Wirtz Center increases rehearsal room capacity


Courtesy of Daniel Calderon (Communication ‘24)

Daniel Calderon (Communication ‘24) and the cast of the Wirtz Center’s “Tomás and the Library Lady.” The show was filmed live on-stage and streamed to audiences for a limited time.

Diego Ramos-Bechara, Assistant Arts & Entertainment Editor

In response to the decrease in COVID-19 cases in Evanston, the Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts has increased the number of people allowed in rehearsal rooms and extended usage time. 

“We don’t know where we’ll be in the Fall Quarter, but I’m glad to see the center slowly opening up and allowing students to enjoy the performance spaces,” said Al Heartley, the managing director of Wirtz. 

People in the center are still required to maintain social distancing protocols and wear masks at all times. Heartley said the community’s safety remains his “number one priority.” 

Heartley said the response to the new guidelines has been mostly positive, with students and faculty eager to return to the stage. 

Communication Prof. Melissa Foster recently taught a voice studio lesson in person at the Ethel M. Barber Theater to 14 students. The students would select each other’s repertoire and then sing the chosen songs, all while wearing masks and maintaining 10 feet of distance. 

“Most of my students had said that they were very nervous because they hadn’t been on a stage in over a year,” Foster said. “So many things had to go right for this to happen, and they all seemed so thrilled to be there. It was amazing, and I’m so grateful to the Wirtz staff.” 

Communication freshman Daniel Calderon was thrilled to be back on the stage after over a year of virtual theatre. Calderon recently played Tomás Rivera in the Wirtz Center’s in-person production of “Tomás and the Library Lady,” which is the closest Wirtz has gotten to a performance of this modality. 

“Tomás and the Library Lady” is based on a true story and follows a family of Mexican migrant workers who move from Texas to Iowa to work in cornfields in the summer of 1945. There, the son, Tomás, finds solace in the library and the librarian who works there. 

The performance was filmed in-person, with actors staged socially distanced from one another while wearing masks. To disguise the muffling heard when speaking with masks, the actors pre-recorded their lines, and the sound editors dubbed the recordings onto their performances. 

“A lot of us do theater because of the connections you make with people on stage,” Calderon said. “I’m so happy I got to participate in ‘live’ theatre, but at the same time, it made me realize how much I missed the real thing.” 

Wirtz has hosted a few in-person rehearsals, allowing students to spend time in the theatre space. 

Heartley said he does not know when the center will be ready to operate fully in-person, but he can see the “light at the end of the tunnel.” 

Even without many in-person performances, the theatre community at Northwestern has demonstrated its resilience. The Dolphin Show, The Waa-Mu Show and independent students all have projects in the works, adjusting modalities to adhere to safety protocols. 

“We could have given up, we could have said no, we could have just simply said, ‘we’re going to sit here and wait,’” Heartley said. “Instead, we embraced the realities of the situation, and we got to work, and I think that speaks to that love of theatre we all hold dear.” 

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Twitter: @D_Ramos42

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