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University of Iowa News Release


April 5, 2010

University Theatre Mainstage presents 'The Madwoman of Chaillot' April 16-25

madwomanUniversity Theatres Mainstage will present "The Madwoman of Chaillot" by Jean Giraudoux, opening at 8 p.m. Friday April 16, in the E.C. Mabie Theatre of the UI Theatre Building. Additional performances will be at 8 p.m. April 17 and 21-24, and at 2 p.m. Sundays, April 18 and 25.

This modern satirical classic is set in 1940s Paris. The war has ended, venture capitalism abounds and the water has a faint taste of petroleum. At the Cafe Chez Francis, a group of corrupt, profit-driven developers believe there is oil beneath the streets of Paris and plot to level the city in order to get it.

But "Countess" Aurelia, the eccentric, flamboyant madwoman of the Chaillot district, and her friends, an eclectic band of Bohemians, artists and street-folk, concoct a plan to save the city and the way of life they love.

Written during a dark time -- during the German occupation of France -- "The Madwoman of Chaillot" takes an optimistic view that the "little people" can make a difference, even the madwoman, who dresses in throwback fashion that makes her look like a character in a painting by Toulouse-Lautrec.

After premiering in Paris in 1945, the play was brought to Broadway where it ran for more than 350 performances from 1948 through 1950. In the late 1960s it returned to Broadway in the musical adaptation "Dear World," starring Angela Lansbury, and was brought to the screen, starring Katharine Hepburn as the madwoman.

"I want the play to feel like a postcard from another planet," said director John Kaufmann, a graduate student in the UI Department of Theatre Arts. "It shows us a beautiful world, full of rich characters that make us 'wish we were here.' After enticing us into this world, the playwright warns us that it is in danger if we do not take immediate action to protect it.

"The same corporate interests that the madwoman confronts are still lurking in today's world -- peddling dangerous financial products and exploiting resources both natural and human. The play is a double-edged dream: it takes us to a delightful, magical world, but also warns us to wake up from our collective fantasy and take action to protect the environment and our individual freedoms. My hope is that through the comedy and fantasy, audiences recognize the parallels to our own world, seeing that beauty and freedom cannot be taken for granted."

Kaufmann has served as Planetarium Supervisor at Pacific Science Center in Seattle, where he developed "Starball," a musical astronomy extravaganza.  He also worked on game creation for Hasbro's Cranium Games and developed improvisation-based training for chaplains at Harborview Medical Center.

In Iowa City, Kaufmann directed "A Dog's Life" at Riverside Theatre and Brecht's "A Man's A Man" at the UI, along with many new plays by members of the Iowa Playwrights Workshop.

Other artistic contributors to the production include scenic designer Sasha Olchefske, costume designer Cathy Parrott, lighting designer Ed McCarthy, sound designer Alex Ruhlin, makeup designer Mia Khayat and dramaturg Kate Stopa.

Tickets for the performances are $17; UI students, $5; senior citizens, $12; and youth, $10 from the Hancher Box Office.

The Hancher Box Office, now located on the first floor of the south end of the Old Capitol Town Center near the parking ramp, is open for phone (319-335-1160 or 800-HANCHER) or walk-up business from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays. Tickets may be ordered online at Any remaining tickets will be available for sale one hour before show time at the UI Theatre Building.

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

UI arts events are searchable on the UI Master Calendar: Exhibitions are searchable at 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 News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACTS: John Kaufmann,; Winston Barclay, 319-430-1013,