Spectrum Theatre introduces project incorporating diverse campus voices

Matthew Choi, Reporter

Spectrum Theatre Company’s newest production aims to tell the stories of the broader Northwestern community to open dialogue about difficult topics.

“We’re not here to take a side or push down your throat some dogma,” said Michael Fagan, a Weinberg junior and artistic director of the company. “We’re here to open your eyes, broaden your horizons and have us connect. Because that’s what theater is all about.”

Project NU, conceived in the last weeks of Winter Quarter, is an innovative project that aspires to present diverse campus issues through theater, Fagan said. The project will involve interviewing members of the NU community and writing and producing original plays based on the interviews.

Spectrum has already begun recruiting for the project’s key players, and hosted an information session Thursday. A producer will be selected by Monday, followed by a director and head writer in subsequent weeks. Interviews for narratives will be conducted during Winter Quarter by the project’s writing team, and the show will be part of Spectrum’s mainstage season in the spring. Topics for narratives will include race, class and other issues pertinent to NU, Fagan said.

This project, one of Spectrum’s three shows for the mainstage season, is meant to directly serve the University community and connect back to Spectrum’s mission statement of raising awareness, inspiring dialogue and creating change through theatre, said Spectrum member Matthew Silverman, a Medill junior.

Silverman said Spectrum hopes to bring diversity to the production not only through its narratives, but also through its creative team. From film to journalism to cultural studies, the backgrounds of project team members, much like Spectrum itself, will not be solely contained to the theater department.

“It’s definitely an ambitious process,” Silverman said. “But … we wanted to try something that would really serve this community and that would address the issues that are impacting this community specifically. So it’s a risk we are willing to take.”

Project NU follows a similar project initiated last academic year called Newsflash Theatre. The original project was intended to be a space for students to raise awareness after noteworthy events on campus. Though the project ultimately did not come to fruition, Spectrum did not abandon the idea of a student production for members of the NU community to share their voice.

“Logistically it was hard. We maybe dropped the ball a couple of times and people who were supposed to be doing some things with us dropped the ball a couple of times or got busy and it wasn’t a priority,” Fagan, who worked on Newsflash Theatre, said of the project. “We wanted to make sure that people had a space to raise voices and raise awareness on this campus.”

Logistics are not the only hurdle Spectrum will have to overcome. Dealing with such sensitive issues and properly representing the stories of others will be challenging, Fagan said, but the company is reaching out to multiple resources to ensure it is respectful and accurate.

“We’re going great lengths to get mentorships, ethnographers,” Fagan said. “We’re having our directors, and us as well, research how this type of theatre… has been done in the past – how they interview and interview effectively. That’s just going to be a continual challenge that we’re going to have to face.”

Several students already expressed interest in joining the project during its information session. Communication freshman Jamie Joeyen-Waldorf said she is considering petitioning to be a producer for the show, but would be happy contributing in any way to the project.

“I feel like there really hasn’t been a project similar in nature done here on campus before,” Joeyen-Waldorf said. “So this is definitely interesting.”

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