The Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts at Northwestern’s flagship campus in Evanston annually mounts more than 40 productions in theatre, music theatre, and dance. Undergraduate actors, managers, and playwrights, alongside graduate designers, directors, and dramaturgs, collaborate on works both classic and contemporary for audiences of all ages. Productions are staged in the Wirtz’s four venues—the 439-seat Ethel M. Barber Theater, the 288-seat Josephine Louis Theater, the 100-seat Hal and Martha Hyer Wallis Theater, the 100-seat Mussetter-Struble Theater, and two additional black box spaces, as well as in the University’s 1,000-seat Cahn Auditorium. The facility includes a 7,800-square-foot scene and paint shop, a 2,500-square-foot costume shop, a lighting shop, wet and dry design shops, computer labs, seminar rooms, and rehearsal spaces.
Our newest space, the Wirtz Center for Performing and Media Arts on Northwestern’s Chicago campus, comprises two black box theaters and an expansive lobby space, a green room, a dressing room, classroom and meeting spaces, and rehearsal studios. Home to the Department of Theatre and Dance’s MFA in Acting program, the Wirtz Center Chicago also hosts public-facing events from the Department of Radio/Television/Film’s MFA in Writing for the Screen and Stage program, the Black Arts Consortium, the Pritzker Pucker Studio Lab, and the American Music Theatre Project. In addition, each year the Wirtz Center Chicago and the School of Communication host a performance series featuring new works in progress and Chicago premieres of innovative work from nationally and internationally acclaimed solo artists and ensemble companies. Finally, the Wirtz Center Chicago is a resource for Chicago’s cultural community, providing affordable space and support for Chicago-based artists and arts organizations to develop and showcase their work.
The centers on both the Evanston and Chicago campuses reflect the academic mission of the University, the curricular needs of the theatre, performance studies and radio/television/film departments, the educational priorities of communication students, and both existing and budding partnerships with the greater community of the Metropolitan Chicago area. We are firmly committed to offering our audiences a view of the world on our stages that is as enlightening as it is entertaining; a place to gather and experience works by greatest writers, composers and choreographers from around the world, adapted and presented by some of the most exciting artists of tomorrow. As we seek to entertain at the highest artistic level, we strive to create a place where both our artists and our audiences relish the excitement of exploring differences and discovering similarities, of learning more about others as a means to learning more about ourselves.
The Wirtz Centers in Evanston and Chicago are both supported by a generous endowment from Chicago Blackhawks Chairman William Rockwell “Rocky” Wirtz and his wife, Marilyn Queen Wirtz. The center is named in honor of Rocky’s grandmother, a 1924 graduate of the University.