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Summer at Wirtz Center: Funny, relevant and vital stories that speak to our world today

Featuring two full productions and the workshop of a new musical
Set somewhere in America, an army of pre-teen competitive dancers plot to take over the world in “Dance Nation,” July 29-31.

Northwestern’s Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts invites theater lovers back to the Evanston campus this summer to experience three vibrant works penned by some of the country’s best emerging and established talents as exceptional student performers work alongside leading professionals from Chicago and New York.

“This year’s summer programming, our first summer back in-person since 2019, offers audiences a window into the next generation of talented performers coming out of Northwestern, while also telling funny, relevant and vital stories that speak to our world today,” said Tanya Palmer, assistant dean and executive artistic director for Northwestern’s School of Communication.

The two full productions featuring MFA acting students are the Obie Award-winning “Marisol” by playwright José Rivera, directed by Chicago-based director Brian Balcom, access project coordinator at Victory Gardens Theater; as well as the Pulitzer Prize finalist “Dance Nation” by Clare Barron, directed by Kirsten Fitzgerald, artistic director of Chicago’s A Red Orchid Theatre.

Summer shows at Wirtz

“Cowboy Bob,” a new musical workshop
July 22-23
American Music Theatre Project
Hal & Martha Hyer Wallis Theater

The American Musical Theatre Project presents “Cowboy Bob,” a new musical in development, with performances July 22-23 in the Hal & Martha Hyer Wallis Theater. Co-Created by Molly Beach Murphy, Jeanna Phillips and Annie Tippe, with direction by Annie Tippe and music direction by Alex Thraikill, the musical follows Peggy Jo, who transforms into “Cowboy Bob,” a slick Texas bank robber. With equal parts Riot Grrrl rage and Texas twang, the creative team will workshop this production with Northwestern students in this critical step in the developmental journey of “Cowboy Bob.”

July 22-24
Josephine Louis Theater

“Marisol,” written by José Rivera and directed by Brian Balcom, will be performed in the Josephine Louis Theater July 22-24. The play follows Marisol, a young professional who is used to life on her own in the wilds of the big city. But everything changes on the day she wakes up to find the world has crumbled into a surreal dystopia – the battleground of a war between the angels and God. Frightened but resolved, she sets out through the turmoil on a journey to protect her friend. Marisol holds on to hope in a world she no longer understands.

“Dance Nation”
July 29-31
Josephine Louis Theater

“Dance Nation,” written by Clare Barron and directed by Kirsten Fitzgerald, will be performed in the Josephine Louis Theater July 29-31. Set somewhere in America, an army of pre-teen competitive dancers plot to take over the world. And if their new routine is good enough, they’ll claw their way to the top at Nationals in Tampa Bay. This play about ambition, growing up and how to find our souls in the heat of it all is one you don’t want to miss.

Get tickets now

A special ticket package is available for $36, including admission to all three summer productions. Individual show tickets are available for $15 (general public); $6 in advance/$10 at the door for full-time Northwestern students.

The Wirtz Center has outlined guidelines related to COVID-19 for the safety of its student performers, staff and crew members, and patrons.

Tickets and more information are available at the Wirtz Center Box Office, located in the lobby of the Ethel M. Barber Theater, 30 Arts Circle Drive, is open Tuesdays through Fridays, 11 a.m.–4 p.m., and Saturdays, noon–4 p.m.

Call 847-491-7282 or e-mail

For Journalists: view the news release for media contacts