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Release: Sept. 17, 1999

Susan Marshall premieres 'The Descent Beckons' Oct 8 in Hancher Millennium Festival

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Susan Marshall & Company will present the world premiere of "The Descent Beckons," commissioned by the University of Iowa Hancher Auditorium for it's 1999-2000 Millennium Festival at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 8.

Marshall and her guest star, Lisa Kron, will discuss the collaborative process of creating a new dance production at 4:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 4 in Theatre B of the UI Theatre Building. The discussion is free and open to the public.

Most of the new works in Hancher's Millennium Festival are the creations of the moment, with no explicit connection with the particular calendrical observance, but "The Descent Beckons" is an exception. Marshall has taken her inspiration from human celebrations of natural cycles, specifically the rituals of the winter solstice. These rituals, which often involve journeys into the underworld, spiritual or physical transformations, and miracles of resurrection, are found in cultures around the world.

This full-evening dance/theater work, which Marshall describes as "outrageously good fun," views the last millennium through this process of birth, death, transformation, resurrection and hope.

The production features music by UI graduate David Lang, co-founder and co-director of Bang on a Can, and will provide opportunities for audience involvement.

"The Descent Beckons" is performed by a cast of six dancers, one actor/performer -- Kron, who is an Obie Award-winning actor/writer -- and 75 life-size inflatable dolls. The work explores powerful rites -- including expulsion of diseases and evil spirits from a community, the revelry of chaos and orgiastic freedom -- which have been and still can be observed in many cultures. Incorporating modern dance, cabaret, vaudeville and Las Vegas, "The Descent Beckons" engages all these elements in a wild spectacle.

In explaining the cast of 75 dummies, Marshall remarks, "These mute figures are a class of subordinate beings -- controllable, dominated, manipulated. They become our alter egos. They are our dead. Their nakedness and incapacity reminds us of our atrocities."

The Hancher Millennium Festival has emerged as the most extensive and ambitious performing-arts millennium celebration in the United States. The season-spanning festival features 20 major commissions in music, theater and dance, with 15 of the commissioned works and productions receiving their world or American premieres in Hancher.

In addition to "The Descent Beckons," new works have been created -- or are being created -- by theater visionary Robert Lepage; choreographers Paul Taylor, UI alumnus Lar Lubovitch, Twyla Tharp, Bill T. Jones, Ushio Amagatsu and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar; and composers Richard Danielpour, Cedar Rapids native Michael Daugherty, Paul Schoenfield and UI alumnus David Lang.

Performances of the commissioned works will be presented by prominent ensembles including American Ballet Theatre, the Kronos Quartet, the Twyla Tharp Dancers, the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Bang on a Can, Sankai Juku, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, the Paul Taylor Dance Company, the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio, the Ahn Trio and the Ethos Percussion Group.

Several of the commissioned works will be presented in the midst of residencies that will feature extensive arts education efforts, including events cabled statewide on the Iowa Communication Network (ICN). The ICN is a unique, state-owned fiber-optic network linking educational institutions, libraries, community centers and government agencies for real-time audio-visual interaction.

The commission of "The Descent Beckons" was supported by John E. and Clarine C. Tyrrell, and by the National Endowment for the Arts. Other commissioners are the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, University of Illinois; the Lied Center for Performing Arts at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln; and the Joyce Theater with major support provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. "The Descent Beckons" has also been made possible by the Doris Duke Fund for Dance of the National Dance Project, a program administered by the New England Foundation for the Arts with lead funding from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with additional touring support provided by the Philip Morris Companies Inc.

The music has been commissioned by the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust's Live Music for Dance program administered by the American Music Center.

Tickets for Susan Marshall's "The Descent Beckons" are $28, $25 and $22. 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. Tickets can be purchased at a substantial discount as part of Hancher's volume-purchase plan. A simultaneous purchase of three to five events qualifies for a 15-percent discount, and a simultaneous purchase of six or more events qualifies for a 20-percent discount.

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

The entire 1999-2000 Hancher season is detailed in a free brochure, "At This Moment," available from the Hancher administrative offices (319-335-1130) or the Hancher box office.

People who are interested in providing financial support for the Millennium Festival should contact Victor Mashburn at the University of Iowa Foundation, 319-335-3305.

Learn more about Susan Marshall at <>. For UI arts news and information, and arts calendar updates, visit the ArtsIowa website, <>