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Release: Immediate

NOTE TO EDITORS: It is typical for the Madrigal Dinners performances to sell out. We suggest that you check with the box office just before publication of this story, so that you can give your readers the most up-to-date information on ticket availability.

You may contact David Thayer, production designer for all 20 years of the Elizabethan Madrigal Dinners, at (319) 337-2052, or by e-mail at <>.

20th annual edition of Elizabethan Madrigal Dinners at UI Dec. 10-13

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Audiences will have the opportunity to visit the times of England's legendary Queen Elizabeth I at the University of Iowa's 20th annual Elizabethan Madrigal Dinners with generous servings of music, dance and food served in a courtly setting.

The dinners, a joint presentation of the UI School of Music and the Iowa Memorial Union (IMU), will be at 6:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, Dec. 10 and 11 and at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 12 and 13 in the IMU Main Lounge.

A cherished holiday tradition at the UI, the Elizabethan Madrigal Dinners offer entrance to a world of make believe. With the help of actors, musicians, dancers, designers and technicians, the Main Lounge of the IMU becomes the great hall of an imaginary Elizabethan court, where honored guests are welcomed by the King and Queen, served a candle-lit feast and entertained by songs, instrumental music, pageantry and dancing.

The feast, prepared "to the Queen's taste," will feature wassail; salade of apple, butternut, watercress and cabbage with honey mustard dressing; three-peppercorn roasted loin of beouf; melange of winter vegetables; country bread and butter; and minted lemon creme brulee. A non-beef entree is also available if ordered in advance.

Serving as host at the court will be Gerald Roe and Myrene Hoover as the King and Queen of Revels, and their Lord Chamberlain, played by theatre arts faculty member John Cameron. The streets of the kingdom, outside the Main Lounge, will be alive with beggars played by Evelyn Stanske, Jerry Ortega and Rex VanDorp, and street peddler Rosemary Clark. Rachael Lindhart will tell fortunes.

Inside the great hall, the royal couples from Poland, Bavaria and other European lands will enter with all the pomp and dignity of their station. Strolling minstrels in re-creations of Renaissance costumes will charm and delight the audience with their performances. Jester Justin Rose will entertain, and Tom Bliese, for the 18th year, will amaze audiences with feats of magic before and during dinner.

The UI Madrigal Singers will perform traditional Christmas carols and compositions from across Europe, including English, French, German, Dutch, Italian, Spanish and Swedish Christmas songs. UI School of Music graduate student Rebecca Seeman will conduct the group. Fourteen madrigal singers and four quartets will entertain guests with a new selection of songs programmed especially for this year's royal feast.

Renaissance courtly dances reconstructed by Rachelle Palnick Tsachor, and country dances reconstructed by Mark McCusker will be performed to the accompaniment of the "Queen's Consort" instrumental ensemble directed by Ruth Williams. The nobility, always formal and proper, will perform courtly dances, but the servants, giving way to the joyful emotions of the season, will dance with greater abandon.

Ceremonial fanfares performed by a trumpet ensemble directed by Adam Robertson and Brian Unlah will add to the festive atmosphere.

Madrigal singing began as an entertainment among noble amateurs in Renaissance Italy. It quickly spread throughout Europe, reaching the height of its popularity in Elizabethan England, where several collections of madrigals were printed in Queen Elizabeth's honor.

Throughout upper class England -- from homes of nobility and wealthy merchants to the royal court -- the singing and dancing of madrigals became a customary part of refined social life.

In private homes printed music was distributed after the meal, and the guests, in a gamelike atmosphere, would challenge one another to sing the latest or most popular madrigals. At the royal court the singing of madrigals became part of elaborate entertainments staged for the queen.

Re-creations of the Elizabethan madrigal evenings, with an emphasis on Christmas carols, have become increasingly popular as part of the holiday celebrations on college campuses and in communities around the United States since the 1960s. Madrigal dinners were first staged at the UI in 1979.

The UI Madrigal Dinners production combines the talents of faculty and students from the UI School of Music and department of theater arts, along with members of the Iowa City community. The original concept and script were created by Marcia Thayer, and the production design is by theatre arts emeritus faculty member David Thayer.

Costumes were designed by Gertrude Storm, Eleanor Bowers, Cindy Kubu and Margaret Wenk of the Performing Arts Production Unit. Stage director is Eric Forsythe; production manager is Rick Loula. The feast will be prepared under the supervision of Greg Black and chefs Tracy Tonning and Barry Greenberg of the IMU.

Tickets for the 20th annual Elizabethan Madrigal Dinners are $36, $32 and $28 and are available from the University Box Office in the IMU. Box Office hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 9 p.m. Sunday. Tickets may be reserved by calling (319) 335-3041, or toll-free in Iowa, 1-800-346-4401. VISA, MasterCard, Discover cards and American Express cards are accepted. Proceeds go to scholarship funds in the School of Music and the department of theatre arts.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all UI-sponsored events. Persons with a disability who require an accommodation in order to attend the Madrigal Dinners should inform box office personnel of their needs at the time they purchase tickets.