CONTACT: WINSTON BARCLAY
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0073; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: March 24, 2000
Iowa corn plays a role in UI production of Shakespeare's 'The Tempest'
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Iowa corn has probably never before been included in
a staging of Shakespeare's island fantasy, "The Tempest," but it
will be prominent in the University Theatres Mainstage production April 6-16
in E.C. Mabie Theatre of the University of Iowa Theatre Building. Performances
will be at 8 p.m. April 6-8 and 12-15, and at 3 p.m. Sundays, April 9 and
Director Alan MacVey, chair of the UI department of theatre arts, explains,
"In designing this production, set designer David Thayer and I asked,
'What kind of island do we live on?' We found there were three: As artists
we live in the theater; as teachers we live in an academic community; and
as citizens we live on this island called Iowa. David came up with a set that
should remind audiences that they share these three islands with us. A wide
open stage, a hundred books and a few tons of Iowa corn are all present."
There will be so much corn on the stage and around the theater, in fact,
that people who suffer from severe corn-dust allergies should probably choose
not to attend.
Shakespeare's tale of the exiled sorcerer Prospero and his daughter Miranda,
marooned for a dozen years on an enchanted island with the deformed savage
Caliban, has not only been one of Shakespeare's most popular plays, but has
also inspired numerous adaptations -- even the classic 1950s science-fiction
film "Forbidden Planet" and Peter Greenaway's over-the-top film
A heady mixture of the spiritual and the intellectual, the comic and the
dramatic, "The Tempest" is filled with romance, murder, revenge,
forgiveness and magic.
" 'The Tempest' is one of Shakespeare's most theatrical plays,"
MacVey explains. "In the space of a few minutes audiences see magic spirits,
murderous princes, drunken clowns and a philosopher king trying to make sense
of the universe. The play is filled with music, visual delights, and a chorus
which keeps changing its costumes to keep up with the action. It is an image
of our world, and Shakespeare has included something for everyone."
But, like all of Shakespeare's comedies, "The Tempest" is also
rich with many layers of meaning and ambiguity, as Prospero confronts his
old enemies, mixing conflicts both external and internal. "I initially
chose this play because of its magic elements," MacVey says. "I
knew audiences would enjoy them as much as I do. But as I've worked on the
play I've discovered a very personal relationship to it.
"At its center is Prospero -- a parent, a teacher and the administrator
of a small island. He is struggling to find the right balance between enforcing
his vision on everyone on his island and giving them the freedom to discover
their own path. The central journey of the play is his, as he finally lets
go of control. Every parent, teacher and administrator knows this is not easy.
It isn't easy for Prospero either and I sympathize with the way he has to
battle his demons."
Some scholars read "The Tempest," Shakespeare's final play, as
a commentary on European exploration and subjugation of new lands and peoples,
perhaps inspired by fantastic stories of a 1609 shipwreck of a British vessel
in Bermuda. The fact that the play was written for performance in the royal
court, the sponsor of the colonial ventures and the enslavement of native
peoples, adds to the salience of the script's utopian musings, both for its
time and for modern audiences in a post-colonialist world.
Other scholars find Shakespeare, at the end of his creative career, investing
Prospero with autobiographical reflections that bear on the magical power
of theater to both enlighten and deceive, and on his personal sense of the
possibilities and pitfalls of artistry and intellect.
The UI production of "The Tempest" features costume design by
Tammy Laisnez, lighting design by Kelly PerkinsSmith, choreography by dance
department faculty member Alan Sener, and songs by MacVey and Mark Perry.
Tickets for "The Tempest" are $15 ($7 for UI students, senior
citizens and youth). Tickets may be purchased 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 office.
Hancher box office hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Saturdays. From the local calling area dial 335-1160. Long distance 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 line is equipped with TDD for people with hearing
impairment who use that technology.
For information and calendar updates on UI arts, visit <http://www.uiowa.edu/~uiowacr>
on the World Wide Web.
(NOTE: Director Alan MacVey and other members of the artistic team for "The
Tempest" can be reached for interviews through the UI Department of Theatre
Arts office, 319-335-2700.)