Experience the next generation of American theater artists as they bring to life contemporary plays and new adaptations of classics during the 2017 MFA Lab series March 3 to May 21 at The Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts.

Among the ideas to be explored by the director/designer mashups are a psychological portrait of a murderer, the effects of lust, faith and fish on Passion Play performers at key moments in human history and the humor and heartbreak of a downwardly mobile family. 

“Directors and designers team up to take on the most vivid, cutting-edge material and bring audiences a glimpse into the future of the field,” said Jessica Thebus, director of the MFA directing program at Northwestern. “These projects are always fresh, unusual, thrilling and challenging, and the artists whose work you’ll see will be the next big names in theaters across the country.”

All performances will be presented in the Hal & Martha Hyer Wallis Theater, 1949 Campus Drive, on the Evanston campus. (Due to construction, a temporary entrance to the theatre is located at 10 Arts Circle Drive, in the Marjorie Ward Marshall Dance Center.)

The 2017 MFA Lab schedule is as follows:

• “Crime and Punishment” adapted by Marilyn Campbell and Curt Columbus from the literary masterpiece by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. The production team includes Jeff Mosser (director), Gabrielle Chabot (scenic and costume design), Jessica Neill (lighting design) and Grover Hollway (sound design).

8 p.m. Friday, March 3
2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, March 4
2 p.m. Sunday, March 5

In this Joseph Jefferson award-winning 90-minute adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment,” three actors create a dark psychological portrait of a killer and his search for redemption. A murderer, urged on by a detective and young prostitute, relives his actions and explores the thoughts, ideas and feelings that drove him to his horrible crime. Speaking directly to the audience at times and putting his case to them, this intimate psychological and spiritual journey seeks to unveil hidden dimensions of the human condition.

• “Passion Play” by Sarah Ruhl. The production team includes Caitlin Lowans (director), Arnel Sancianco (scenic), Armando Rabito (costumes), Matt Sharp (lighting) and Grover Hollway (sound).  

7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 27
7:30 p.m. Friday, April 28
7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 29
2 p.m. Sunday, April 30

Written by Sarah Ruhl, a leading voice in contemporary theater and two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist, “Passion Play” takes us behind the scenes of three communities attempting to stage the popular dramatization of the death and resurrection of Christ. From Queen Elizabeth’s England to Hitler’s Germany to Reagan’s America, Ruhl takes us on a humorous, yet unsettling, journey filled with lust, faith and a lot of fish. This intimate epic travels through different historical periods in which the community of players must grapple with the transformative nature of art, with politics never far in the background.

• “Three Sisters” by Anton Chekhov, adapted by Sarah Ruhl, based on a literal translation by Elise Thoron with Natasha Paramonova and Kristin Johnsen-Neshati. The production team includes Lee Hannah Conrads (director), Michelle Lily (scenic), Alycia Matz (costumes), Sara Gosses (lighting) and Grover Hollway (sound).

8 p.m. Thursday, May 18
8 p.m. Friday, May 19
2 and 8 p.m. Sunday, May 21

Transplanted from their beloved Moscow to a provincial Russian town, three sisters – Olga, Masha and Irina – yearn for the city of their childhood where they always imagined their dreams fulfilled. As those fantasies are ripped away, the sisters must cope with their despair and find a new way forward. Discover the humor and heartbreak of one of the world’s greatest plays, revealed through the lyricism of Sarah Ruhl.

Tickets for each production are $10 for general public and $6-$10 for students and are available online at the Wirtz Center website, by phone at 847-491-4819 or at the Wirtz Center box office in the Barber Theater lobby, 30 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston.