Skip to main content



By Suzan Zeder & Jenn Hartmann Luck
Directed by Rives Collins


FREE Reading Presentation:
Friday, May 29, 2020
Mussetter-Struble Theater
Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts
1949 Campus Drive | Evanston, IL 60208

The Battlefields of Clara Barton is a folk/rock/historical/contemporary musical about the life of Clara Barton; Civil War nurse, political activist, revered founder of the American Red Cross. In a tumultuous life that spanned almost a century, Clara fought on many battlefields: historical, political, and emotional.

Clara’s story is brought to vibrant life by an ensemble of women, playing multiple roles, where age and gender are fluid. Diverse means of story-telling including spoken word poetry, abstract movement, scenes, and songs capture the chaos and complexity of the times. The threads of Clara’s life run from past to present with seamless synchronicity, creating a rich tapestry of themes as personal and potent today as they were in Clara’s times.



SUZAN ZEDER (Book & Lyrics) has been recognized nationally and internationally as one of the nation’s leading playwrights for family audiences. Her plays have been performed in all fifty states, Canada, Great Britain, Germany, Japan,  Korea, Israel, Australia, and New Zealand.  She is a six-time winner of the Distinguished Play Award given by the American Alliance of Theatre and Education.  Recent plays include When She Had Wings, commissioned by Imagination Stage and developed at New Visions New Voices at the Kennedy Center, and  the book/ lyrics for a new musical, Gretel! with music and lyrics by Jenn Hartmann Luck.  Also in collaboration with Luck, she is at work on a major musical The Battlefields of Clara Barton, about the civil war nurse, women’s rights activist and founder of the American Red Cross, which started its development at The University of Texas at Austin. In 2013, Zeder retired from The University of Texas at Austin where she led the Playwriting/Directing program for over 23 years and was the first holder of an Endowed Chair in Theatre for Youth/Playwriting. As President of the Board of Trustees of The Children’s Theatre Foundation of America, she helms an organization that provides grants to artists, bestows awards and funds collaborative activities in the field of Theatre for Young Audiences.

JENN HARTMANN LUCK (Music & Lyrics) is a composer, vocalist, educator, arts administrator, and mother based in Austin, TX.  She has been writing original music for film, theatre, and live performance for most of her career. She has self-produced two original albums: “I Admit” and “Silly Urban Girl” and her one-woman show Not a Chorus Girl. She was invited to sing the National Anthem for President Obama in 2014 and most recently has co-written two new musicals with acclaimed playwright, Suzan Zeder. Their musical Gretel! had its World Premiere at the Paramount Theatre in 2019, was featured at New Visions, New Voices at the Kennedy Center, will have its regional premiere at First Stage Milwaukee in 2020, and is being published by Dramatic Publishing Company. Their project The Battlefields of Clara Barton is in development. She is currently the Director of Partnerships & Programming for Education at the Paramount Theatre in Austin; heading into her 9th season. She has been working in arts education and theatre for young audiences across the country for more than 20 years. Over that time she has worked with the Herberger Theatre Center, Phoenix Theatre, Biz Kids NY, the Children’s Museum of Manhattan, and P.L.A.Y. at Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles. She holds a BA in Theatre from Arizona State University, her MFA in Drama and Theatre for Youth and Communities from UT Austin, is an AATE Don & Elizabeth Doyle Fellow, is on the Board of Directors for The International Association of Performing Arts for Youth (IPAY) and is on the Theatre and Dance Faculty at The University of Texas at Austin.



RIVES COLLINS (Professor and Chair, Department of Theatre) was honored with a Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence at Northwestern University, where he has taught in the Department of Theatre for the past thirty years.  An acclaimed professional storyteller (ORACLE AWARD, National Storytelling Network), he works with full faith that planting stories in the world is a bit like the work Johnny Appleseed once did.  He recently delivered the keynote address at the National Storytelling Conference, celebrating the role of storytelling in the 21st century, and was subsequently honored to reprise the presentation at The Cradle of Creativity conference in Cape Town, South Africa, as an American delegate to the international congress of ASSITEJ.  At the Kellogg Graduate School of Management, he teaches business narrative in the Advanced Management Program, asserting that storytelling is a differentiating skill in the 21st century that strengthens leaders, brands, and organizations. He is the co-author with Pamela Cooper of The Power of Story: Teaching Through Storytelling, proclaiming that, “Storytelling is at the heart of everything I do.”  In addition, Collins is head of the Theatre for Young Audiences program at Northwestern (JOHNNY SALDAÑA OUTSTANDING PROFESSOR OF THEATRE EDUCATION, American Alliance for Theatre and Education), and is an active professional stage director, specializing in the development of new work. He is an Associate Artist at Adventure Stage Chicago of the Northwestern Settlement House, an organization working to disrupt generational cycles of poverty, where he has recently directed two world-premiere plays, both written by Northwestern Alum Tom Arvetis. Also, he recently directed two world-premiere productions at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, both written by Northwestern colleague Laura Schellhardt. As an active member and past president of the American Alliance for Theatre and Education, and as a current board member of the Children’s Theatre Foundation of America, he works with an international community of artists, educators, and scholars to champion the cause of drama and theatre in the lives of young people.