IU Summer Theatre closes with new musical set at the start of Arab Spring

July 27, 2017

BLOOMINGTON, Ind— Indiana University will close its summer theatre season in August with a workshop production of Joe Schmoe Saves the World, written and composed by Brett Ryback and directed by Christian Barillas.

Set in 2011, Joe Schmoe Saves the World tells the parallel stories of an American indie rock band and two Iranian students during the Arab Spring in 2011. At the heart of the story are two women who risk everything to stand up for what they believe in.


Brett Ryback

Ryback uses the stories of actual people and events to build the world of Joe Schmoe, including the song “RISE UP”, about the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi and the vlog by Asmaa Mahfouz that “helped spark the Revolution”.

“What inspired me about it – and still does – is that it was kids my age putting their lives on the line to fight for their basic freedoms,” said Ryback. “It pushed me to ask the question, ‘How far would I be willing to go if my freedom were being jeopardized.'”

Gloria (Mary Beth Black) is the lyricist for her band Joe Schmoe Saves the World and she is struggling with whether to pursue public policy at Cornell University or continue to write songs with her friend and lead singer, Joe (Scott Van Wye).

Afarin (Meadow Nguy) is a graffiti artist who is trying to convince Lyon (Aaron Ricciardi) to use a blank wall in his father’s construction site for an art piece. She wants to create the piece for the upcoming protest, but is met with opposition from Lyon.

The music of Joe Schmoe Saves the World creates an artistic collaboration across the two worlds. “You’re looking at a relationship that would benefit greatly from a deeper dive into our interconnectedness, rather than an isolationist stance that continues to keep us distanced from one another,” said Ryback. “All themes that I explore in the show.”


Christian Barillas

Joe Schmoe Saves the World is IU Summer Theatre’s 2017 Premiere Musical, a tradition of IU Theatre’s summer offerings since 2006. Christian Barillas (Modern Family, The Handmaid’s Tale), who will join IU as the production’s director, has been developing the work with Brett Ryback since 2012. His first time directing the musical was in 2015 for a staged reading hosted by the Geffen Playhouse. Indiana University’s Department of Theatre, Drama, & Contemporary Dance is excited to welcome Christian and Brett as they continue the process with our talented company of performers.

Cast and creative team information is available at: http://www.indiana.edu/~thtr/productions/IUST2017/joeschmoe.shtml

WHAT: IU Summer Theatre presents The 2017 Premiere Musical “Joe Schmoe Saves the World” by Brett Ryback

WHEN: 7.30 p.m. August 16, 17, 18 and 19

WHERE: Wells-Metz Theatre, Lee Norvelle Theatre and Drama Center, 275 N. Jordan Ave.

TICKETS: Admission is $10. Information and group rates, call the box office at 812.855.1103 or visit theatre.indiana.edu.

For more production information and interview requests, please email Amy Osajima at aosajima@indiana.edu.


Aaron Ricciardi (Lyon)


Christian Barillas (Director) and Brett Ryback (Writer/Composer)


Meadow Nguy (Afarin)


Aaron Ricciardi; Projections by Reuben Lucas


Scott Van Wye (Joe) and Mary Beth Black (Gloria)


Meadow Nguy (Afarin) and Aaron Ricciardi (Lyon)


Director Christian Barillas and Mary Beth Black (Gloria)


Scott Van Wye (Joe)


Mary Beth Black (Gloria


Projections by Reuben Lucas


Projections by Reuben Lucas