April 20, 2007
Iowa New Play Festival Continues Unique Tradition Of Whirlwind Theater
The Iowa New Play Festival, a tradition unique in American collegiate theater, will present more than a dozen new scripts from the Iowa Playwrights Workshop in productions and readings April 30 through May 5 in the University of Iowa Theatre Building.
The UI Department of Theatre Arts concludes each spring semester by dedicating all its resources -- acting, directing, dramaturgy, 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. At the same time, the festival offers audiences an opportunity to participate in the creation of significant new American theater at the ground level.
Five new plays, written by students in the Master of Fine Arts program in playwriting, will be premiered with performances at 5:30 and 9 p.m. each day (with the exception of Thursday).
-- Monday, April 30: "The Brothers Dellapina" by Sean Christopher Lewis in Mabie Theatre, directed by graduate student Sean Paul Bryan. In this dark comedy, Matthew Dellapina thought that the biggest problem in his life was his brother, Phil. But when his estranged father, a great magician, comes home he realizes the world can get more difficult minute by minute. Lewis, in his third year at the Iowa Playwrights Workshop, is set to become the 2007-2008 Emerging Playwright in Residence at InterAct Theatre in Philadelphia. His work was recently included in "The Evidence" at Riverside Theatre in Iowa City.
-- Tuesday, May 1: "I am Montana" by Samuel D. Hunter in David Thayer Theatre, directed by faculty member Carol MacVey. Hunter, who has spent the past two summers in the West Bank, depicts a young man returning home to Montana after a traumatic stint in the Israeli Army. He travels cross-country to the national headquarters of his mega-retail employer, Valumart, where, his plans go far beyond a simple presentation on the future of retail. Hunter, a former Walmart employee from Northern Idaho, began work on "I am Montana" while teaching playwriting in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
-- Wednesday, May 2: "The Dance" by Kim Euell in Theatre B, directed by faculty member Tisch Jones. Hip-hop meets opera in "The Dance," as two young African-American artists wrestle with values and identity issues while pursuing their dreams and of course, each other. Euell is a Dean's Fellow in playwriting. Her play "The Diva Daughters DuPree" received its third production last fall in Seattle, where it was a Critic's Choice.
-- Friday, May 4: "WorkWeek" by Sarah Sander in Mabie Theatre, directed by graduate student Rachel Edwards Harvith. "WorkWeek" is a dark, comic exploration of office life, where racism, misogyny and biases are as commonplace as burnt corporate coffee.
-- Saturday, May 5: "The Church of St. Pinky at Katy, Texas" by Melissa Leilani Larson in Thayer Theatre, directed by graduating senior Heather Bodie. A mail-order bride discovers she has the ability to heal in this dark comedy about the limits of faith, the gift of life and funeral potatoes. Larson's productions include "Hope Falls," "A Flickering" and the 2005 IRAM Best New Play, "An Experiment in Sainthood," which sold out its 2006 Brigham Young University mainstage run.
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. Tickets will also be on sale noon to 1:30 p.m. Monday through Friday of the festival at the Theatre Building box office.
All the daytime readings are free, and the public is invited to attend. The readings will take place in the Cosmo Catalano Acting Studio, Room 172 of the Theatre Building, unless otherwise noted:
-- Monday at 2 p.m., "BONNY Girls!" by Jennifer Fawcett.
-- Tuesday at 2 p.m.: "Versus" by Austin Bunn
-- Wednesday at 2 p.m.: "This is Your Life" by Greg Machlin; and 5:30 p.m.: Selections from the Undergrad Playwrights Workshop.
-- Thursday at 2 p.m.: "Kiddush" by Joshua Casteel; and 5:30 p.m.: "The Books" by Michael Hayden (Theatre B)
-- Friday at 2 p.m., "Thief Unseen" by Mary Hamilton.
-- Saturday at 2 p.m., "What We Must" by Morgan Sheehan-Bubla.
Each year the Iowa New Play Festival is attended by guest responders from the world of professional theater. This year there will be four guests:
Robert Blacker, who was interim chair of playwriting at Yale School of Drama in 2004-05, teaches playwriting and Shakespeare studies in the graduate programs at Columbia and Yale. More than 50 projects from his eight years as artistic director of the Sundance Theatre Labs went on to production, including the current Broadway musical, "Spring Awakening." He co-founded the revived La Jolla Playhouse in 1983, where he was associate artistic director and worked with Pete Townsend on The Who's "Tommy" and Steppenwolf on "The Grapes of Wrath."
Adrien-Alice Hansel is the director of new play development at the Actors Theatre of Louisville. Dramaturgy there includes roughly 30 plays in the Humana Festival and mainstage season, including works by Arthur Miller, Glen Berger, Pearl Cleage, Craig Wright, Jordan Harrison, Alice Tuan, Charles Mee, Adam Bock, John Belluso and Rinne Groff. She has co-edited four books of new plays from Actors Theatre.
Shelby Jiggetts-Tivony is the creative director of Disney Creative Entertainment. As a dramaturg she has worked with artists including Suzan-Lori Parks, George C. Wolfe, Savion Glover, JoAnne Akalaitis and Ntozake Shange. She has also worked as the literary manager of Crossroads Theater in New Jersey, associate dramaturg of the Lincoln Center Theater and director of new play development at the Public Theater.
Matthew Maguire is a co-artistic director of Creation Production Company. His plays include "The Tower" and "Phaedra" and the creation with Philip Glass and Molissa Fenley of "A Descent Into the Maelström" for Australia's Adelaide Festival. He is the director of the theater program at Fordham College at Lincoln Center and is an alumnus of New Dramatists. His awards include an OBIE for acting.
The Iowa New Play Festival began in the 1960s as Critics Week and developed into the more-public Iowa Playwrights Festival. The festival's name was changed to the Iowa New Play Festival to stress that the production of new plays was of educational value not just to the playwrights, but also to all students in the department.
Over the years, the festival has produced scripts by numerous young playwrights who have gone on to distinguished careers in theater.
Among them are Evening Standard Award-winner Rebecca Gilman, who has become one of America's most talked-about playwrights; Emmy Award and Jefferson Award winner Rick Cleveland ("Six Feet Under" and "The West Wing"); Dan Coffey, known to public radio audiences as Dr. Science; Darrah Cloud, whose "O Pioneers" was broadcast by PBS and was toured by the Acting Company; Todd Ristau, the co-founder of No Shame Theatre whose work has been performed at the Edinburgh Festival and the London West End; Charles Smith, playwright-in-residence at the Victory Gardens Theatre in Chicago and a faculty member at Ohio University; two-time Obie winner W. David Hancock; and Keith Josef Adkins, whose plays have been commissioned by the New York Shakespeare Festival, the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, the Mark Taper Forum and the Actors Theater of Louisville, and who has written and acted in the sitcom "Girlfriends."
Many of the plays developed through the Iowa Playwrights Workshop and presented in the festival have gone on to successful professional productions, have been honored with theatrical awards or have been invited to theater festivals.
For example, Kirsten Greenidge's festival play "Feeding Beatrice" won the American College Theatre Festival Lorraine Hansberry Award and her "Familiar" was published by Dramatic Play Service. Peter Ullian's "In the Shadow of the Terminal Tower" was selected by Harold Prince for development as a musical, and as "Eliot Ness in Cleveland" it premiered in Denver. Victoria Stewart's festival plays "Nightwatches," "The Last Scene" and "800 Words: The Transmigration of Philip K. Dick" have had many productions. Naomi Wallace's Iowa Playwrights Festival scripts "The War Boys" and "In the Heart of America" have been given major productions in London, where her latest play opened this spring. Kate Aspengren presented "Dear Mrs. Martin" in the festival, where it was seen by a representative of the Samuel French publishing house, leading to the script's publication and availability to theaters throughout the country. Levy "Lee" Simon won the Lorraine Hansberry Award for "The Bow Wow Club," which premiered in the festival. And Robert Alexander's "A Preface to the Alien Garden" has had several national productions, including at Trinity Rep.
Some of the productions and readings contain material of an adult nature, and "WorkWeek" includes cigarette smoking. Potential audience members who are concerned about whether a particular show or reading is appropriate for them should contact the department at 319-335-2700 for additional information.
The Department of Theatre Arts is part 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, go to http://list.uiowa.edu/archives/acr-news.html, click the link "Join or leave the list (or change settings)" and follow the instructions.
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; cell: 310-430-1013; firstname.lastname@example.org