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Release: Aug. 20, 1999

Hancher Millennium Festival opens with American premiere of ‘Geometry of Miracles’

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The 1999-2000 Millennium Festival at the University of Iowa Hancher Auditorium will open with the American premiere of "The Geometry of Miracles," a theatrical response to the career of architect Frank Lloyd Wright by Quebec director Robert Lepage and his Ex Machina theater company, at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Sept. 9-11 in the Hancher Loft.

The Hancher Loft is an intimate setting that places the audience on-stage with the performers. This season the Hancher Loft features new flexible seating risers, featuring padded chairs with backs, replacing the bleachers that were used for many seasons.

Lepage, who has been hailed as one of the theater visionaries of the late 20th century, combines dance, music, theater and innovative stagecraft to examine a little-explored aspect of Wright’s career -- the influence of Russian/Serbo-Croatian mystic Georgei Gurdjieff through Wright’s third wife, Olgivanna. The influence of this "rascal sage" took place during the ‘30s and ‘40s, when Wright designed the Johnson Wax headquarters in Racine, Wis., and other of his most spectacular buildings.

Gurdjieff taught that humans live life as if sleepwalking, and he prescribed methods of inner work that would lead to an awakening to higher levels of awareness and vitality. His emphasis on direct teacher/pupil relationship offers parallels to the process of artistic apprenticeship. Another of the principal characters is one of Wright’s architectural disciples.

"Geometry of Miracles" views Wright and his art completely through the eyes of Gurdjieff, family members and apprentices. Wright is portrayed by various actors during the performance, and he never speaks.

In an article about Lepage’s creative process, critic James Bunzli wrote, "The piece, a typical Lepagian work-in-progress, continues to change . . . At the heart of Lepage’s modus operandi is a concept that combines autobiography, coincidence and paradox, and the performance moment. It is a way of working, thinking, living, which gives Lepage’s work a relentless indeterminacy and a dynamic, unique, imagistic inner self -- even in (because of) the work’s chronic ‘unfinished’ state."

Reviewing the Toronto premiere, the Globe and Mail described "The Geometry of Miracles" as containing "imagery so intense it’s breathtaking."

Hancher’s commission for the Millennium Festival is not the only Iowa connection to "The Geometry of Miracles." Iowa is the site of numerous buildings designed by Wright’s Prairie School disciples.

The Hancher Millennium Festival has emerged as the most extensive and ambitious performing-arts millennium celebration in the United States. The season-spanning festival features 16 major commissions in music, theater and dance, with 15 of the commissioned works and productions receiving their world or American premieres in Hancher.

In addition to "The Geometry of Miracles," new works have been created -- or are being created -- by choreographers Twyla Tharp, Paul Taylor, UI alumnus Lar Lubovitch, Susan Marshall, Bill T. Jones, Ushio Amagatsu and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar; and composers Richard Danielpour, Michael Daugherty, Paul Schoenfield, UI alumnus David Lang and Mexico's Gabriela Ortiz.

Performances of the commissioned works will be presented by prominent ensembles including American Ballet Theatre, the Kronos Quartet, the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Bang on a Can, Sankai Juku, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, the Paul Taylor Dance Company, the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio, the Ahn Trio and the Ethos Percussion Group.

Several of the commissioned works will be presented in the midst of residencies that will feature extensive arts education efforts, including events cabled statewide on the Iowa Communication Network (ICN). The ICN is a unique, state-owned fiber-optic network linking educational institutions, libraries, community centers and government agencies for real-time audio-visual interaction.

The commission of "The Geometry of Miracles" was supported by Marvin A. and Rose Lee Pomerantz of Des Moines. Other commissioning and production support came from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Hancher Millennium Fund, the Hancher Enrichment Fund and Hancher’s annual giving program, which is known as Hancher Circle.

Tickets for "The Geometry of Miracles" are $28 ($24.40 for UI students and senior citizens, and half price for audience members 17 and younger). Tickets can be purchased at a substantial discount as part of Hancher’s volume-purchase plan. A simultaneous purchase of three to five events qualifies for a 15-percent discount, and a simultaneous purchase of six or more events qualifies for a 20-percent discount.

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. This number will be answered by box office personnel prepared to offer assistance with handicapped parking, wheelchair access and seating, hearing augmentation and other services. The line is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

The entire 1999-2000 Hancher season–including the season-spanning Millennium Festival –is detailed in a free brochure, "At This Moment," which is available from the Hancher administrative offices (319-335-1130) or the Hancher box office.

"The Geometry of Miracles" contains some nudity. Potential audience members who are concerned about whether the production is appropriate for them should request additional information from the box office.