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University of Iowa News Release


June 9, 2009

Iowa Summer Rep starts the summer with a 'Clean House'

Iowa Summer Rep 2009 will open with Sarah Ruhl's funny and moving "The Clean House," winner of the Susan Blackburn Prize and a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize, at 8 p.m. Friday, June 19, in the David Thayer Theatre of the University of Iowa Theatre Building. Other performances will be at 8 p.m. June 20, 24, 25 and 30, and July 2, 3, 7, 10, 11 and 12 and at 2 p.m. Sunday, June 21.

When married doctors Charles and Lane hire stand-up comic Matilde as their live-in maid, they get anything but a clean house. Sure, it looks spotless, but it's soon filled with the dirty laundry of Charles' affair with an older woman, Lane's depression, her sister Virginia's identity crisis and Matilde's struggle to find the perfect joke in a house full of dark secrets.

Ruhl, a recent recipient of a Macarthur "Genius" Grant, says the play was inspired by a conversation she overheard at a cocktail party: "A doctor walked in and said, 'I've had such a hard month, my cleaning lady from Brazil wouldn't clean, and I took her to the hospital and got her medicated, and she still wouldn't clean. So I had to clean my own house. I didn't go to medical school to clean my own house.'"

She contemplated the gender and class implications of the statement, and wondered whether the cleaning woman was depressed, or injured or just hated cleaning. Ruhl explains, "The question is, how much responsibility do you have, not just literally, for the mess of your own life, and how much do you try and avoid chaos?"

Mary Beth Easley, the director of "The Clean House and an Iowa Summer Rep regular, is struck by the poetic nature of the resulting play: "'The Clean House' is rich with metaphor -- both verbal and visual --and is clearly about transformation. Her voice is a voice I've never heard before -- a truly female voice that simply but eloquently changes the way we view the world."

Iowa Summer Rep Artistic Director Eric Forsythe adds: "With 'The Clean House,' Sarah Ruhl wonders if the perfect joke might cure the malaise of the world. Getting our individual houses in order -- cleaning house -- may require the precision surgery of a new perspective, exactly what a good joke can provide. It's a tender and probing piece about coping with reality by letting go of our cherished illusions in order to build a new future. Not easy!"

The cast includes Equity actors Kristen Behrendt of Broadway, TV and film, and previous seasons of Iowa Summer Rep; and Saffron Henke, a UI grad who is both a professional actress and a movement and acting teacher at the University of Southern California. Other actors include Rebekah Stein, a recent UI Master of Fine Arts graduate who was featured recently as Rosiland in "As You Like It" and Masha in "Three Sisters"; recent MFA graduate Ethan Henry, who just returned from performing at the Goodman Theater in Chicago; and three-year Summer Rep veteran Kristy Hartsgrove.

Other artistic contributors to "The Clean House" include scenic designer R. Eric Stone, costume designer Becky Bodurtha, lighting designer Adam Boyer and sound designer Mark Bruckner.

The Summer Rep schedule -- more modest than most years due to on-going post-flood repairs in the UI Theatre Building -- will also feature Ruhl's "Dead Man's Cellphone" and a staged reading of her "Eurydice."

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

The University of Iowa Community Credit Union and the UI Summer Session support Iowa Summer Rep 2009.

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

Tickets for each show are $24; senior citizen $20; youth $10 and UI students $5. Both individual performance and advance ticket sales will be available at the door one hour before each performance. Simultaneous purchase of both Iowa Summer Rep productions qualifies for a substantial series discount.

Tickets are available in advance from the Hancher Box Office, now located on the first floor of Old Capitol Town Center. Tickets also may be ordered online 24 hours a day at

Hancher Box Office summer business hours, for walk-up and phone sales, are 10 a.m. to 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.

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 at

For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit To receive UI arts news by e-mail, go to and click the link "Join or Leave ACR News," then 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, Arts Center Relations, 319-384-0073 (office) 319-430-1013 (cell),

PHOTOS are available at