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Release: Immediate

Iowa Playwrights Festival, May 4-9 at UI, spotlights 19 scripts in productions and readings

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The Iowa Playwrights Festival, May 4-9 in the University of Iowa Theatre Building, will spotlight 19 new, student-written scripts in public productions and readings.

The festival schedule includes four full Festival Mainstage productions at 5:30 and 9 p.m. May 4, 7, 8 and 9; a Workshop Production of two one-acts at 5:30 and 9 p.m. May 5; a Staged Reading at 5:30 and 9 p.m. May 6; and free Cameo Readings at 1:30 p.m. each day of the festival. (Note that the 9 p.m. time is a change from the schedule that has appeared in some calendars.)

Most of the scripts were written by students in the Iowa Playwrights Workshop, a Master of Fine Arts graduate program in the UI department of theatre arts. The full Festival Mainstage productions of Iowa Playwrights Workshop scripts are:

* May 4 in the David Thayer Theatre -- "Mando y Mundo" by Lorenzo Sandoval, a drama in which two brothers confront their personal differences and a secret of family history that will transform them forever;

* May 7 in the David Thayer Theatre -- Leah Ryan's "Raised by Lesbians," an American comedy that the playwright describes as "Ed Wood meets Holden Caulfield at the Mall, where no 16-year-old wants to be seen with their parents, lesbian or not";

* May 8 on the E.C. Mabie Theatre stage -- "A Wild Romp through the Endocrine Canal" by Amy Wheeler, chronicling the sometimes funny and sometimes terrifying adventures of a young woman rushed to an emergency room; and

* May 9 in Theatre B -- Levy "Lee" Simon's "The Bow Wow Club," a no-holds-barred reunion that tests the meanings of friendship, marriage and community.

The May 5 Workshop Production on the E.C. Mabie Theatre stage will feature "The Samsas" by Scott Working and "The Desert Play" by Margaret Baldwin. "The Samsas" is a new twist on Kafka's "Metamorphosis," and "The Desert Play" is a contemporary version of the Saturn myth, in which the primal god devours his children.

Two scenes from Bob Berky's "The Dictator's Nose" will be offered in the May 6 Staged Reading in Theatre B. Berky is an internationally renowned theatrical clown, and in this comedy he depicts a nation thrown into chaos by the disappearance of the image of the tyrant's nose at the most important rally of the year.

Admission to the Festival Mainstage productions is $6 ($3 for UI students, senior citizens and those 17 and younger). The Workshop Productions double-bill is $2; and the Staged Reading is $1. Tickets are available at the Theatre Building Box Office one hour before performance times, and in advance noon to 1:30 p.m. April 30, May 1, and May 4-8.

The free graduate-playwright Cameo Readings in the Cosmo Catalano Acting Studio will be: ""Pitbulls and Daffodils" by Levy "Lee" Simon on May 4; "Bleach" by Leah Ryan on May 5; "Rabelais" by Lorenzo Sandoval on May 6; and "The Redness of the Woodpecker" by Bob Berky on May 7.

The Undergraduate Cameo Readings in the David Thayer Theatre will be presented in two sets: "Raymond" by Wesley Broulik, "All Over" by Rob Frisch and "Family Dramatics" by Will Nedved on May 8; and "Questioning Jabe" by Tanna Frederick, "Reconstruction" by Michael Ehlert, "The Way of Things" by Mandi Lee, "Treasure Box" by Helene Lubaroff and "Across the Universe" by Elise Gustafson on May 9.

Guest theater professionals will respond to the festival productions:

-- Iowa Playwrights Workshop and Iowa Writers' Workshop graduate Lee Blessing, an internationally produced playwright and screenwriter whose play "A Walk in the Woods" was a finalist for the Tony Award and the Pulitzer Prize;

-- playwright Nilo Cruz, a member of New Dramatists who was artist-in-residence at the Public Theatre in New York;

-- freelance dramaturg and editor Sydne Mahone, former director of play development at the Crossroads Theatre Company, founder of the Genesis Festival: A Celebration of New Voices in African American Theatre, and dramaturg for plays by August Wilson, George C. Wolfe and Rita Dove;

-- Vicky Boone, the artistic director of Frontera at Hyde Park Theatre in Austin, Texas, where she is producing the work of UI alumnus David Hancock; and

-- Iowa Playwrights Festival regular Morgan Jenness, a dramaturg, writer and director who is a member of the faculty at Fordham University, and has been associate producer of the New York Shakespeare Festival and associate artistic director of the New York Theatre Workshop.

The guests will discuss their work in a series of 3 p.m. Guest Profile sessions in the Cosmo Catalano Acting Studio: Mahone and Jenness on May 5; Boone on May 6; and Blessing and Cruz on May 8. The Guest Profile sessions are free and the public is invited to attend.

The Iowa Playwrights Festival is a unique event in college theater. Each spring the UI Department of Theatre Arts directs virtually all its academic, technical and production resources to the performance and discussion of new plays from the Iowa Playwrights Workshop.

Many of the plays developed through the Iowa Playwrights Workshop have gone on to successful professional productions, have been honored with theatrical awards or have been invited to theater festivals. For example, 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 this season in Denver. Naomi Wallace's Iowa Playwrights Festival scripts "The War Boys" and "In the Heart of America" have been given major productions in London. And Robert Alexander's "Preface to the Alien Garden" is in the midst of a series of productions throughout the country. Kate Aspengren, who is now a faculty playwright-in-residence, 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.

Some of the scripts in the 1998 Iowa Playwrights Festival contain material of an adult nature. Potential audience members who are concerned about whether the productions are appropriate for them should contact the Department of Theatre Arts, (319) 335-2700) for more information.