The University of Iowa
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us

University of Iowa News Release

June 13, 2005

Iowa Summer Rep Opens With Ludwig's 'Lend Me a Tenor'

The Iowa Summer Rep festival of comedies by Ken Ludwig will open with "Lend Me a Tenor" at 8 p.m. Thursday, June 23, in Theatre B of the University of Iowa Theatre Building. Additional performances will be at 8 p.m. June 24-26, 28 and 29, and July 6 and 8-10; and at 2 p.m. June 26 and July 3.

"Lend Me a Tenor" -- a madcap opera backstage farce -- won two Tonys and an Outer Critics Circle Award and was nominated for England's prestigious Olivier Comedy of the Year Award. The show was not only a hit in London and New York, but also toured North America.

It's Cleveland in 1934, and Tito "Il Stupendo" Merelli, a tenor whose reputation is exceeded only by his ego, has agreed to make a special appearance in the Cleveland Grand Opera's production of "Othello." When the opera manager and his assistant realize that the star is indisposed, and perhaps even dead, the result is -- well, hilarious chaos, of course.

The new production is directed by Mary Beth Easley, a mainstay of Iowa Summer Rep for many seasons, who describes the play as "one of the few great American farces."

The cast includes professional comedic actor Jim VanValen making his Iowa Summer Rep debut in the role of Max, seven-year Iowa Summer Rep veteran William J. Watt in the role of Saunders, Iowa City equity actress Rachel Lindhart in the role of Julia and UI Master of Fine Arts directing student Sean Paul Bryan in the role of Tito Merelli.

"Lend Me A Tenor" was Ludwig's breakthrough success, after a decade of quietly practicing law in Washington, D.C. A graduate of the Harvard Law School, he joined the firm of Steptoe & Johnson, where he specialized in international law and intellectual property law.

But he rose early every morning and wrote for several hours before work, resulting in small-scale productions in church basements and minor summer theaters. Until at one performance he was approached by a director from England who asked for plays to read.

Ludwig gave him the "Lend Me a Tenor" script, and the director showed it to a producer he knew -- Andrew Lloyd Webber. Six months later, "Lend Me a Tenor" was one the stage of London's Globe Theatre.

"I used to think that Neil Simon was the funniest man alive," says Iowa Summer Rep Artistic Director Eric Forsythe, a faculty member on the Department of Theatre Arts. "I'm now convinced it's Ken Ludwig. Funny, and so inventive!

"Here's a true lover of theatre, more particularly the American theatre as it developed through the 1920s, '30 and '50s, but the sensibility is very much today's. This is lively, wonderful, infectious humor."

Artistic contributors to the Iowa Summer Rep production of "Lend Me a Tenor" include Edward Matthew Walter, set design; Andre Harrington, costume design; Bryon Winn, lighting design; and Mark Bruckner, sound design.

Iowa Summer Rep, the professional Actors Equity company organized by the University of Iowa Department of Theatre Arts, has carved out a unique niche among professional summer companies during the last two decades by making each season a festival of plays by a single contemporary playwright.

Summer Rep is a U/RTA (University/Resident Theatre Association) company employing Equity actors and stage managers, as well as students who earn points toward their Actors Equity card.

The Department of Theatre Arts is a unit of the Division of Performing Arts in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Iowa Summer Rep 2005 is supported by the University of Iowa Community Credit Union.

Tickets for "Lend Me a Tenor" are $22 ($17 for senior citizens, and $10 for UI students and youth). The play is also available as part of a discounted season subscription package. The other plays in the package are Ludwig's comedies "Postmortem" and "Moon Over Buffalo."

Individual tickets and series packages are available from the Hancher box office. Any remaining tickets for each performance will be available an hour before curtain time at the Theatre Building box office.

Hancher Auditorium summer box office business hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays. From the local calling area, dial 319-335-1160. Long distance is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. 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:

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:

For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit To receive UI arts news by e-mail,

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,

PHOTOS are available at