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Educating Rita Highlights Importance of Schooling

Starry Night Repertory Theatre
Lily Blouin stars as Rita in Educating Rita

Starry Night Repertory Theatre is presenting the 2-person show, Educating Rita in the Horrabin Theatre,  on Western Illinois University’s campus.

Educating Rita is a stage comedy by British playwright Willy Russell that premiered in London, June 1980.

Lily Blouin, a WIU graduate and veteran of the Starry Night Repertory Theater is playing the role of Rita, a 26-year-old, hairdresser from Liverpool, England.

“Rita is from a blue-collar background yet she knows there’s more to life than just going to the pub and having babies," said Jeannie Woods, director of the show. "The education actually at some point alienates her from her past before she’s ready for her future. But the play takes her to where she can call herself an educated women and opens up so many things for her life.”

Starry Night Repertory Theatre Director and Western Illinois University theatre professor, Jeannie Woods said this is a play she’s be interested in for a while. 

“It’s about how education enlarges our vision of the future, our perception of what we can do with our lives and who we are, said Jeannie Woods. “And that’s a message, as a director I really want to get out there.”

Educating Rita was adapted for the big screen in 1983. Directed by Lewis Gilbert and starring  Michael Cain and Julie Walters, the film won multiple major awards for best actor and best actress and was nominated for 3 Oscars.

Jeannie Woods says the film is very true to the play although it ventures outside the professor's office. But, the play is confined to that space where Rita is being tutored for her exam focusing solely on the two characters.

Jeannie's husband, Dan Woods is staring in the play as the professor.

“The professor considers himself to be failed poet and he is an alcoholic and Rita who is young, but not a traditional student, is on the opposite end of the scale. She wants to learn and immerse herself into everything she can," said Dan Woods. "And Rita is hoping that by him teaching her, he will gain some of her vivacity back. Because he is pretty much down in the dumps when we first meet. He is not exactly happy with his lot in life."

Dan Woods says he hopes the play's message resonates with the Western Illinois University college community. "It talks about not only the value of education, but about how it changes you as a person," said Dan Woods.

The Starry Night Repertory Theatre is presenting, the comedy, Educating Rita in partnership with WIU's  Department of Theatre and Dance Thursday Mar. 20 - Saturday, Mar. 22 in the Horrabin Theatre. Shows start at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the box office, through Starry Night Repertory Theatre online or over the phone at (309) 255-8570.

Emily Boyer is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.