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

'Living Artifacts,' Nov. 19-22 at UI, dramatizes how people are turned into objects

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University Theatres Second Stage will present "Living Artifacts," a new play developed by University of Iowa Department of Theatre Arts faculty member John Cameron, at 8 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, Nov. 19-21, and at 3 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 22, on the stage of E.C. Mabie Theatre in the UI Theatre Building.

"Living Artifacts" is built around the idea that we objectify each other in order to fulfil our own needs. The play is highly non-traditional in structure, incorporating dance, music and mime with dialogue and direct address as it tells the story of a new and distorted messiah -- a reflection of people's selfish wants and needs.

The play was inspired by an historical incident: A Native American man named Ishi was found starving in a Northern California corral in 1911. He was the sole survivor of the Yahi tribe, which was thought to have been exterminated by Indian hunters 40 years earlier. Turn-of-the century anthropologists dubbed him the last true American Primitive, and he was put on display as a "living artifact" at the San Francisco Museum of Anthropology, where he lived the rest of his life.

Through a process of creative development, the project moved away from a dramatization of this specific incident, to a more universal examination of how people are treated as objects.

Cameron describes a creative process that is not a matter of a lone playwright producing a script, but a process of collaboration. "We have had a series of discussion workshops with the cast, designers and invited guests," he explains. "The script has literally been developed out of these workshops, the improvisations of the cast, and newspaper and tabloid reports of bias crimes."

What has emerged from that process is both an unflinching confrontation with explosive aspects of human relations and a strongly theatrical performance. "We deal with some controversial issues in a very direct way, but at the same time we are using mask work, music, mime, audience confrontation and the 'Living Newspaper' structure developed by the Federal Theatre Project in the thirties," Cameron says. "It promises to be highly theatrical and exciting, since it is a work in progress, and we are taking some very interesting risks."

Artistic contributors to "Living Artifacts" include costume designer Loyce Arthur, set designer Parit Thossilaporn, lighting designer Troy Hornung, and sound designer Peter Van Zante.

Admission will be $7 ($4 for UI students, senior citizens and youth) at the door.

This production includes material of an adult nature. Potential audience members who are concerned about whether it is appropriate for them should contact the Department of Theatre Arts at 319-335-2700 for additional information.

"Living Artifacts" was developed in conjunction with "Global Focus: Human Rights '98," a campus-wide project celebrating the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.