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University of Iowa News Release

April 28, 2006

'The Disappearance Of Janey Jones' Re-appears In Iowa New Play Festival

Productions in the Iowa New Play Festival are rarely brand new. Many have had readings at the University of Iowa or elsewhere. Others are re-workings or revisions of promising scripts that have been produced before at some level.

In the case of "The Disappearance of Janey Jones" -- 5:30 and 9 p.m. Tuesday, May 2, in the E.C. Mabie Theatre of the UI Theatre Building -- first-year Playwrights Workshop graduate student Jennifer Fawcett has expanded a one-act play that was a hit at seven Canadian fringe festivals a few years ago.

"I always knew that I wanted to turn it into a full-length show -- I thought the subject matter warranted it," says Fawcett, who was based in Toronto before coming to the UI. "So when I came to the Playwrights Workshop here I decided to crack open the play again. The subject matter and title are the same; the writing is all new."

And that subject matter is clinical depression, which in many cases is a "family curse" that emerges generation after generation -- or, in Janey's case, skips a generation.

"I was drawn to write about depression and it's effects not only on the person suffering from it, but on those around them, through some personal experience (I have a close friend who has had a really long hard battle with depression) and also because I'm drawn to contradictions," Fawcett explains. "Depression affects one in 10 North Americans (some stats will tell you it's closer to one in five) but there is still such stigma about mental illness and the term 'crazy.'

"I believe it's because we cannot see mental illness. The diagnosis of a disease such as cancer is not a reflection on personality or self-control, but a diagnosis of depression or other mental illness is often met with a cautious backing away. Does this person lack the will power to just 'get over it'? Are they out of control? Will they start acting unpredictably? Will they lose their essential self?"

"The Disappearance of Janey Jones" takes place in Janey's mind as she lies in bed. Her grandmother has just died, a suicide, and it is the morning of her funeral. "For Janey things have been growing steadily worse: she's lost her job, she's lost her relationship and she's starting to think she may be following the same path as her grandmother," Fawcett explains. "She is lying in bed unable to move.

"The play is the thoughts that go through her head (memories, fantasies, distortions of reality) as she comes to face the fact that she does have a problem that is beyond her control and then must decide what to do about it."

Fawcett's decision to revisit "Janey Jones" cannot have been hurt by the popular and critical enthusiasm the one-act version generated. One of the festival runs was extended, and the play was selected "best of the fringe."

Fawcett says of audience responses, "I have found that a lot of people react very personally to this play -- probably a testament to how many of us have been affected in one way or another by depression or other mental illnesses."

A review in the Ottawa Citizen called the play "amusing, intelligent and gripping."

The critic of VUE Weekly wrote that "Janey Jones" is "a thoughtful, tightly-scripted show about the isolation that comes with clinical depression. Janey Jones has inherited 'the bug' -- her grandmother's misunderstood battle with depression, one which seems to have skipped a generation. . . . (T)his show is quietly powerful and often humorous."

And critic Kathleen Oliver wrote in the Georgia Straight, "Depression is hell, but it can spark some excellent theatre. In this polished little gem, Janey . . . fears she's 'disappearing from the inside out,' thanks to the legacy of her grandmother's mental illness. . . . Don't miss it or you'll really have something to be depressed about."

Learn more about Fawcett's past work at www.redengineproductions.com.

The Iowa New Play Festival, a tradition unique in American collegiate theater, will present a dozen new scripts from the Iowa Playwrights Workshop in productions and readings May 1-6 in the University of Iowa Theatre Building. The UI Department of Theatre Arts concludes each spring semester by dedicating all its resources -- acting, directing, design, stage management and technical -- to an intense and event-packed festival that offers student playwrights the productions and feedback that are essential for their development and offers audiences an opportunity to participate in the creation of significant new American theater at the ground level.

A new play, written by a student in the Master of Fine Arts program in playwriting, will be premiered each evening of the 2006 festival, with performances at 5:30 and 9 p.m. (7:30 p.m. on Wednesday). The daytime will feature readings in Room 172.

Tickets for all the evening productions -- $6 for the general public and $4 for UI students, senior citizens and youth -- will be on sale one hour before each of the performances. May 1-6, and tickets will also be on sale noon to 1:30 p.m. Monday through Friday of festival week at the Theatre Building box office.

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

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