A guide to Northwestern theatre groups

An illustration of a purple stage with curtains and two drama faces laughing and frowning.

Illustration by Anna Souter

Northwestern’s student theatre scene boasts dozens of productions each year.

Alexa Crowder, Reporter

Northwestern offers a vibrant theatre scene with plenty of opportunities for students to participate from the stage, the wings or the audience. The academic program itself is often ranked among the best in the country, but the dozens of productions each quarter go far beyond the department. 

The majority of NU theatre is student-run, with the only exception being the Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts, a theatre company affiliated with the University and the theatre department. The Wirtz Center puts on about 40 productions each year, from new plays to blockbuster musicals. 

The center also houses Imagine U, a children’s theatre group, and partners with graduate directing students as part of the MFA Lab Series.

Here’s a breakdown of the student-run theatre groups at NU. 

StuCo

Nine campus theatre boards — plus two dance groups — belong to an umbrella organization called the Student Theatre Coalition, or StuCo. Each board puts on a few shows per year — typically one per quarter. Any student interested in acting can audition for these shows, and students interested in arts administration and production logistics can petition to join an executive board. Many students do both. 

Each member group adheres to a theme or specific mission, from Lovers and Madmen’s classical theme to Vertigo Productions’ focus on new works to Lipstick Theatre’s feminism. 

StuCo also includes theatre boards Arts Alliance, Jewish Theatre Ensemble, Purple Crayon Players, Sit & Spin Productions, Spectrum Theatre Company and WAVE Productions, as well as dance groups Boomshaka and Tonik Tap.

The Dolphin Show 

The largest student-produced musical in the country, the Dolphin Show puts on a full-length, often well-known musical each winter. The group’s name comes from its 1939 origins in the pool as a fundraiser for the men’s swim team.

The Freshman Musical

The name explains it all. This all-freshman group spends the academic year planning, marketing, casting and rehearsing a musical that goes up during Spring Quarter. This past year, the show was a modern take on “Heathers: The Musical.” 

Griffin’s Tale Children’s Theatre Repertory Company

Griffin’s Tale brings children’s imaginations to life on stage. The group accepts story submissions from local schools and chooses a few to adapt and perform on an elementary school tour. They also host on-campus shows in the fall and spring. 

Seesaw Theatre 

Seesaw Theatre creates highly interactive productions for the disabled community and autistic individuals. The group focuses on sensory-based theatre experiences and recently partnered with Chicago Public Schools to expand public theatre. 

TBD 

This neo-Futurist group produces quarterly shows of short, nonfiction — or non-illusory — plays meant to create emotional whiplash and promise the audience total honesty.

The Panini Players 

18th-century Italian theatre form “Commedia dell’Arte” influences each Panini Players production. They perform in bubonic plague-like masks as a cast of archetypal characters and serve paninis on the side at each performance. 

The Waa-Mu Show 

Created entirely by students from the first brainstorm to the final bow, members of the show’s board, cast and crew write and produce an original musical each year. This past spring, “A Peculiar Inheritance” portrayed a mystery and the race to solve it. The Waa-Mu Show is the only student group that works in collaboration with the Wirtz Center. 

Vibrant Colors Collective 

Founded in April, VC2 is NU’s only multicultural theatre board. As they begin to create productions this academic year, its founders and board members will aim to give a voice to the historically silenced. 

Comedy and improv groups

Adjacent to the theatre scene, NU has an active comedy and improv scene. Some notable groups include Mee-Ow Improv and Sketch Comedy with alumni such as Seth Meyers and Julia Louis-Dreyfus; No Fun Mud Piranhas, NU’s only audition-free improv group and Out Da Box, a multicultural comedy group which aims to bring its comedy to all students and push social and political boundaries. 

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @AlexaCrowder

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