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UI bigwigs get theatrical Oct. 10, as doomed monarchs in French political satire

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- An all-star cast of prominent University of Iowa administrators and faculty members will display their thespian skills when the UI Department of Theatre Arts presents a free reading of "The Final Disposal of the Kings," a political satire written at the height of the French Revolution, at 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 10, in Theatre B of the UI Theatre Building. The reading will be presented in conjunction with "Global Focus: Human Rights '98," an ambitious, campus-wide celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Seating is limited, and will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Featured will be former UI President and current College of Law faculty member Sandy Boyd as the German Holy Roman Emperor; Vice President for Research David Skorton as the King of Spain; Provost Jon Whitmore as the King of Poland; Liberal Arts Dean Linda Maxson as Catherine the Great of Russia; School of Music Director David Nelson as the King of Sardinia; Jon Ringen, chair of literature, science and arts, as the King of Prussia; English department faculty member Jon Wilcox as the King of England; literature, science and the arts faculty member Alan Nagel as the King of Naples; and theatre arts faculty members John Cameron as Pope Pius VI and Eric Forsythe as the Old Man.

Although the event is a reading, rather than a performance, the monarchs will be identified by toy crowns, and when one of them argues with the Pope, they will stage mock combat with styrofoam bats.

"The Final Disposal of the Kings" was written in 1793, at the height of Robespierre's reign of terror, when revolutionary sentiments were raging. The play was not translated into English until UI French faculty member Downing Thomas worked last spring with Shanta Small, a theater and French major, as an honors project. Small graduated last spring, and Thomas has made further revisions in preparing the work for the stage.

Director Meredith Alexander, a faculty member in the UI Department of Theatre Arts, explains, "In broad strokes, the play's subject matter is about the arrival on a volcanic island of a group of revolutionaries, one from each of the European nations. They are scouting for a suitable place to deposit the cargo of another ship in their caravan -- all the abducted monarchs who they plan to set up on the island as a 'zoo for tyrants' and watch them devour each other like beasts."

After negotiating with an old man who has lived on the island in political exile, the revolutionaries haul the monarchs off the boat one by one, taunting them for their various abuses and excesses of power.

"Each of the monarchs has a cameo as s/he undergoes a crisis upon realizing the circumstances of this new home," Alexander says "As they assemble, they quickly start bickering over who is most responsible for this disaster. Soon bodily needs overtake them, and they fall upon each other over what appears to be the last remaining morsel of civilized food, bits of biscuits. As they fight like hungry beasts, the volcano, which has been sputtering in the background, erupts. The revolutionaries escape but the monarchs are consumed by molten lava."

Alexander says the fact that so many prominent UI administrators and faculty members agreed to participate in a satire about differences of power ­ written at a time when those in power were literally losing their heads -- demonstrates the spirit of Global Focus '98. "One of the purposes of Global Focus is to examine the evolution of human rights throughout history," Alexander says. "The play illuminates the issues of power and human rights, but so does their willingness, with both seriousness and good humor, to put themselves in this rather ironic position."

Global Focus: Human Rights '98 is a cross - disciplinary program of teaching, research and action of the UI and its surrounding communities, designed to address the problems and prospects of human rights as the 21st century approaches. The program features distinguished speakers, scholarly lectures, panel discussions, published research, curricular innovations, community forums, radio broadcasts, artistic displays, theatrical events, films and musical offerings. Global Focus has include visits by Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng and human rights lawyer Jerome Shestack, president of the American Bar Association; and will also feature Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel. For more information, visit the Global Focus website at < http://www.uiowa.edu/~hr98/>

10/6/98