities of communication students. It exists in service to the campus and the greater community of the Metropolitan Chicago area.

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

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