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University of Iowa News Release

Release: Feb. 16, 2004

Hip Hop Theater Makes UI Debut With "The Seven"

Hip hop theater will make its University Theatres Mainstage debut with the world premiere of "The Seven," a decidedly contemporary adaptation of the Greek classic "Seven Against Thebes," at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 25 in the David Thayer Theatre of the University of Iowa Theatre Building. Other performances will be at 8 p.m. Feb. 26-28 and March 3-6, and 3 p.m. Sundays, Feb. 29 and March 7.

The production was created by internationally known hip hop/rap artist Will Power, a pioneer in this emerging theatrical genre; staged by Steven Sapp, director of the Universe City Theater Network in New York; and choreographed by dancer/actor/writer Benji Reid, a leader in the hip hop theater movement in England.

"The Seven" is the Department of Theatre Arts' 2003-2004 Partnership in the Arts project. Partnership in the Arts annually brings prominent theater professionals to the UI to develop significant and boundary-pushing theatrical works in collaboration with UI students, faculty and staff.

Power explains that hip hop theater is "theater that uses one of the four elements of hip hop culture as its basis for language. The four elements are: 1) Break dancing and other forms of hip hop dance, 2) graffiti, 3) DJ-ing/turntablism and 4) rapping/MC-ing.

"Hip hop theater brings an innovation and an excitement that hasn't been felt or seen on the American stage in decades. It has the ability to really connect with young audiences, something that traditional theater has struggled to do, especially when compared to other artistic genres such as cinema and music. It's very exciting that three leaders of this movement are here in Iowa working with UI theater students," Power said.

Power chose to use this new theatrical style to tell a very old story that he finds resonates with contemporary experience. "With all the things going on in the world right now -- wars, leaders lying to the people -- the theme of brother facing brother was really appealing to me. Eteocles and Polynices were cursed; they were in a vicious cycle started not by their father, Oedipus, but by Oedipus' father.

"We must ask ourselves, like the Greeks did: Are we forever cursed to repeat the mistakes of our forefathers? Or can we end this madness of war, classism and imperialistic abuse of one nation towards another? Can we, today, break the curse?"

Venturing into this emerging theatrical form presented a formidable educational challenge for the student cast, but Power says they have risen to the occasion: "They're being asked to do a lot -- they're being asked to act, sing, rap and dance -- and they're responding to the challenge. Everyone should come out and see the amazing work that they've done."

Power's performances, workshops and lectures have been seen in 25 states and more than 55 cities abroad, including Paris, Amsterdam, Strasburg, Vienna, London, Glasgow, Cologne, Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. He has been featured in publications including VIBE, the Source and American Theatre, and on TV shows presented by Fox, NBC, CBS, ABC and MTV.

Power played the male lead in the film "Drylongso," which was a hit at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival and has been shown extensively on the Independent Film Channel and BET.

Steven Sapp's most recent work with the UniverseCity Theater Network was "Slanguage," produced at Off-Broadway's New York Theater Workshop. He was also co-founder of the Point Community Development Corporation and the 1999 OBIE Award Grant and Bessie Award winning theater, "Live From The Edge."

Benji Reid, raised in the Brixton section of London, has performed, directed and choreographed throughout the UK, including Glasgow, London, Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester. He was the lead dancer/choreographer for a worldwide Soul II Soul tour, won the European body popping championship in 1996 and ranked second in the World Dance Championships.

Other artistic contributors to "The Seven" are: set design -- Edward Matthew Walter; costume design -- Renee M. Bell; lighting design -- Jim Albert; sound design -- Tony Rogers.

Tickets for "The Seven" are $17; UI student, senior citizen & youth $8. 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 Auditorium box office business hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays. From the local calling area, dial 319-335-1160. Long distance is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to 319-353-2284. People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial 319-335-1158, which is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

Tickets may be ordered on-line 24 hours a day, seven days a week through Hancher's website: http://www.uiowa.edu/hancher.

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. Information and brochures may be requested by e-mail: hancher-box-office@uiowa.edu.

For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit http://www.uiowa.edu/artsiowa. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, ur-acr@uiowa.edu.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073, winston-barclay@uiowa.edu

PHOTOS are available at http://www.uiowa.edu/artsiowa/photos.html.

OTHER INFORMATION: Reporters may reach Will Power at LuminatingWorks@aol.com or 319-358-0257.