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Release: May 7, 1999

Iowa Summer Rep presents 'Out of the Blues,’ an August Wilson Festival, June 22-July 25

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Iowa Summer Rep '99 will present "Out of the Blues," a festival of plays by two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner August Wilson, June 22 through July 25 in the University of Iowa Theatre Building. Season subscriptions to the festival's three productions -- "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," ":Fences" and "Joe Turner's Come and Gone" -- will go on sale May 10 through the Hancher Auditorium box office.

A free series brochure, which offers substantial discounts, is available from the Hancher box office, or from the UI department of theatre arts administrative office, 319-335-2700; Individual production tickets will go on sale at the Hancher box office June. 1. Group rates are also available.

For many seasons Iowa Summer Rep has pursued a unique focus in American summer theater -- making each season a festival of plays by a single contemporary playwright. But the 1999 season also offers something new: For the first time, Iowa Summer Rep has become an Actor's Equity Company, elevating its status as a professional theater company.

Among living American playwrights, Wilson ranks second in honors only to Neil Simon. Wilson's storytelling draws on the struggles of 20th-century African-Americans to explore the universals of human experience.

"We have here some of the finest dramatic writing of this century, and it's a pleasure and a privilege to work on it," says Eric Forsythe, the UI department of theatre arts faculty member who is the artistic director of Iowa Summer Rep. "Each play chronicles life in a different decade of the century, and each has its share of humor, music, human resilience and faith. Wilson is a powerhouse."

"Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," directed by Iowa Summer Rep and Circle Rep veteran Mary Beth Easley, is set in a 1927 recording studio, where the interactions of an African-American blues singer with her white managers and the white owner of the studio reveals much about the origin of the blues in black America.

"The blues is the bedrock of everything I do," Wilson has said. "It's the best literature we have. All the ideas and attitudes of my characters come straight out the blues. It's a cultural response of Africans to the world they find themselves living in."

Performances of "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" will be at 8 p.m. June 22-26; at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Sunday, June 27; and at 8 p.m. June 29 and 30, and July 1-3.

UI department of theatre arts graduate Mickey Kachingwe returns to direct "Fences," winner of not only the Pulitzer Prize but also the Drama Desk Award, the Outer Critics Circle Award, the New York Drama Critics Award and the Tony Award.

Set in 1957, "Fences" portrays a Negro league baseball player who long ago had to settle for being a garbage man before the sports color barrier was broken. After finding himself fenced in all his life by forces beyond his control, he now finds himself fencing in those he loves. Critic Clive Barnes described "Fences" as "the strongest, most passionate American dramatic writing since Tennessee Williams."

"Fences" will be performed at 8 p.m. July 6-11, 13 and 14; at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Sunday, July 18; and at 8 p.m. July 20 and 25.

Tisch Jones, former director of UI Black Action Theatre, returns to direct "Joe Turner's Come and Gone," a turn-of-the-century drama in which the sons and daughters of America's freed slaves are struggling to renounce the past and build an identity for themselves.

Performances of "Joe Turner's Dead and Gone" will be at 8 p.m. July 15-17 and 22-24.

The festival will also offer an 8 p.m. July 20 staged reading of Wilson's first play, "Jitney." Wilson drew on the setting of his youth in writing "Jitney." The play stakes place in early-1970s Pittsburgh, in a neighborhood on the verge of demolition.

Dining on the Patio Bar & Grill, overlooking the Iowa River, is available before each evening performance of Iowa Summer Rep. Reservations are recommended, but not required.

The University of Iowa Community Credit Union is the production sponsor of Iowa Summer Rep through the University of Iowa Foundation.

Summer Rep series packages are $39 ($30 for senior citizens and $21 for UI students and youth). Individual play tickets will be $16 ($12 for senior citizens and $8 for UI students and youth). All tickets to the "Jitney" reading will be $4.

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 through May 16. The box office will be closed May 17-21, 23 and 31 (Memorial Day). The box office will be closed weekend beginning May 29-30 -- summer hours will be10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays.

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.