The University of Iowa
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us


100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0073; fax (319) 384-0024

Release: Immediate

NOTE TO EDITORS: The report is that Iowa Summer Rep is selling "tons of tickets." Several "Table Manners" performances are already sold out, as indicated in this release. We suggest that you check with the box office just before publishing or broadcasting this story, so that you can give your audience the most up-to-date information on ticket availability.

Iowa Summer Rep '98 festival of Ayckbourn comedies opens June 24 with 'Table Manners'

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Iowa Summer Rep, the University of Iowa professional theater company that each summer presents a festival of plays by a single contemporary playwright, will open its 1998 festival of comedies by Britain's Alan Ayckbourn with "Table Manners" at 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 24 in Theatre B of the UI Theatre Building.

Additional performances of "Table Manners," the first play in the famous "Norman Conquests" trilogy, will be at 8 p.m. June 25-27, June 30 and July 5, 7, 15 and 19; at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Sunday, June 28; at 6 p.m. July 4 (so that audience members will be out in time to enjoy the fireworks); and 2 p.m. Sundays, July 5 and 12.

Dinner at "Betty Windsor's Cafe" (a thinly veiled reference to Her Royal Highness) will be available on the Theatre Building plaza, overlooking the Iowa River, beginning at 6 p.m. before evening performances (beginning at 4 p.m. on July 4).

This season's fare, specially planned by the Iowa Memorial Union's catering service, will harmonize with Ayckbourn's decidedly British humor: Dinner selections will include: appetizers of Fig Raisin Walnut Tart with Stilton Cheese, Strawberry Apple Soup with Honey Yogurt, and Watercress Smoked Trout Salad; entrees of Fish and Chips, a Ploughman's Plate and Sherried Mushroom Crust; and desserts of Lemon Curd Tart with Candied Ginger, and Fresh Strawberries and Cream Shortbread.

Dinner reservations are recommended, by calling (319) 335-3105. Cash, check or UI chanrge are accepted for dinner payment, but credit cards are not.

"Table Manners" asks the theatrical question, "What happens when Annie seeks one wonderful, wild weekend away from her bedridden mother and runs afoul of her bossy sister-in-law?" The answer comes in the form of a manic version of musical chairs, involving a bashful vet, a cat with an injured paw, a car with ignition problems and the irresponsible, egocentric husband of her other sister.

"Table Manners" and the other two plays of the "Norman Conquests" were presented in critically acclaimed broadcasts on public TV, with Tom Conti in the lead role. Each play in the trilogy can stand hilariously alone, but together they are a feat of comic invention and engineering -- presenting the simultaneous events in three adjoining locations at an English country home.

Director John Cameron, a faculty member in the UI Department of Theatre Arts, says: "Americans tend to see these plays as entertaining fluff, but I don't think they are. They have to do with British angst about propriety and class."

"The people in the play are so busy trying to keep up appearances that when something comes along that doesn't fit the pattern it results in absurd behavior -- and then they act as if nothing happened. With American characters the comedy would come from their attempts to talk it out and resolve it, but with the British the comedy comes from their relentless avoidance."

Other artistic contributors to the Iowa Summer Rep production of "Table Manners" include scenic designer Margaret Wenk, costume designer Erin Howell-Gritsch, lighting designer Jim Albert and sound designer Mark Bruckner.

Alan Ayckbourn has spent his entire career in theater, as a stage manager, sound technician, lighting technician, scene painter, prop maker, actor and director. He is now artistic director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough.

Fortunately for theatergoers everywhere who like to laugh, he also tried his hand at playwriting. Since his first hit, "Relatively Speaking," opened in 1967, Ayckbourne has written more than 50 plays.

"Alan Ayckbourn is Britain's most prolific contemporary playwright, arguably the most popular, and, in my view, one of the greatest," says Iowa Summer Rep Artistic Director Eric Forsythe, a faculty member in the UI Department of Theatre Arts. "His plays cover the gamut of modern experience, focusing on our strategies of dealing with the banal and humdrum challenges of everyday life. The pleasure in Ayckbourn is watching extraordinary solutions to ordinary problems . . . what he writes shimmers with theatrical inventiveness."

His plays have won many awards, including seven London Evening Standard Awards and the Dramalogue Critics Award. They have been translated into more than 30 languages, are performed on stage and television throughout the world, and have been filmed in English and French.

Ayckbourn's other honors include the Writers' Guild of Great Britain Lifetime Achievement Award and the 1994 Montblanc de la Culture Award for Europe, and he was recently knighted for his services to British theater.

Tickets for "Table Manners" are $15 ($8 for UI students, senior citizens and youth), and are available in advance from the Hancher box office. If any tickets remain for a performance, they will be available one hour before curtain time at the Theatre Building box office. All tickets have been sold for the June 24-27 performances.

Summer Rep subscriptions -- which are $36 ($21 for UI students, senior citizens and youth) -- offer substantial discounts to all three Ayckbourn Festival shows. The other productions are "Bedroom Farce" and "Woman in Mind." A free Iowa Summer Rep brochure is available from the box office, or from the UI Department of Theatre Arts, (319) 335-2700.

Hancher summer box office hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays. From the local calling area or outside Iowa, dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance within Iowa and western Illinois istoll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to (319) 353-2284. 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.

People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial (319) 335-1158. The line is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

The University of Iowa Community Credit Union is the corporate sponsor of Iowa Summer Rep.

* * *

A Summer of British Comedy/Three Plays by Alan Ayckbourn
(performances at 8 p.m. unless otherwise noted)

"Table Manners"
Theatre B
June 24, 25, 26, 27, 28 (2 pm), 28, 30
July 4 (6 pm), 5 (2 pm), 7, 12 (2 pm), 15, 19

"Bedroom Farce"
David Thayer Theatre
July 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 12, 14, 19 (2 pm), 22, 23, 24, 25

"Woman in Mind"
E. C. Mabie Theatre
July 9, 10, 11, 16, 17, 18

"Time of My Life" Reading
July 21