‘There’s always a way to fight on’: ‘Marisol’ to premiere at Wirtz Center


Jessica Ma/The Daily Northwestern

In the play, Marisol’s guardian angel leaves to fight God, leaving Marisol to survive on her own.

Jessica Ma, Reporter

The sun rises in the north and sets in the south. Cows give salty milk. The moon has disappeared.

That’s the absurd reality characters face in the upcoming play “Marisol” at the Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts.

Northwestern’s MFA theatre program is behind the production, which will run July 22-24 and is directed by Chicago-based director Brian Balcom. Written by José Rivera, the story follows young professional Marisol as she navigates a wartorn dystopia — one in which angels battle God.

“It’s a story of a young woman who is living in fear of the world around her,” Balcom said. “She has to learn how to be strong and survive in this world that was dangerous and scary to her before, but now even more so.”

In Act 1, Marisol faces new threats without her guardian angel’s protection. In Act 2, the war in the heavens begins, and Marisol has to fight harder than ever before for survival.

Set designer Nora Marlow Smith (Communication MFA ’22) said she is excited to see the transition between Acts 1 and 2. Everything happens on one stage, she said, but it feels like a full-world transformation. 

“In Act 1, we have these sorts of safe interior spaces, and in Act 2, we’re thrust out into this terrifying and unrecognizable world,” Smith said. 

Second-year MFA in acting student Kate Compton plays “Woman with Furs.” Described by Compton as “a tough lady,” the character is a wealthy, privileged New Yorker dropped into the apocalypse. 

Compton said “Woman with Furs” is different from herself, but she explored the character through physicality. 

“I approached (the character) with figuring out how her body stands and how she postures herself,” Compton said. “That was my way in for her. It was like, ‘How does she move and walk through this very scary world?’” 

Though Marisol first premiered in 1992, Balcom said its message connects to the present day. With issues ranging from income inequality to war, the current world can feel difficult to navigate, he said. People experience their daily lives with the emotional and psychological weight of these issues, he said. 

Ultimately, Balcom said no matter what life throws at people, there’s always a way to fight on, a theme that features prominently throughout “Marisol.” 

“There’s always a way to survive when your world feels upside down, when your world is unrecognizable, when you struggle to find a reason to go on,” Balcom said. 

The message of the play is that there can be hope, Balcom said, but people have to take action. Individuals cannot solely depend on their guardian angels, he said. 

From fighting for friends to fighting for strangers, standing up takes on different forms for different people, Smith said. 

“Thought-provoking theatre asks us to think about things more than it tells us what to think,” Smith said. “This play is really asking us to think about what it means to stand up and fight.” 

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Twitter: @JessicaMa2025

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