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A Cast of Thousands: University Libraries Exhibit Celebrates Performance at Northwestern

An exhibition in Deering Library, drawn from the archives of the most accomplished thespians of Northwestern, coincides with CommFest, the upcoming School of Communication gala.

Throughout Northwestern’s history, its students have excelled at theatrical productions, from impromptu class revues in the 1870s to Emmy- and Oscar- winning achievements today. In celebration of this star-studded heritage,  “A Cast of Thousands: Celebrating Performance at Northwestern” showcases the University’s stellar faculty and alumni from every aspect of theatrical performance: acting, writing, directing, and teaching.

The exhibit features a history of the Schools of Oratory and Speech and the energetic vision of early deans and faculty, which set the stage for the long-running tradition of theater at Northwestern. Those early years paved the way for the Waa-Mu Show and University Theatre productions, which both started in the 1920s and have launched the careers of numerous stage, screen, and television performers over the years.

This “cast of thousands” of alums includes stage actors Nancy Dussault and Larry Pressman, film stars Patricia Neal and Karen Black, television performers Charlotte Rae and McLean Stevenson, and directors and teachers Frank Galati and Winifred Ward, among many others. The exhibit also features items from the personal papers of these and other alumni.

"Finnegans Wake" costumes designs by Virgil Johnson, 1967

“Finnegans Wake” costumes designs by Virgil Johnson, 1967

“A Cast of Thousands: Celebrating Performance at Northwestern” is on display in Deering Library and runs through April 22. It uses images, documents, posters, programs, and artifacts from collections held in University Archives.

On Saturday, April 21, at 10:00 a.m., University Archivist Kevin Leonard will speak about Northwestern’s rich history as a pipeline to Hollywood. His lecture, “Lights, Camera, Wildcats!” will be held in Deering Library.