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Release: March 26, 1999

Humans are abandoned by guardian angels in University Theatres production of 'Marisol'

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University Theatres Mainstage will conclude its 1998-99 season with a production of Jose Rivera's "Marsiol," winner of the 1993 Obie Award for Outstanding Play, April 8-18 in the David Thayer Theatre of the University of Iowa Theatre Building.

Performances will be at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, April 8-10 and Wednesday through Saturday, April 14-17. Matinees will be performed at 3 p.m. Sundays, April 11 and 18.

"Marisol" is launched by the provocative premise: What happens when a war in heaven forces guardian angels to abandon the human race to its own resources?

In a magical realist adventure that has been described as "part 'Paradise Lost' and part 'Mad Max'," Rivera's play tells the funny and terrifying story of Marisol Perez, a young Puerto Rican woman in the South Bronx whose guardian angel has already saved her from "one plane crash, one collapsed elevator, one massacre at the hands of a right-wing fanatic with an Uzi, and 66,603 separate sexual assaults."

When the angels abandon the human race to revolt against a senile God, Marisol must learn to survive on her own in a nightmarish urban jungle as the millennium approaches. Like "Alice in Wonderland" or Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz," she encounters a distorted, threatening and absurd world that she must traverse to re-discover her identity.

As the Toronto Sun put it, "Abandoned by her angel, Marisol's life quickly goes to hell in a handbasket -- one large enough to accommodate all of New York itself, it seems, as our heroine stumbles through a world where the moon has migrated, north has become south and motherhood is macho. Is Marisol mad -- or is it the world?"

Director Christine Young, a graduate student in the UI department of theatre arts, says she chose "Marisol" on the verge of the millennium because she wanted to direct a play that deals with the relationship of humans with the cosmos. "It insists that we question values and beliefs that we take for granted," she says. "As we enter a new millennium, it suggests that we need to be more involved as individuals in the evolution of our society."

"The structure of the play is mythic," she explains. "It is a hero's journey, and Marisol is a reluctant hero, whose life is disrupted and who must travel through an increasingly bizarre landscape. By the end she must decide whether she is going to reject her isolation and take responsibility for her presence in the world."

Young says that "Marisol" is simultaneously frightening, funny and poetic. "As a 'magical realist' play, it embraces the real and the magical simultaneously, and treats them as if they have equal bearing," she says. "We tend to dismiss the magical in our culture, but in the play the fantastic is real."

"Marisol" premiered at the Humana Festival at the Actors Theatre of Louisville in 1992. The La Jolla production of"Marisol" received six Drama-Logue Awards, and the Hartford Stage/Joseph Papp Public Theatre production received a 1993 Obie Award for Outstanding Play.

Rivera's first play, "The House of Ramon Iglesia," premiered in 1983 and was broadcast on the public television series "American Playhouse" in 1986. Subsequent plays are "The Promise" and "Each Day Dies with Sleep," "Giants Have Us in Their Books," "Cloud Tectonics," "Maricela de la Luz Lights the World" and "The Street of the Sun."

His television experience includes co-creating and producing the critically acclaimed NBC series "Eerie, Indiana," the premiere episode for the Fox series "Goosebumps," and "P.O.W.E.R.: The Eddie Matos Story" for HBO's "Life Stories" series.

Rivera has been honored with grants and awards including a 1985 National Endowment for the Arts grant, a 1985 Rockefeller Foundation grant, a 1993 Whiting Foundation Writers Award and a Fulbright Arts Fellowship in playwriting.

Artistic contributors for the University Theatres production of "Marisol" include choreographer Simone Ferro, scenic designer Alison Ford, costume designer Tammy Laisnez, lighting designer Bryon Winn, sound designer Oliver Nowak, fight choreographer Ralph Hall and dramaturg Tom Gibbons.

"Marison" includes material of an adult nature. Potential audience members who are concerned about whether the show is appropriate for them should contact the theater department at 319-335-2700 for additional information.

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

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. The theater department site is