Winter Update, March 28, 2017

Happy Spring!

As we jump head first into Spring Quarter, and sadly, our last quarter at Northwestern, we are excited to share with you all the progress that was made throughout Winter Quarter, as well as plans we have for the spring.

To kick things off, we announced our cast! We are incredibly excited by the amazing actors who will be bringing these new characters to life. David Bell, Melvin Brandon Logan, and the rest of our casting team, worked hard to pick a cast that represents a variety of experiences from Northwestern’s campus. We look forward to the valuable input every cast member will provide throughout the workshopping of our show, and we can't wait to get into the rehearsal room with them. With the addition of our cast and production team members, the 2017 Waa-Mu team is complete. We can’t wait for these 150+ students to come together to make Beyond Belief: a superhero story come to life!

As we mentioned in our Fall Update (see post from 12/11/16), our Student Outreach Committee hosted biweekly discussions with Chicago professionals that dealt with casting and writing inclusive stories for the theatre. Debra Ann Blade, Gloria Bond Clunie, Delaney Burlingame of Seesaw Theatre, and Henry Godínez each engaged our writers in stimulating conversation that moved the writing of our show forward.

Outside the creative process, we are continuing to engage with the greater Evanston community. We kicked off the New Year by performing and emceeing at First Night Evanston. The night culminated in a celebration with The Dolphin Show, another large student theatre organization on Northwestern’s campus. Waa-2 members sang the National Anthem at men’s and women’s basketball games; it was great to support our teams as they experienced successful seasons! Go ‘Cats!

Over spring break, The Waa-Mu Show produced our 8th Annual Songwriters’ Showcase at the McKittrick Hotel in New York City, home to the Off-Broadway hit Sleep No More. The evening was a great opportunity to showcase work generated in our winter class as well as to reconnect with New York-based alumni and friends. Check out “Everybody’s Hero”, one of the songs performed at the showcase, here - and be on the lookout for more videos to come!

Speaking of the Creating the Musical class, we concluded the quarter with a full first draft of the show! Our class of 75 worked together all quarter to write the songs and scenes that will be produced on the Cahn stage this spring. Click here for a sneak peek of some of the material.

This quarter, we have been communicating with Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital and are thrilled to have started a partnership between the two organizations. This spring, we will be going into Lurie Children’s with cast members to perform for and spend time with patients. Additionally, we will be fundraising for Lurie Children’s throughout the run of our show. Donations can be made directly to the hospital on our fundraising webpage; we will also have cast members collecting money in the lobby after every performance of Beyond Belief: a superhero story.

We are also extremely grateful that Naf Naf Grill, an Evanston favorite, offered to work with The Waa-Mu Show to subsidize tickets for Lurie Children’s patients and their families. We hope this will help those who are otherwise unable to have access to our show.

As we strive to find more ways to make The Waa-Mu Show widely accessible, we will be hosting our First Annual Community Day on Saturday, May 6th! Community Day will include:

  • Wee-Mu: a 50 minute presentation of the inner workings of The Waa-Mu Show for children ages five to ten years old, led by Dr. Ryan T. Nelson.

  • Club Waa-Mu: Club Waa-Mu is new this year! In a second space in Cahn, we will host a musical theatre workshop for students ages 11 to 13 years old, led by our resident teaching artist, Julianne Lang (‘18). Both Wee-Mu and Club Waa-Mu are co-produced with Imagine U, The Wirtz Center’s TYA series!

  • ASL/Sensory Friendly Performance: The matinee following Wee-Mu and Club Waa-Mu will be an ASL and Sensory Friendly performance. Through adjusting tech elements of our show, making a Social Narrative (including trigger and content warnings) available to our patrons, and providing an ASL translator as well as trained in-audience volunteers, we hope that members of our community with disabilities will feel more comfortable attending this year’s Waa-Mu Show. Of course, this is a first year effort, and we look forward to receiving feedback from the community in order to continue to improve accessibility in coming years.

  • Evanston resident discount: There will be a 20% discount for Evanston residents for the 2pm performance on Saturday, May 6th. By using the code, SUPERHERO, patrons can get 20% off tickets at any price level.

For more information about Community Day, visit the corresponding page under our Events tab.

This year’s team is extremely passionate about programming for young audiences, and in conjunction with Community Day, we have been accepted for a residency at The Gale School! Student teaching artists, Julianne Lang (‘18), Lucy Kalar (‘17), Ryan Martin (‘17), and Hannah Merens (‘18) will be working weekly with fifth and sixth grade students. Our residency will culminate in the students attending the show with a talkback afterwards with members of the cast!

We are extremely grateful for the amazing work the entire Waa-Mu team has done this past quarter, and we are excited to accomplish our spring goals as well as prepare for the 2018 co-chairs to take the reins and continue the good work into Waa-Mu’s future.

We hope you will join us this spring for The 86th Annual Waa-Mu Show, Beyond Belief: a superhero story. April 28-May 7, 2017 in Cahn Auditorium. If you have not yet purchased your tickets, you can do so HERE!

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to email the Co-Chairs at


Thank you, and we hope to see you in Cahn this spring!

Charlotte, Eric, Jessie, & Justin


Tickets Onsale, January 2, 2017

86TH ANNUAL WAA-MU SHOW WILL CELEBRATE EVERYDAY HEROES Tickets on sale now for “Beyond Belief: a superhero story”

Original musical written, performed and produced by undergraduates Show explores the extraordinary potential of every community voice
Tickets on sale now for limited two-week run in Spring 2017

EVANSTON, Ill. --- The Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts at Northwestern University and The Waa-Mu Show will present “Beyond Belief: a superhero story,” an original musical about the transformative power of love.

The 86th Annual Waa-Mu Show will run April 28 - May 7 at Cahn Auditorium, 600 Emerson St., on the Evanston campus.

The new stage musical is being written, composed, choreographed and co-produced by more than 100 Northwestern students. Senior undergraduate student co-chairs Jessie Jennison, Charlotte Morris, Eric Peters and Justin Tepper lead the 2017 production under the artistic direction of David H. Bell. Bell is the Donald G. Robertson Director of Music Theatre in the Northwestern School of Communication and an award-winning director with international credits.

“Beyond Belief” follows two sisters who cope with harsh realities by creating a fantastical world of superheroes. These extraordinary characters, based on ordinary people from their lives, spring to life and demonstrate the resilient power of love. “Beyond Belief” explores what makes each of us “super” and suggests that believing may be the greatest power we have.

“The traditions of Northwestern’s Waa-Mu Show’s are what make it so special,” said the 2017 co-chairs in a written statement. “Over the years, ensemble members have sought ways to make the show resonate with its current audience. With this production we strive to illuminate what is extraordinary about every voice in our community.”

Waa-Mu Show History

The Waa-Mu Show began as a joint effort of the University's Women's Athletic Association (W.A.A.) and Men's Union (M.U.) during the 1928-29 academic year. In recent years, Waa-Mu has evolved from a series of musical and theatrical vignettes into an entirely student-written and orchestrated musical. Dubbed “The Greatest College Show in America,” by Associated Press, the Waa-Mu Show is a forerunner in the world of musical theater writing, giving undergraduate students a chance to serve as leaders in every aspect of the production's creation, from writing to orchestration to performance.

Past cast members include Walter Kerr in the 1930s; Claude Akins, Sheldon Harnick, Cloris Leachman, Paul Lynde, Charlotte Rae and Tony Randall in the 1940s; Warren Beatty, Penny Fuller and Garry Marshall in the 1950s; Karen Black, Frank Galati, Ann-Margret and Tony Roberts in the 1960s; Laura Innes and Shelley Long in the 1970s; Gregg Edelman, Ana Gasteyer, and Megan Mullally in the 1980s; Zach Braff, Brian d'Arcy James, Heather Headley, Jason Moore and Kate Shindle in the 1990s; and, more recently, Jenny Powers.

Tickets on Sale Now

Tickets for “Beyond Belief: a superhero story” are on sale now, and prices range from $10 - $30. Tickets can be purchased on the Wirtz Center website, by phone at 847-491-7282 or at the Wirtz Center box office, located in the Ethel M. Barber Theater, 30 Arts Circle Drive. The Wirtz Center is a member of the Northwestern Arts Circle.

The Arts Circle brings together film, humanities, literary arts, music, theatre, dance and visual arts. Search for events across all artistic disciplines at Northwestern Arts Circle.


Fall Update, December 11, 2016

“To the friends…”

As fall quarter comes to a close, we, the 2016-2017 Co-Chairs, would like to share some of our efforts over the past few months (as well as plans that we have for winter quarter and beyond). We began our tenure as Co-Chairs by creating the following values statement:


The 2016-2017 Co-Chairs aim to make The Waa-Mu Show more accessible to all students on Northwestern’s campus. By promoting inclusion, we hope to create a production that better represents our campus and our society. We also hope to gain and foster new members for the Waa-Mu community who will continue to improve upon the organization in coming years.


To begin implementing our values statement, we have: hosted writers’ meetings to focus on new work, participated in panels with faculty on inclusion in theatre, welcomed a more representative Waa-2 to help improve ambassadorship, offered more opportunities to provide feedback, participated in a workshop led by the Multicultural Student Affairs and made a noteworthy change of wording to the closing number. Below you can read in detail about these implementations. Also read about plans for winter quarter that include guest lectures every other week following the Creating the Musical Class and efforts to make the creative and writing teams more inclusive than ever.

To keep the Northwestern community apprised of progress, we intend to publish a quarterly summary of progress on the show.


Summary of Fall actions:

Fall Writers’ Meetings: This year, we partnered with Vertigo and Project NU, two other organizations on campus that focus on new work, to host open Fall Writers’ Meetings twice a week. This was an effort to give writers of all skill levels a space to learn from one another and workshop their material. These meetings culminated in a showcase of material, much of which was written in direct response to current events.

To the Memories: “To the Memories” is one of many age-old Waa-Mu traditions. It serves as the closing song in our annual production every spring. One section of the song included the lyrics “To the girls, we’ll not forget them…” and, for years, has been sung only by the male-identifying members of our community. This year, we officially changed the lyrics to read: “To the friends, we’ll not forget them…”, and it will be sung by everyone.

Diversity and Inclusion Panel and continued Open Dialogues: In October, Waa-Mu hosted a panel on inclusion in theatre. The heads of our Student Outreach Committee (SOC) led a discussion with student and faculty panelists including Melissa Foster, Carrie Caffrey and Adhana Reid. The panel allowed us to start an open dialogue about inclusivity in theatre in general, and more specifically, the transparency and accessibility of Waa-Mu. From there, we began hosting dialogues periodically where David Bell and the Co-Chairs engaged in discussion with leaders of color in Northwestern’s theatre community. Together, we have discussed issues we’ve had in the past as well as current concerns from students. Concrete goals to make Waa-Mu more representative of Northwestern’s campus were set. Goals included continued conversation in the winter, a more representative Waa-2, a safer writing room, and more people of color in leadership and onstage.

Waa-2: Waa-2 is the group of freshmen that promote and workshop the production every year. As we prepared for Waa-2 auditions this year, we recognized the importance and potential that this group of ambassadors represents for our organization. A second audition was held after Winter Generals to make sure there were opportunities for students from all areas of campus. While this second audition was not heavily attended this year, we hope this can continue in future years to help improve the Waa-2 audition process. This year’s Waa-2 is larger in number in an effort to include more people who are passionate about Waa-Mu from the beginning of their time here at Northwestern.

MSA Workshop: The Multicultural Student Affairs office has been very supportive in helping us learn about ways to make Waa-Mu a safer space for all students. In November, MSA led a workshop with the Waa-Mu team that focused on the different ways people identify and how best to have productive conversations surrounding identity. These workshops will continue as we begin to write characters with a range of identities and experiences.


Plans for winter quarter:

Student Outreach Committee (SOC): The 2015-2016 Co-Chairs created the Student Outreach Committee in an effort to prioritize Waa-Mu’s connection with and representation of our campus. This year, we have pushed SOC to take as much initiative as possible. The committee has already outlined a winter calendar in which The Waa-Mu community will participate in more workshops with MSA as well as a SafeSpace Workshop. SOC is bringing in guest lecturers every other week to follow the Creating the Musical class. These lecturers will talk about a range of topics that relate to writing for the theatre in general, as well as writing for this specific Waa-Mu Show. An official list of guest lecturers will be made public once they are finalized. SOC will also be very present in our Creating the Musical class. Along with an online anonymous form and written feedback forms, SOC will be a resource for students to voice their opinions about material as well as about the writing room.

Creative and Writing Process: We have made a concerted effort to encourage voices from a wide variety of Northwestern experiences to be part of our creative and writing teams. In addition, we have tried to choose a group of section leaders within the class who not only have skill for writing and story-building but are also representative of our campus today. This year our Creating the Musical class will include 70+ students. We will work together with our section leaders to make sure that every student feels like their voice is heard in the room as well as represented on stage in the spring. To ensure this, we will have individual weekly check-ins and an anonymous forum for feedback. We hope the class will be a positive experience for everyone involved.

Casting Process: Along with David Bell and Ryan T. Nelson, Melissa Foster and Melvin Brandon Logan will join the casting process as advisors to the director and musical director. Melvin will also be joining the professional creative team as assistant director of the show.


The Waa-Mu Show is an 86 year old tradition. We recognize the imperfections of the organization and apologize to anyone who has been hurt by them. We are dedicated to making Waa-Mu a more welcoming environment for the next generation of Northwestern students. Nothing we have achieved or will achieve would be possible without those who held this position before us. Past teams have paved the way for us and, like all student organizations, Waa-Mu's senior leadership will move on after this year. We trust that the ongoing focus on inclusion and accessibility with inspire the student leaders who follow.

Outside of the efforts done to further our values statement, our team has been working tirelessly on so many other aspects of Waa-Mu; if you would like more information about our inclusion efforts, community service programming, the creative process, or any other areas of the organization, please feel free to reach out to the 2016-2017 Waa-Mu Co-Chairs at We would love to hear from you!


Jessie, Charlotte, Justin, & Eric