CONTACT: WINSTON BARCLAY
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0073; fax (319) 384-0024
University Theatres presents comedy 'Why We Have a Body' Feb. 6-16
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Claire Chafee's award-winning comedy "Why We Have
a Body," featuring a family weird enough to be true, will be presented
by University Theatres Mainstage Feb. 6-16 in Theatre A of the University
of Iowa Theatre Building. Performances will be at 8 p.m. Feb. 6-8 and 12-15,
and at 3 p.m. Sundays, Feb. 9 and 16.
Chafee's not-exactly-average American family includes one daughter who is
a private detective, another who is a convenience-store robber, and their
mother, a feminist archeologist/historian/bilingual student of the female
brain who vanished in Peru but still pops up occasionally through telepathic
When "Why We Have a Body" was premiered by the Magic Theatre in
San Francisco, the play won four Dramalogue Awards and the Bay Area Critics'
Circle Award for original script. After the play's transfer to New York, Chafee
received Newsday's George Oppenheimer Award, which is presented each season
for the most impressive debut by an American playwright.
Faculty director Mary Beth Easley says that what she found appealing about
the script was its capability to combine wit, insight and poignancy in depicting
the empty spots in contemporary lives: "The main thing that attracted
me to the play, besides the language, is its treatment of how we fill those
empty places, those voids that are left by the absence of other people. In
particular it addresses the female journey -- how we live with our history,
and how we struggle to evolve. And besides, the play is just fun."
Her production embellishes the story with live musicians, performing original
compositions by music director Mark Bruckner. The instruments-- piano, guitar,
saxophone and percussion -- also provide most of the sound cues that are called
for in the script.
Chafee says of her unorthodox cast of characters, "The traditional family
as a harbor no longer exists. This is life after that."
"At one point in casting, I said these characters are all the extras
in someone else's movie," she says. "Mary may or may not be schizophrenic
and Lili who's a lesbian and Renee who's such a professional woman that she's
almost not considered a woman and Eleanor who's menopausal or post-menopausal.
These are the kind of women who get ignored at restaurants."
Chafee feels that the breakdown of the traditional family entails special
challenges and opportunities for women, whose identities were so long defined
by the men in their lives, and must now assume some of the more assertive
characteristics that are associated with masculinity. "There's a frustration
I have with the traditionally implanted female thought of some day, someone
will come, whether its a prince or my own career or my own love. I don't think
it's being a man to somehow open the door and walk through it, but sometimes
you have to envision that courage as being male."
The story's events often approach the brink of absurdity and they never provide
easy answers, but the play never loses its comic warmth, and never gets weirder
than the experiences of contemporary society. "Those with a strong need
to organize often get very frustrated with my work," Chafee says. "But
I feel like if it could be easily said or easily perceived someone would have
done it already."
Other artistic contributors to the production are set designer Dan Nemteanu,
costume designer Jennifer Cobb and lighting designer Bryon Winn.
Tickets for "Why We Have a Body" are $13 ($6 for UI students, senior
citizens and audience members 17 and younger). Tickets are available in advance
from the Hancher Auditorium box office. Any remaining tickets for each performance
will be available one hour before curtain time at the Theatre Building box
Tickets are also available at a substantial discount as part of a University
Theatres subscription package. Other spring Mainstage productions are Shakespeare's
"The Merchant of Venice," March 6-16, and Frank Wedekind's "Spring
Awakening," April 10-20.
Hancher box office hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday
and 1-3 p.m. Sunday. From the local calling area or outside Iowa, dial (319)
335-1160. Long distance within Iowa and western Illinois is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER.
Fax to (319) 353-2284. Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American
Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills,
and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction.
People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should
dial (319) 335-1158. The line is equipped with TDD for people with hearing
impairment who use that technology.
This production includes material of an adult nature. Potential audience members
who are concerned about whether it is appropriate for them should call the
department of theatre arts at 319-335-2700 for additional information.