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Release: Immediate

Caryl Churchill's wild, gender-bending farce 'Cloud 9' opens University Theatres season at UI

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University Theatres 1998-99 Mainstage season will open with British playwright Caryl Churchill's wild, gender-bending farce "Cloud 9" at 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 15 in E.C. Mabie Theatre of the University of Iowa Theatre Building. The production will be staged in conjunction with "Global Focus: Human Rights '98," the UI's campus-wide celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Additional performances of "Cloud 9," directed by UI department of theatre arts faculty member Carol MacVey, will be at 8 p.m. Oct. 16, 17 and 21-24, and at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 18 and 25.

In "Cloud 9," now recognized as one of the landmark plays of the 1970s, Churchill tackles issues of gender, class, family and race with daring comedy and theatrical flair. The story begins in the colonial Africa of the late 19th century, when the British mania for propriety was at its height, but when the Act II curtain rises on late 20th-century England, the empire and all its purported certainties have evaporated. The actors have switched roles and genders, and both values and identities have been sent reeling.

Mel Gussow of the New York Times described "Cloud 9" as "Kipling as rewritten by Joe Orton." Victorian sexual repression, colonialism and the perils of negotiating modern life all take a bashing.

Act I takes place in "darkest Africa," but in this fun-house-mirror vision of British colonialism men portray women, women portray men, the servant is white and the family daughter is a rag doll. Act II may jump ahead 100 years, but each of the characters has aged only 25 years for the age of sexual liberation, which proves to present challenges and pitfalls of its own.

"This is a zany play, but one with terrific wit and humanity to it," Clive Barnes wrote in the New York Post. "It is a play that has something to say to us today about kindness, affection, perversion and, most of all, love."

Churchill, who was once quaintly described by the Minneapolis Star and Tribune as "England's foremost female playwright," has always taken a playful attitude toward the conventions of both theater and society. As Frank Rich observed in the New York Times, "Churchill sees the theatre as an open frontier where lives can be burst apart and explored, rather than a cage that flattens out experience and diminishes it."

In Britain she has won numerous awards, including the Olivier Award for Best Play, and she is a multiple Obie winner for the New York productions of her plays.

Artistic contributors to the University Theatres production of "Cloud 9" include set designer Alan S. Morti, costume designer Kaiome Malloy, lighting designer Michael O'Connell, sound designer Becca Sissel, music composers Gary Monheit and Alan MacVey, choreographer Mauria Brough and dramaturg Kristen Gandrow.

Tickets for "Cloud 9" are $15 ($7 for UI students, senior citizens and youth). Tickets are available in advance from the Hancher Auditorium box office. Any remaining tickets for each performance will be available at the Theatre Building box office one hour before curtain time.

"Cloud 9" tickets are also available at a substantial discount as part of University Theatres three-play or five-play season subscription packages. A free season brochure is available from the Hancher box office, or from the Department of Theatre Arts, (319) 335-2700.

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 for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial (319) 335-1158. The line is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

For information on UI arts events, visit on the World Wide Web.

"Cloud 9" 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 for additional information, (319) 335-2700.

Global Focus: Human Rights '98 is a cross-disciplinary program of teaching, research and action of the UI and its surrounding communities, designed to address the problems and prospects of human rights as the 21st century approaches. The program will feature distinguished speakers, scholarly lectures, panel discussions, published research, curricular innovations, community forums, radio broadcasts, artistic displays, theatrical events, films and musical offerings. Global Focus include a visit by Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel. For more information, visit the Global Focus website at <>.