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NIU Theatre presents 'Woyzeck'

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014 2:00 a.m. CST

“We're not trying to justify a murderer but rather to understand him,” director Alexander Gelman said about the Northern Illinois University School of Theatre and Dance upcoming play, "Woyzeck."

Opening Feb. 20, "Woyzeck" tells the story of Franz Woyzeck, a lowly German soldier and wigmaker who is slowly driven to insanity and who kills his common-law wife in a fit of jealous rage.

In the world of the play, "Woyzeck" is considered morally lacking by his superiors because he lives in abject poverty. He is bullied, belittled and taken advantage of by his commanding officers, his cohorts and the people closest to him.

When he must take odd jobs to earn extra money, he is further dehumanized. A doctor pays him to experiment on him and is thrilled when Woyzeck begins to hear voices and exhibit signs of acute paranoia. The doctor does nothing to stop his downward emotional spiral.

Playwright Georg Büchner wrote "Woyzeck" as a seemingly disconnected collection of scenes in 1836, but died before he completed the work. The play has been reworked and adapted by numerous authors since his death, including adaptations for movies in 1979 and 1994.  

This NIU version of the play was adapted by the director. According to Gelman, his adaptation orders the short scenes as he believes Büchner would have, had he been able to finish the play. 

Although the play is visually presented as set in the late 19th century, Gelman said it is really not set in a time period. 

“The play is episodic, dreamlike, even nightmarish,” he said in a news release. “In the same way we juxtapose things in our dreams, every image has some significant meaning – like I can set someone in a white wig next to someone in a suit of armor and each has a contribution to what is experienced.” 

"Woyzeck" runs Feb. 20 through 23, and Feb. 27 through March 1. Performances will take place at Huntley Middle School Auditorium, 1515 S Fourth St., in DeKalb.  Performances will start at 7:30 p.m. on weekdays and Saturdays. Sunday and second-Saturday matinee shows will start at 2 p.m.

Tickets cost $16 for adults, $13 for seniors and $8 for students. Tickets and additional information are available at the NIU School of Theatre and Dance box office at 815-753-1600, or online at www.niu.edu/theatre. 

This production is not affiliated with DeKalb School District 428.

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