Project NU: For Us, By Us, About Us

We all have one thing in common: in some way or another, we are part of Northwestern.

However, our stories sure are different from those of our peers. Sometimes our purple experience exceeds our expectations, and sometimes it’s an obstacle course we weren’t prepared for. No matter your side of the story, you’ll likely see yourself reflected in Project NU’s Where the Water Meets the Rocks, the only play on campus made for, by, and about Northwestern students. The production, sponsored by Spectrum Theater, will be May 17–19 at Shanley Pavilion.

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The third annual Project NU is a year-long process that started in spring of 2017 when the director, producer, and head writer were selected for the 2018 show. In the fall, a team of writers ventured into the Northwestern community to conduct around 60 in-depth interviews about individual and collective experiences. The students' stories, perspectives, and commentaries on the issues they face were then transformed into one cohesive, relatable, and funny narrative that aims to make the audience reflect on campus issues while having fun.

“It’s by no means going to be a comprehensive look at Northwestern," explained head writer Zoe Johnson. "It’s not going to be representative of every single thing about the school, but it’s a broad snapshot.”

The production will have seven contrasting characters that are trying to figure out their place in this purple house without a roadmap. The script intertwines the character’s lives in clever and humorous ways. Some of the main topics include class inequality, first generation students, queerness and its relationship with faith, eating disorders, Greek culture, relationships, and magical Northwestern moments. Johnson believes that some of these issues are well known by the community, but aren’t part of a broader campus conversation.

“We are hoping that we tell your stories,” director Shane Eichstaedt said. “I can almost guarantee that there is a moment of honest-to-God truth for every student here, in this play. I don’t know what it is for everyone, but people should come see it because it’s true, and it’s real, and it’s now, and it’s us… and it’s free.”   

She described directing this play as an unsettling and scary, yet exhilarating, experience. “I have been trying to check consistently with the room by asking three questions, Are we having fun? Are we proud of what we are doing? Are we proud of how we are doing?" Eichstaedt explained. "And I think that after five long weeks of rehearsing every night with these people, I can definitively say we have fun; we are proud of what we did; and we are proud of how we did it."

Project NU is sponsored and produced by Spectrum Theatre Company, which was founded in 2005 and is dedicated to empowering the greater Northwestern community by raising awareness, inspiring dialogue, and effecting change through theatrical experiences based on relevant social and political issues. In Eichstaedt’s initial address to the team, she commented, “Spectrum makes theatre for social change. Not 'change the world' kind of change, but 'change the way we move through the world' kind of change. 'Change people’s mind' kind of change. 'Change people’s outlooks' kind of change.”