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NOTE TO EDITORS: The report still is that Iowa Summer Rep is selling "tons of tickets." Several performances of the first two productions are sold out. Although "Woman in Mind" is staged in a space with many more seats than the other two shows, 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 hits high gear with 'Woman in Mind'

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Iowa Summer Rep's 1998 festival of Alan Ayckbourn comedies will hit high gear with the opening of "Woman in Mind" at 8 p.m. Thursday, July 9 in E.C. Mabie Theatre of the University of Iowa Theatre Building. With the opening of "Woman in Mind," all three of the festival's major productions will be running simultaneously. Additional performances of "Woman in Mind," will be at 8 p.m. July 10, 11, 16, 17, and 18.

The hilarity of "Woman in Mind" begins when Susan, an unhappy suburban housewife, steps on a garden rake and knocks herself out. When she regains consciousness she discovers herself with two lives -- one as the unappreciated housewife and one as the adored center of a wealthy family.

As she tries to determine what is fantasy, what is real and whether it all really matters, she meets a crabby widow who cooks Earl Grey omelets, a son who belongs to a silent cult and a macrame-making doctor who has a passion for his patient.

Robb Gries writes in the Iowa Summer Rep program notes, "Of all of Ayckbourn's plays, 'Woman in Mind' deals most explicitly with themes of male neglect of women. Susan's husband, Gerald, the local vicar, pays no attention to her emotional or physical needs. Her son Rick refuses to talk to her and blames her for his unhappiness. As a result, the accident causes her to slip slowly into a state which may or may not be madness. The ideal family she imagines for herself and the actual one she is stuck with collide. . . . We experience both of her realities equally, and are left as she is, trying to make sense of them."

Unlike Ayckbourn's other plays in Iowa Summer Rep, which occur realistically in recognizable domestic locations, "Woman in Mind" takes place in Susan's head. His stage directions indicate, "Throughout the play, we will hear what she hears; see what she sees. A subjective viewpoint therefore, and one that may be somewhat less than accurate."

"In his later plays Ayckbourn has been experimenting with how fantasy and reality play off each other in our lives," says director Eric Forsythe, the UI theater faculty member who is also the artistic director of Iowa Summer Rep. "'Woman in Mind' asks the question: What if we couldn't really tell the difference between the two? What would be the consequences?

"As always with Ayckbourn, the answers are inventive and surprising. Susan, the woman in whose mind we are wandering, THINKS she can manage, but the other characters have their own agendas, and she has to struggle to keep control. Her struggle is the focus and delight of the play."

Other artistic contributors to "Woman in Mind" include scenic and costume designer

Dan Nemteanu, lighting designer Bryon Winn and sound designer Mark Bruckner.

Ayckbourn is one of Britain's most popular and prolific playwrights, and has even been labeled the "British Neil Simon." His 50+ plays have won 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 was recently knighted for his services to British theater.

Tickets for "Woman in Mind" 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.

Dinner at "Betty Windsor's Cafe" will be available on the Theatre Building plaza, overlooking the Iowa River, beginning at 6 p.m. before evening performances .

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 charge are accepted for dinner payment, but credit cards are not.

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 "Table Manners" and "Bedroom Farce." 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. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays. From the local calling area or outside Iowa, dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance within Iowa and western Illinois is toll-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.

Iowa Summer Rep is a professional theater company that each season presents a festival of plays by a single contemporary playwright. The University of Iowa Community Credit Union is the corporate sponsor of Iowa Summer Rep.

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IOWA SUMMER REP '98 (performances at 8 p.m. unless otherwise noted)

"Table Manners"
June 24, 25, 26, 27, 28 (2 p.m.), 28, 30
July 4 (6 p.m.), 5 (2 p.m.), 7, 12 (2 p.m.), 15, 19

"Bedroom Farce"
July 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 12, 14, 19 (2 p.m.), 22, 23, 24, 25

"Woman in Mind"
July 9, 10, 11, 16, 17, 18

"Time of My Life" Reading
July 21