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Release: Immediate

Iowa Summer Rep '98 will be festival of comedies by British playwright Alan Ayckbourn

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Iowa Summer Rep, the University of Iowa professional company that each season presents a festival of plays by a single contemporary playwright, has chosen its playwright for the summer of 1998. It's one of Britain's most popular and widely-produced comic playwrights, Sir Alan Ayckbourn.

Iowa Summer Rep will produce Ayckbourn's "Table Manners" (the first play in the famous "Norman Conquests" trilogy), "Bedroom Farce" and "Woman in Mind," June 24 through July 25 in the UI Theatre Building. Series subscriptions to Iowa Summer Rep will go on sale April 13 at the Hancher Auditorium box office. The festival will also present a July 21 reading of an Ayckbourn script yet to be selected.

A free Iowa Summer Rep brochure is available from the box office or from the UI department of theatre arts, (319) 335-2700. The brochure will arrive at the end of April.

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, with major successes including "Absurd Person Singular," "The Norman Conquests," "Bedroom Farce," "Just Between Ourselves," "A Chorus of Disapproval," "Woman in Mind," "A Small Family Business" and "Man of the Moment."

"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 numerous awards, including seven London Evening Standard Awards and the 1991 Dramalogue Critics Award for "Henceforward." 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. "By Jeeves," which he wrote in collaboration with Andrew Lloyd Webber, has just finished a successful London run and is currently playing successfully all over America.

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.

"Table Manners," which opens June 24 in Theatre B, asks the theatrical question, "What happens when Annie seeks one wonderful, wild weekend away from her bedridden mother and enlists the help of her bossy sister?" The answer involves a bashful vet, a cat with an injured paw, a car with ignition problems and the irresponsible, egocentric husband of her other sister.

"Bedroom Farce" will open July 1 in the David Thayer Theater. All of this play's escalating misadventures occur during one extraordinary winter night. The comings and goings in three separate bedrooms grow hilariously out of control as Trevor and Susannah try to save their marriage, and thereby wreak havoc in the lives of three other couples.

The comedy of "Woman in Mind" begins when an average working-class 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 omelettes, a son who belongs to a silent cult, and a macrame-making doctor who has a passion for his patient.

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

Iowa Summer Rep subscriptions are $36 ($21 for UI students, senior citizens and youth).

Individual tickets for Iowa Summer Rep productions will go on sale May 11. Single ticket prices will be $15 ($8 for UI students, senior citizens and youth).

Hancher box office hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and 1-3 p.m. Sunday. 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 should dial (319) 335-1158 (TDD equipped).

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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

July 21