Sit & Spin Productions builds community around out-of-the-box theatre


Photo courtesy of Maddie Powell

Students rehearse “Collective Rage,” this year’s New Student Week play. The show was the first of three Sit & Spin Productions will produce this year.

Audrey Hettleman, Assistant Arts & Entertainment Editor

Communication junior Maddie Hughes’ first Sit & Spin Productions experience was out of the ordinary, even for a production team that prides itself on new and unique performances.

In spring 2021, Hughes helped produce “The Secret in the Wings” in an outdoor format — two quarters after its scheduled premiere date. Sit & Spin, Northwestern’s experimental theatre board, prepares three shows each year: New Student Week, which takes place at the end of Wildcat Welcome, the Late Fall Design show during Week 10 of Fall Quarter and the Artist in Residence Slot, which is scheduled for Week 10 of Winter Quarter.

Sit & Spin is constantly adapting their show formats to fit its team’s needs. For example, the board transformed its second show in the last couple years to feature designers, who aren’t always acknowledged for the work they do. Communication senior and Artistic Director Maddie Powell said that this is part of what makes Sit & Spin so special.

“The work we do is, by nature, experimental and new,” Powell said. “We are excited by work that excites our artists and anything that is new in any way.”

The COVID-19 pandemic forced Sit & Spin to delay its fall shows until Spring Quarter. Despite the difficulties, Powell said the team was proud of what they put together. Working toward a common goal made the challenges less daunting, she said, as the group saw the light at the end of the tunnel.

Hughes joined Sit & Spin during her freshman year when the pandemic caused big changes for the group. She joined the board the following spring and now serves as company manager.

“The Secret in the Wings” was the event that solidified Hughes’ love for the team. Because of the outdoor setting, the team had to set up and take down the set every single day of tech week and performance. Although it was a lot of work, she said it showed her how much care went into every Sit & Spin production.

“We really get to decide what we want our definition of experimental theatre to be, and so there’s really just an open and new idea and new territory that we can go into every year,” Hughes said.

Communication senior Kandace Mack, the executive director of Sit & Spin, attributed the group’s success in adapting to the pandemic to its tight-knit nature. Despite virtual meetings and delayed shows, she said the team kept that familial mindset and passed it on to newer members.

“I remember being so excited to share what I was passionate about and feeling that energy in me and feeling my eyes light up,” Mack said. “Seeing that reflected in others, especially in our newer members who have four more years on the board, it’s just so exciting to know that that passion is just going to keep on living and growing and will continue to be this beautiful entity.”

Mack and Powell said they think of the Sit & Spin board as a family. They reinforce this sense of community by checking in with every member at every meeting and making decisions on a consensus basis so everyone has a voice. Powell encouraged new students to give Sit & Spin a chance when joining theatre groups on campus, and to not be intimidated by its experimental nature.

This year’s Artist in Residence piece will take an ethnographic, interview-based approach to performance.

“The way that you look at theatre and art will change so dramatically,” Powell said. “You won’t even remember the way that you used to see it, in the best way.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @AudreyHettleman

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