Alumni: Joan Allen stars in new Broadway play

Alumni: Joan Allen stars in new Broadway play

Tony Award winning, Oscar nominated actress, and NIU School of Theatre and Dance graduate Joan Allen is starring in a brand new Broadway play written by Oscar winner Kenneth Lonergan.  The Waverly Gallery opens October 25, with previews beginning September 25.

From Playbill: 

Playbill cover for The Waverly GalleryAcademy Award winner Kenneth Lonergan’s acclaimed memory play, and 2001 Pulitzer Prize Finalist, The Waverly Gallery, premieres on Broadway at the John Golden Theatre.

Directed by Drama Desk and Obie Award winner Lila Neugebauer (in her Broadway debut), the cast includes Grammy Award winner, and Academy and Golden Globe Award nominee, Elaine May, one half of the legendary comedy duo, Nichols and May, whose iconic show An Evening With Mike Nichols and Elaine May famously played the John Golden Theatre; Academy Award nominee Lucas Hedges; Tony Award winner Joan Allen; and, in his third Lonergan play, Michael Cera.

The Waverly Gallery is about the final years of a generous, chatty, and feisty grandmother’s final battle against Alzheimer’s disease. Gladys is an old-school lefty and social activist and longtime owner of a small art gallery in Greenwich Village. The play explores her fight to retain her independence and the subsequent effect of her decline on her family, especially her grandson. More than a memory play, The Waverly Gallery captures the humor and strength of a family in the face of crisis.

The Waverly Gallery originally premiered at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in August 1999, before opening Off-Broadway at the Promenade Theater in March 2000.

Allen, a Rochelle native, earned her BFA in Theatre from NIU in 1989.  She won a Tony for Best Actress in a Play in her Broadway debut in Burn This, and has been nominated three times for Oscars as Best Actress (The Contender) and Best Supporting Actress (Nixon and The Crucible).

Stevens Building ready for its close-up after $23.7 million renovation

Stevens Building ready for its close-up after $23.7 million renovation

The Stevens Building at Northern Illinois University, home to the School of Theatre and Dance and the Department of Anthropology have raised the curtain for Monday’s start of the fall semester after an extensive renovation project.

The $23.7 million state funded project has increased the size of the building by 55% to 106,000 square feet.

New features include:

  • A 200-seat state-of-the-art black box theater venue for teaching and performances, providing the most-real world experience for what students will encounter in professional settings after graduation
  • A vastly expanded scene shop with direct access so that sets can be built, painted and transported in totality in and out of theater spaces
  • A 330-seat lecture hall which can easily be configured into as many as three smaller lecture spaces.
  • Improved classroom and laboratory spaces for anthropology.
  • Expansion of the theater and dance movement lab into a more functional two-story space.
  • Five dedicated classrooms equipped with “smart” technology.
  • Dramatically improved accessibility, including a new elevator.


Acting President Lisa Freeman said the completion of the project is another way that NIU is showing its commitment to students and the community.  “These renovations to the Stevens Building afford our faculty the ability to teach our students in theater, dance and anthropology in a world-class facility.  We welcome our community to visit our campus and attend performances where they will enjoy the work of our very talented students.”

Kendall Thu, Chair of the Department of Anthropology said his students are excited about the opportunities the new facility can provide.  “We are thrilled to return to state-of-the-art facilities which will allow us to continue our tradition of being student-centered with an emphasis on engaged learning. The labs and classrooms optimize interactions between students and faculty while building a sense of community. This new facility is a fitting tribute to current and retired faculty who have been trailblazers in their research and distinguished teachers in the classroom.”

For Alex Gelman, Director of the School of Theatre and Dance the return to the Stevens means the improvisation for his students of the last few years can be focused into the classroom and stage.  “We are certainly excited to be teaching and studying in these new and vastly improved spaces.  The facility we have now provides us the opportunity to better prepare actors for the work that lies ahead after they graduate and move into their professional careers.”

Classes begin in the Stevens Building on Monday, August 25.  The first School of Theatre and Dance performance is October 3 when “The Flick” a play by Pulitzer Prize winner Annie Baker opens the new black box theater.

For a complete schedule of upcoming theater and dance performances visit  For more information on the Department of Anthropology visit

NIU dancers have arrived in Washington DC

NIU dancers have arrived in Washington DC

Eleven students from NIU’s dance program have arrived in Washington DC to perform in the National College Dance Festival at the Kennedy Center for the Arts this weekend.  The dancers qualified for NCDF with their performance of “ENUF,” an original piece choreographed by NIU School of Theatre and Dance Professor Paula Frasz, at the Central Conference of the American College Dance Association in Champaign, Ill., in March.


The dancers are:

Aiyana Cervantes, senior dance major
Taylor Cole, sophomore dance major
Laqes Davis, junior dance major
Amber Echols, senior dance major
Joshua Francique, sophomore dance major
Lance Gasher, sophomore dance major
Victoria Herrera, freshman dance major
Danielle Keyes, senior dance major
Jose Macias, senior double major in dance and psychology
Jordan Murphy, senior dance major
Abriana Willis, senior dance major

Performances will be held at the Kennedy Center in three sessions starting on Thursday, June 7.  For more information on the National College Dance Festival visit their website.