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Release: Immediate

(NOTE TO EDITORS: "Monsters of Grace" producer Jed Wheeler of IPA can be reached at 212-925-2100. The animators can be contacted through Amanda Roth at 213-467-3563.)

Robert Wilson/Philip Glass 'Monsters of Grace' is 3-D digital spectacle

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The new Robert Wilson/Philip Glass collaboration, "Monsters of Grace," a "digital opera in three dimensions," will be presented at 8 p.m. Monday, Feb. 15 in Hancher Auditorium on the University of Iowa campus.

For "Monsters of Grace" the audience dons special 3-D glasses to view surreal, dream-like computer-generated imagery conceived by Wilson, while the Philip Glass ensemble performs his new score with lyrics by the 13th-century Persian Sufi mystic Jalaluddin Rumi.

The imagery was realized by the "synthespians" at Kleiser-Walczak Construction Company, the team responsible for the special effects in the films "Stargate," "Clear and Present Danger" and "Judge Dredd." Their much-anticipated "Spiderman" 3-D attraction at Universal Studios opens this year.

"Monsters of Grace" has been shown at various stages in its development, with critics claiming that the event is an appetizing taste of the future. "Exquisitely beautiful and as elusive as a dream, 'Monsters of Grace' offers what could be a glimpse of 21st-century music theater -- if we're lucky," Joshua Kosman wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle. "A sumptuous play of images, color and movement, supported by the unearthly glory of one of Glass' most affecting scores . . . a powerful masterpiece."

Peter Conrad of the London Observer wrote, "I saw the future . . . and to my delight and astonishment, it worked. It was, as they say in California, 'totally awesome' -- an amalgam of all the arts, augmented by a wonder-working technology." Scott Duncan of the Orange County Register observed that "Monsters of Grace" "enlarges the senses and reaches toward a universe of feeling that's not quite like anything else . . . mysterious and atmospheric."

And Bernard Holland wrote in the New York Times, "For those who wondered when classical music would get around to connecting with the rest of the world, this may be the beginning of the answer."

Bursting through boundaries to reveal the future is nothing new for Wilson and Glass, the team that gave a new meaning to "opera" with their six-hour, surreal, plotless collaboration "Einstein on the Beach."

Wilson has been hailed as the most important theatrical visionary of the latter half of the 20th century, and the UI played a significant role in his career. His seminal work was "Deafman Glance," which he developed at the UI Center for the New Performing Arts in 1971. Mel Andringa, the co-founder of CSPS in Cedar Rapids, was a UI student at that time and he became Wilson's assistant for several years.

Wilson's projects after the 1976 "Einstein on the Beach" have included the multi-national epic "CIVIL warS," productions for major opera companies in Europe, and a solo version of "Hamlet." "The Knee Plays," a group of entr'actes from "CIVIL warS," created in collaboration with David Byrne, was performed in Hancher.

Philip Glass was a leading figure in the so-called "minimalist" movement in music, though he rejects the "minimalist" terminology and now jokingly calls his work "maximalist." His compositions have ranged from operas including "Satyagraha," "Akhnaten" and "Hydrogen Jukebox" to film-scores for "Koyaanisqatsi," "Mishima," "The Thin Blue Line" and "Kundun" to symphonic works, dance scores and chamber music.

The Glass theater pieces "A Thousand Airplanes on the Roof" and "The Photographer" have been presented by Hancher, and Hancher has also presented both solo and ensemble concert performances by Glass. His signature style, with its shimmering arpeggios and wavering minor thirds, has found its way into many genres of popular music, including even music for TV commercials.

The score for "Monsters of Grace" uses sampled sounds of Middle Eastern and African string and percussion instruments, along with western historical and contemporary instruments and synthesizer sounds to give the production an original tonal palatte. The live instrumental and vocal performance is realized with the assistance of three Macintosh computers.

The visual technical marvels of "Monsters of Grace" came about by serendipitous necessity. Concerned about the neglect of Wilson's work in his homeland, producer Jed Wheeler suggested a new Glass/Wilson collaboration to tour the United States. When Wilson's storyboards contained such a grand vision that no one could imagine how the scenery would be built and transported, Wheeler struck on the idea of computer-generated imagery after visiting the studio of Jeff Kleiser and Diana Walczak, who were working on the 3-D Spiderman attraction for Universal Studios.

Glass at first worried that the computer imagery would be cold, but he was game for innovation and when he saw the animation, he was astonished. "It wasn't cold at all," he told the New York Times. "Even though computer graphics is all done by mathematics, it looks like a photograph of a ring of fire on the ocean or a chair descending from the sky, stuff that's impossible to put on stage. You get into this funny place where you don't know if you are looking at something real or something in a dream."

Kleiser and Walczak used emerging software as a test for Silicon Graphics, which donated the equipment for the "Monsters of Grace" project. Silicon Graphics is the company whose software brought dinosaurs to life in "Jurassic Park." At 2,000 lines of resolution -- four times the quality of a conventional TV -- the images were transferred to 70mm film for the touring production.

Everybody's Whole Foods is the corporate sponsor of "Monster of Grace" through the University of Iowa Foundation.

The 3-D glasses that will be given to each audience member are made by l.a. Eyeworks. The local distributor of l.a. Eyeworks products, Advanced Eyecare in Old Capitol Mall, will display the full line of l.a. Eyeworks frames from 1-6 p.m. the day of the performance.

Tickets are $28, $25.50 and $23. UI students and senior citizens qualify for a 20-percent discount, with Zone 3 tickets available to UI students for $10. Tickets for audience members 17 and younger are half price.

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. This number will be answered by box office personnel prepared to offer assistance with handicapped parking, wheelchair access and seating, hearing augmentation and other services. 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. To view lyrics and some of the images from "Monsters of Grace" direct your browser to l.a. Eyeworks has additional information at The Kleiser-Walczak site is: