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University of Iowa News Release


June 16, 2009

Iowa Summer Rep presents Ruhl's spooky comedy 'Dead Man's Cell Phone'

Iowa Summer Rep 2009 will present Sarah Ruhl's "Dead Man's Cell Phone," a spooky comedy about the unanticipated consequences of contemporary technology, at 8 p.m. Friday, June 26, in Theatre B of the University of Iowa Theatre Building. Other performances will be at 8 p.m. June 27 and July 1, 5, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, June 28.

In a quiet cafe, an unsuspecting young woman (played by Kristy Hartsgrove) answers an insistently ringing cell phone, after discovering that its owner has "entered a dead zone." Her fateful act dials her deeply into the dead man's mysterious business.

Reveling in the intrigue, she attends his funeral, meets his insanely eccentric family and embarks on a surreal, film-noir odyssey that crisscrosses life and death, isolation and connection, what's real and what's not.

Calling the play a "beguiling comedy," Christopher Isherwood wrote in the New York Times: "That commonplace gadget you are advised to turn off when the lights in the theater go down, or when the plane takes off, becomes a mysteriously powerful totem of transformation in 'Dead Man's Cell Phone' . . . (Ruhl) blends the mundane and the metaphysical, the blunt and the obscure, the patently bizarre and the bizarrely moving.

"She writes surrealist fantasies that happen to be populated by eccentrically real people, comedies in which the surface illogic of dreams is made meaningful -- made truthful -- by the deeper logic of human feeling."

And Robert Hurwitt of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote, "It's a joyride through the absurdity of trying to make simple connections in a world overwhelmed with interconnectivity. . . .  Ruhl rules."

Director Eric Forsythe, a faculty member in the UI Department of Theatre Arts and the artistic director of Iowa Summer Rep, comments, "No play I've directed in years -- or seen, for that matter -- has seemed so fresh, dealing so imaginatively and deeply with real contemporary issues. Ruhl loves to find the extraordinary in ordinary people and situations. It's rich and vital material.  What a treat!"

Other artistic contributors to "Dead Man's Cell Phone" include scenic designer R. Eric Stone, costume designer Renee Bell; lighting designer Courtney Watson, sound designer Mark Bruckner and fight choreographer, Brandon Bruce.

The Summer Rep schedule -- more modest than most years due to on-going post-flood repairs in the UI Theatre Building -- also feature Ruhl's "The Clean House" through July 12, and a July 19 staged reading of her "Eurydice."

A playwright with a unique comic voice, perspective and sense of theater, Ruhl is among the most acclaimed and accomplished young playwrights on the contemporary scene. A Pulitzer Prize finalist and recent winner of a MacArthur "genius" grant, she is fast leaving her mark on the American stage with hundreds of stagings of her plays across the country and abroad. Iowa Summer Rep is the first company to present a festival of her work.

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, 319-384-0073 (office) 319-430-1013 (cell),