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University of Iowa News Release

Oct. 22, 2004

University Theatres Presents World Premiere Of 'Shadows Of The Reef' Nov. 4-14

University Theatres Mainstage will present the world premiere of Philippine director/playwright Anton Juan's "Shadows of the Reef," the 2004-05 Partnership in the Arts project in the University of Iowa Department of Theatre Arts, Nov. 4-14 in the David Thayer Theatre of the UI Theatre Building.

Performances will be at 8 p.m. Nov. 4-6 and 10-13, and at 3 p.m. Sundays, Nov. 7 and 14.

"Shadows of the Reef" uses innovative theatrical devices and Christian imagery to tell the stories of Filipino mothers who have lost their sons through the inhumane techniques of the fishing industry.

The play responds to the fishing method known as "muro ami" ("house of nets"), introduced to the Philippines by Japanese fishermen in the 1930s. Young boys ranging in age from 10 to 15 years of age dive down and, as the boat above them prepares its nets, beat the coral reef with rocks or pipes to force fish up to the surface. Often the boys, with no equipment other than goggles, are caught in the nets and drown.

Under pressure from human rights and children's advocacy organizations, muro ami was banned in 1986, but illegal operations continue, housing children on squalid boats and forcing them to work as much as 12 hours each day. Many of these children are indentured, working off debts incurred by their parents, and others are driven to this dangerous work by the desperation of poverty and hunger.

Juan and his collaborators -- Philippine choreographer Myra Beltran, UI costume/mask designer Loyce Arthur, lighting designer S. Benjamin Farrar, set designer Craig Napoliello, dramaturg Bryan Moore, and Reuben Chua, Juan's assistant -- tell the story of a mother's grief and guilt with an intense theatrical style that incorporates music, viscerally powerful movement, Filipino religious rituals, elements of Noh and Kabuki theater, and Bunraku puppetry.

In Juan's words, "The story begins with the souls of drowned children who have now turned to flowers and reeds . . ."

"I begin with the memory of nails -- of a people nailed to years of colonization, corruption, and torn apart left and right, above and below by historical, political and cultural schisms," he explains. "This is the dramatic space I work in, both as playwright and director. The world order of power from above and social forces and victims from below tugging at one another is the physical space of the theatre where physically, I wish to articulate and speak of realities that may not be known at all to the world.

"I speak of women and mothers who are forced to lose their sons to illegal trawler fishing, sons dragged by the nets beneath the sea; of a land so devastated by illegal logging and ecological destruction that there is only the tuber crop of death to dig; but of a people of profound faith where salvation can mean playing being nailed to the cross.

"The approach to the subject matter of the play is through the surfaces of memories and signs. Events signal historicity only when we are able to remember them, register them and flash them urgently, thus printing them in the minds and hearts of audiences. Cultures have their own way of breathing, of pulse, of inner spaces. The cast is learning about their own ranges of breathing and movement in order to express the inner spaces involved with memory. In effect, they begin to go beyond their normal, suppressed limits of emotions and learn to reach the true 'edge' of memory.

"The play is a shared experience of the traditions and life of an unknown culture and abandoned sea villages. The production presents insights into social and cultural elements of religion, ritual, community, family and the rites of survival. The play questions the abuse of children involved in illegal fishing, and digs into religious expressions of suffering and the price of human salvation."

Juan, once considered the enfant terrible of Philippine theater, is famous for taking theatre into new dimensions. His works are a collage of movement, sound and visual metaphor whose elements range from ancient Noh to contemporary Butoh.

He is a widely respected figure in the Philippines, in both academic and cultural circles. His directing career spans more than three decades, and he has produced more than 200 works in theater, opera, film and dance. He is the first Filipino to win the prestigious Alexander Onassis International Prize for Theatre, and he has been knighted by the French Republic Chevalier de l'Order Nationale de Merit and Ordre des Arts et Lettres.

Myra Beltran is the founder and artistic director of Dance Forum, one of the Philippines' leading dance companies; and Reuben Chua has been Juan's assistant on several projects.

Partnership in the Arts annually invites prominent theater professionals to the UI, where they develop new works for the stage in collaboration with UI theater students, faculty and staff. Partnership in the Arts has taken on primarily projects whose scope or complexity made them difficult for traditional theaters to develop.

Past collaborators have included Migdalia Cruz, Maria Irene Fornes, Rinde Eckert, Anne Bogart, Theodora Skipitares, Karin Coonrod, Erik Ehn and the Dah Theater of Belgrade, the Gertrude Stein Repertory Theater, Will Power and James Hatch. Most Partnership in the Arts projects have gone on to professional presentation in New York or elsewhere, often with the participation of UI artists.

The 2004 project is made possible with a UI International Programs' Major Research Project Grant.

Tickets for "Shadows of the Reef" are $17 (UI student, senior citizen & youth $8). Tickets are also available at a substantial discount as part of a Division of Performing Arts subscription package. Information is available from the box office or division-performing-arts@uiowa.edu.

Tickets are available in advance from the Hancher Auditorium box office, and 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.hancher.uiowa.edu.

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.