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Evanston resident Sarah Gitenstein to direct Chicago premiere of “Right to be Forgotten” – Chicago Tribune

Evanston resident Sarah Gitenstein couldn’t resist the chance to direct the Chicago premiere of “Right to be Forgotten” for Chicago’s Raven Theater.

“I have two young babies so it’s a little hard to find the time but I read the play and I found it so relevant,” Gitenstein said. “I couldn’t turn it down.”

The play by Sharyn Rothstein focuses on a man in his late 20s whose indiscretion a decade earlier at 17 seems to be recorded forever on the Internet. He goes to extraordinary lengths in an attempt to remove that damaging mistake from the Internet but faces the obstacle of technological companies’ defense of freedom of information.

Gitenstein said the issue of the permanence of what is recorded on the Internet is “crucial to discuss because we’re exposing people to this way of living that we’re not yet sure of its long-term effects. The only people that are experiencing the immersive nature of it are the kids because the adults grew up without it. Those conversations are morally and ethically relevant to how we navigate this next generation’s immersion into the digital age.”

She stressed that, “Kids should get the right to make mistakes. That’s a part of growing up. The internet and social media does not allow for that. It makes it permanent.”

Gitenstein praised the playwright for presenting both sides of the issue. “There is no clear answer of right and wrong with this debate,” the director said.

Gitenstein has directed for American Theater Company, Court Theatre, Curious Theatre, The Gift, A Red Orchid Theatre, and The New Coordinates. She directed the world premiere, off-Broadway, national tour, and commercial runs of “5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche,” which won Best Production 2012 at the New York International Fringe Festival.

Gitenstein has been involved in theater since she was in high school.

“I was acting and directing but I leaned a lot more toward directing because it challenged me in a new way,” she said. “It let me make a lot of decisions in terms of getting to see visually what I wanted to do, working with designers and actors and text.”

She earned a BA in theater from Kenyon College and an MFA in directing from Northwestern University.

Her involvement with directing led Gitenstein to a study of best practices in the field. She became immersed in that study during the pandemic when a show she was scheduled to direct at Northwestern University as her thesis production was canceled.

“We were in that really interesting time with Black Lives Matter as well as the Me Too movement,” Gitenstein explained. “A lot of people started to realize a lot of the bad practices that were happening. I had just had my first baby and had been the first woman to have a baby in the program. I realized while I was directing the show how little we talk about pregnancy, let alone our bodies when we’re in theater spaces — which is crazy because we need our bodies to tell stories.”

Gitenstein, who is an adjunct professor at Northwestern University and associate producer to the MFA Theater Program at Northwestern, teaches a class based on her ongoing research, “The Body Onstage: Best Practices in Directing, Advanced Stage Directing,” which focuses on ways to create a safe and inclusive environment while directing.

When Gitenstein isn’t directing, researching or teaching, she is busy with her two children, ages 3-1/2 and 1-1/2. Luckily, her husband, Jared Fernley, is an actor so he understands the changing demands of a career in the arts.

“Right to be Forgotten” runs from Feb. 9-March 26 at 6157 N. Clark St. For tickets, call 773-338-2177 or visit raventheatre.com.

Myrna Petlicki is a freelance reporter for Pioneer Press.

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