WRITER: JUDITH KEEFE
CONTACT: WINSTON BARCLAY
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0073; fax (319) 384-0024
UI theater performances April 1-5 research the "illusion of
the first time"
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- "Brilliant Traces" by Cindy Lou Johnson
will be presented as a University Theatres Gallery Series Special Event
at 8 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, April 1-5, in the David Thayer Theatre
of the UI Theatre Building. Post-show discussions will follow the April
The production is a part of a nationwide research project exploring
the "illusion of the first time," an idea originated by the legendary
acting theorist and teacher Stanislavsky. The director of the project is
Mark Kuntz, theatre professor at the University of Western Washington in
Bellingham and Pacific Northwest Regional Director for the American College
Theatre Festival (ACTF).
The play is being presented jointly by the UI, the University of Denver,
Boston University and the University of Western Washington. Each university
has cast a man and a woman who have rehearsed the show together with a
The plot involves a man who is in a cabin in Alaska during a snowstorm
and a woman who knocks on the door wearing a wedding dress. It is the first
time they have seen each other, and the first time she has been in the
On the first night of the series, the actors will perform the show as
they rehearsed it. The next morning, all four women will board planes to
go to the other locations, to play the show with the men in those cities
and on the settings created there. For example, the woman who has played
it at the University of Denver will perform at the UI April 2, never having
met her new partner, nor having seen the UI set here. And so on until all
four combinations have been played out.
The UI actors are directed by department of theatre arts faculty member
The concept, which Kuntz has named "Splash," is based on his
research in the actor-audience relationship. He believes that the sensibilities
of audiences are protected by rehearsing the events of the play and arriving
at set choices that the audience will see.
"Although the actors try to create the 'illusion of the first time'
for their audiences, is this really successful?," Kuntz asks. "Do
actors really listen to each other, or do they act like they are listening?
This, of course, eventually begged the question: 'What if there was no
Kuntz first experimented with this idea three years ago at the ACTF
regional conference in the Pacific Northwest. The audience was told beforehand
that the actors would be meeting for the first time on the stage. As a
result, he says, "the chemistry between actor and audience was electric,
as the audience not only knew the situation, but were watching every breath
the actors made knowing that they were actively solving the moments for
the first time."
The "Brilliant Traces" project will be the first time a theatre
event like this has taken place. Kuntz and Forsythe hope to explore both
the actor-audience relationship and the implications for actor training.
They hope many audience members will attend multiple performances, to offer
comparisons between the different "first times."
Tickets for "Brilliant Traces" are $6 ($3 students, seniors
and youth) at the door.