Northern Illinois University

NIU Office of Public Affairs

News Release

Contact:David W. Booth/Jessica Custer, School of Theatre and Dance
(815) 753-1337

February 10, 2006

"War and Peace" brings the past alive

DeKalb, IL – Although Leo Tolstoy’s novel, War and Peace, can be intimidating to a potential reader, it is nevertheless considered to be his masterwork. Northern Illinois University School of Theatre and Dance braves the intimidation in order to produce a theatrical adaptation of Tolstoy’s greatest work, which opens in the O’Connell Theatre on the main campus on February 23.

This rarely produced play features author Helen Edmundson’s succinct and summarizing version of Tolstoy’s novel about a Russian generation on the brink of social upheaval during one of the most tumultuous periods in its history. Though covering a relatively short span of 15 years, the period from 1805 to1820 parallels what is generally referred to as the Napoleonic Wars, the nearly continuous period of warfare from April 20, 1792, until November 20, 1815.

The play follows two prominent Russian families, the Rostovas and the Bolkonskis and each of their members’ personal struggle with the many complexities of life, including; romance and scandal, war, and redemption. However, the story ultimately focuses on the bigger philosophical nature of cultural and social change, with some characters choosing to defend the existing class structure, and others realizing that the old way of life is disappearing.

Putting the novel on stage required considerable paring of the original story. The scope and depth of Tolstoy’s novel was immense. The original work introduced readers to nearly 500 characters and chronicled disparate characters from all segments of society. To portray this wide view of society, the play utilizes the talent of a cast of about twenty-five actors. The majority of the cast will play multiple roles with some playing as many as ten separate characters. 

War and Peace will be performed February 23-26 and March 2-5 in Stevens Building O'Connell Theatre, located behind the McDonald’s and the Pizza Hut restaurants on West Lincoln Highway. Weeknights and Saturday performances will be at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday performances will be at 2 p.m. Tickets are $14 for general admission, $8 for seniors, and $7 for students. Tickets are available by calling the Stevens Building Box Office at (815) 753-1600, or for additional information, visit the School of Theatre and Dance website at