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University of Iowa News Release

March 25, 2004

Opening April 8, Churchill's Chilling ‘Far Away’ Is ‘An Epic In An Hour’

The 2003-2204 Mainstage season of University Theatres will conclude with the New York and London hit "Far Away," Caryl Churchill's brief but chilling vision of moral decay and apocalyptic chaos, opening at 8 p.m. Thursday, April 8, in the University of Iowa Theatre Building.

Additional performances, in association with the UI Center for Human Rights, will be at 8 p.m. April 9, 10 and 14-17, and at 3 p.m. Sundays, April 11 and 18.

The audience at the April 15 performance will be invited to remain for a discussion at 9:15 p.m. in E.C. Mabie Theatre. The panel will include Burns H. Weston, Bessie Dutton Murray Distinguished Professor of Law Emeritus and director of the UI Center for Human Rights; David Hamilton of the UI English faculty; and Kara Hartzler, a graduate of the UI Department of Theatre Arts who is now a law student. The free discussion will also be open to the public.

Director Alan MacVey, chair of the Department of Theatre Arts, says, "'Far Away' is a very unusual play. For starters, it's quite short -- it lasts only about an hour. Three connected one act plays loosely chart the journey of three people as they make their way in an increasingly violent world.

"Our production makes this journey literal: The audience begins the evening in one theatre and travels twice before they finish the evening sitting on the stage of Mabie Theatre. Each space has its own unique environment where increasingly theatrical lighting, sound, scenery and costumes draw the audience into the world of the characters.

"'Far Away' is one of the most theatrical plays I've ever directed. I hope the audience will enjoy not just the three one-acts but also the journey between the theatres and the environment they'll find in each one. The play is an epic in an hour. We've tried to be sure the audience feels its power."

In the first scene, a young girl visits her aunt in the idyllic countryside, but something is going on outside, in the night, that is unsettling, despite her aunt's reassurances.

In the second scene the girl has grown up to be a hat-maker, worrying with her co-worker about working conditions and contracts while avoiding contemplation of the macabre purpose to which their product is put.

And in the third scene a thunderstorm overhead is mirrored not merely by the complete descent into human barbarity, but by the breakdown of nature. The whole world is at war, no one can be trusted, and even the weather and the animals have taken sides.

Following the London premiere, a review in the Financial Times proclaimed, "Caryl Churchill is the most original playwright in Britain. She writes like a visionary, a poet, an absurdist, a politician, a satirist. . . . Churchill's nightmare vision holds its audience. Poetry, absurdism, moral seriousness, all come together."

In the United States, the Village Voice review went farther, saying that the play "seems to reinvent drama with every other line."

Iris Fanger wrote in the Boston Phoenix, "The author of 'Cloud Nine' and 'Top Girls' among other works, Churchill has penned a spare and prophetic one-act that holds too many allusions to current headlines and the roll call of 20th/21st-century atrocities to be shrugged off as fantasy. Taking cues for obliqueness of dialogue from David Mamet and Harold Pinter and intimations of a political system run amok from Margaret Atwood's 'A Handmaid's Tale' and George Orwell's '1984,' the playwright brings us into a cosmos of evasions, lies, and the ultimate debasement of the principles of decency and morality."

Other artistic contributors to the UI production of "Far Away" are scenic designer William Moser, costume designer Jenny R. Nutting, lighting designer Stuben Farrar and sound designer Scott Hanlin.

Churchill, who was once quaintly described by the Minneapolis Star and Tribune as "England's foremost female playwright," has always taken a playful attitude toward the conventions of both theater and society. As Frank Rich observed in the New York Times, "Churchill sees the theatre as an open frontier where lives can be burst apart and explored, rather than a cage that flattens out experience and diminishes it."

In Britain she has won numerous awards, including the Olivier Award for Best Play, and she is a multiple Obie winner for the New York productions of her plays. Iowa Summer Rep has produced a Churchill festival among its series of single-playwright summers.

Tickets for "Far Away" -- $17; UI student, senior citizen & youth $8 -- 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.