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Release: Immediate

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 1-4 performances.

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 director.

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 cabin.

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 Eric Forsythe.

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 illusion?'"

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.