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2014 Wirtz Artist Shannon Scrofano helps bring student work to life in the community

Los Angeles-based scenic and multimedia designer and Northwestern alumna Shannon Scrofano visited campus last week as the 2014 Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Artist in Residence. Scrofano (C01) spent her time on campus interacting with graduate students in the School of Communication master of fine arts programs in theatre direction and design as they mounted the first S.I.T.E (Surprising Intersections of Theatre in Evanston) Festival. The festival is a suite of three site-specific plays produced in non-traditional theatre spaces around Evanston: a vacant building on Howard Street, Evanston’s first craft brewery and an 18-hole golf course.

The May 23 through June 8 theatrical event, designed to directly engage Evanston community members, is a joint collaboration of Northwestern University’s Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts (formerly known as the Theatre and Interpretation Center at Northwestern University), the City of Evanston, Temperance Beer Company and the Evanston Wilmette Community Golf Course.

The festival is the brainchild of Northwestern’s Michael Rohd (C89), assistant professor of theatre and founding artistic director of Portland Oregon’s Sojourn Theatre, which has earned a national reputation for participatory theatre.

“Instead of inviting people to come through our doors and see what we have made, we’re asking people to engage with us around our art making and invite us into their spaces,” said Rohd, the festival’s faculty mentor. “Our hope is to expand on existing relationships and build new ones, so our students are more deeply rooted in the community where they reside.”

Scrofano, a scenic and multimedia designer working in performance and time-based media, lent an extra set of hands to the students as they worked through their site-specific problems ahead of the opening. She visited Rohd’s class on site-specific theatre, as well.

Scrofano’s work has included live performance, installation and film projects throughout the US and internationally. Her site work has taken place in car dealerships, state legislatures, barns, condo showrooms, plazas, libraries, warehouses, medical labs, skyscrapers, open fields, kitchens, collapsing cathedrals, parking lots, school buses, hotels, an elk farm, and rooftops in multiple cities. She’s taught all over the country, including at Northwestern and is a company member of Sojourn Theatre and the performance collective TENT. She holds an MFA from California Institute of the Arts.

“It was valuable on so many levels to have Shannon here for the students,” Rohd said.

The Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Visiting Artist program was established through a generous gift by Wirtz’s grandson, W. Rockwell “Rocky” Wirtz (C75). Wirtz, who studied communication studies at Northwestern, is president of the Wirtz Corporation and Chairman of the Chicago Blackhawks. He is a member of the Northwestern University Board of Trustees and has served on the School of Communication’s National Advisory Board since 1986.

Past Wirtz Visiting Artists have included actor/director and Lookingglass Theatre founding ensemble member David Schwimmer (C88) and award-winning playwright Lydia Diamond (C92).

More information about the S.I.T.E. Festival:

  • Alderman Ann Rainey of Evanston’s 8th Ward and the City’s economic development department were advocates for director Jessica Fisch to stage “Far Away” by Caryl Churchill at 727 Howard St., a vacant building that has been a church, a storefront and a proposed theatre space. “Far Away” will be performed at 8 p.m. Friday, May 23; 8 p.m. Saturday, May 24; 2 p.m. Sunday, May 25; 8 p.m. Friday, May 30; 2 p.m. Sunday, June 1; 8 p.m. Friday, June 6; and 8 p.m. Saturday June 7. It describes a world where everything in nature is at war and tells the story of a young girl who witnesses something she was never meant to see. Discovering dark truths far beyond her years, nothing will ever be the same for her again. “Far Away” and its stage design team of Northwestern students Shawn Ketchum Johnson, Stephanie Cluggish and Maya Fein create a magical world on the Evanston/Chicago border.
  • “American Dead” audiences will visit Evanston’s first microbrewery, Temperance Beer Company at 2000 Dempster St. Performances will take place at 8 p.m. Friday, May 23; 8 p.m. Saturday, May 24; 2 p.m. Sunday, May 25; 8 p.m. Friday, May 30; 2 p.m. Sunday, June 1; 8 p.m. Friday, June 6; and 8 p.m. Saturday, June 7. Written by Chicago playwright and Northwestern faculty member Brett Neveu and directed by Scott Cummins, “American Dead” is the story of a man haunted by the murder of his sister who tries to uncover the truth of her death. Enlivening one of Evanston’s light industrial warehouse spaces, Northwestern graduate student designers Lindsey Lyddan and Carolyn Sullivan will create the world of the play by engaging structural elements inside the craft brewing company.
  • Thou Proud Dream,” adapted from Shakespeare’s “Henry V” by director Damon Krometis and Northwestern alumna Jenni Lamb (GC12), guides audiences on an outdoor walk through the Evanston Wilmette Community Golf Course at 1030 Central St., in Evanston. Performances will take place at 8 p.m. Friday, May 30; 8 p.m. Saturday, June 1; 8 p.m. Tuesday, June 3; 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 4; 8 p.m. Thursday, June 5; 8 p.m. Friday, June 6; and 8 p.m. Saturday, June 7. Hoping for inspiration for his highly anticipated homecoming speech, Iraqi war veteran Leroy turns to his favorite war story, “Henry V.” But something within him wants to tell a different war story — his own. Northwestern graduate students Shawn Ketchum Johnson, Maya Fein and Carolyn Sullivan will use the 18-hole public golf course to paint the scene of a classic tale cast in the contemporary light of our modern, warring world. Since audience members will be engaged in walking during the outdoor production, they should wear comfortable shoes.

Casts for all three productions will feature Northwestern undergraduate students along with several guest professional actors from Chicago.

A Festival Pass — available for $25 at sitefestival.northwestern.edu — guarantees a reservation to each of the three S.I.T.E. Festival productions. The pass also is an exclusive ticket to a June 8 end-of-festival party at Temperance Beer Co.

Individual tickets are available in advance at the Wirtz Center Box Office at (847) 491-7282. Tickets are $10 for general public and $5 for Northwestern students with valid Wildcard IDs. Day-of tickets are subject to availability at the door, $10 cash only.