Northwestern, Evanston partner to bring plays to nontraditional spaces

Paige Leskin, Assistant City Editor

A new partnership between Evanston and Northwestern will bring graduate student performances to spaces in Evanston not traditionally used for theater productions.

The event, called the Surprising Intersections of Theatre in Evanston Festival, aims to connect NU with the Evanston community in ways that are different than previous University-city collaborations. The three shows – completed by NU students pursuing Masters of Fine Arts and previously performed on campus – will take place in a vacant building, a craft brewery and a golf course, starting on Friday.

“We decided it was a good opportunity to bridge the walls of campus and really get emerged into the Evanston community,” SITE festival producer Emily Campbell Berezowsky said. “We also wanted to make a more thoughtful and positive impact presence in parts of Evanston that might not normally get to see Northwestern shows or know what we’re doing on campus.”

Berezowsky characterized the festival as a “site-specific, site-responsive project,” where the spaces were specifically picked to suit the performances. She said directors looked for spaces that were underused and unknown in order to attract new audiences in three distinct neighborhoods on the perimeters of Evanston.

One play, adapted from Shakespeare’s “Henry V,” is about a war veteran coping with his return home. Director Damon Krometis modified the script to allow the performance to take place at the Evanston Wilmette Community Golf Course, 1030 Central St., where audience members will walk the 18 holes as they watch the production.

Evanston Cultural Arts Coordinator Jennifer Lasik said the goals of the city’s Arts Council aligned well with those of Berezowsky and other NU faculty at the Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts.

“We loved that Northwestern was taking performances off their campus and getting out around the community,” Lasik said. “We like the approach that it’s art in unusual spaces, the idea for having performing arts in areas where you wouldn’t normally see them.”

Lasik also said the Arts Council wants to continually encourage the arts at NU to strengthen the relationship between the two groups. Berezowsky agreed that she hoped the partnership would be extremely beneficial for both NU and Evanston.

Berezowsky said the sites for the performances will each accommodate about 30 people, which will create a more intimate event for both actors and audience members.

“Each audience will really have sort of this all-access pass to the location,” she said. “It becomes a really unique experience. This is a much more personal kind of theatrical experience. … It becomes a different kind of audience agreement when they walk in, which is like, ‘Wow, I’m part of this new and site-interactive experience.’”

Michael Rohd, the lead faculty mentor for the festival, said he feels it is important for graduate students to keep up with an emerging trend around the world of performers engaging with locations in unique and adventurous ways. This drive to interact with the surrounding community is in line with NU’s goals to connect with Evanston.

“It’s sort of a no-brainer that it sort of aligns with the University’s current mission pretty strongly,” Rohd said. “Historically, (the theater’s) relationship … is we make stuff and then we ask Evanstonians and others to come to our place and see our stuff. We feel like this is a really interesting way to be a bit more reciprocal.”

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