The University of Iowa
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us


100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0073; fax (319) 384-0024

Release: Oct. 20, 2000

International collaboration is Partnership in the Arts production

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University Theatres Mainstage series will present the world premiere of "When the Angels of Heaven Saw the Daughters of Man . . ," an international collaboration that is this season’s Partnership in the Arts project in the University of Iowa department of theatre arts, Nov. 2-12. Performances will be at 8 p.m. Nov. 2-5 and 8-12 in the E.C. Mabie Theatre of the UI Theatre Building.

The visiting collaborators include playwright/director Erik Ehn; American artists Laurie Carlos from the Twin Cities and Grisha Coleman from New York, both former members of the Urban Bush Women dance/theater company; and Serbians Sanja Krsmanovic Tasic and Maja Mitic from the Dah Teatar in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.

Ehn says the new, evolving project took its impetus from verses at the start of Genesis 6 that describe a time after Eden and before the Flood, when humanity was so lovely to the sight of heaven that angels descended and intermarried with mortals, producing a race of giants. The international ensemble of 17 actors, writers, composers, musicians and dancers use this source to meditate on themes of perfect love, and then too-perfect love.

"What is it like to win heaven’s desire, and what could the Flood be in this compact?" Ehn asks. "Perhaps God doesn’t speak the language of humans; perhaps God’s word for love is ‘water’ -- and we drowned not for punishment, but because of a failure of poetics."

"When the Angels of Heaven . . ." is a project emphasizing the creative process, and it will continue to develop throughout the performance run.

The new collaboration grew out of an ad hoc organization of out-of-the-mainstream theater artists, the RAT Conference. Last winter the UI hosted a RAT Conference entitled, "Theater and War: Uses of Art," which attracted theater companies and artists from around the globe -- artists who live on the edge, scramble together an existence, and take chances.

What does RAT stand for? When Ehn organized the first conference, the aggregation was still toying with a variety of names, but the one that stuck was RAT. RAT suggested various acronyms -- perhaps Regional Alternative Theatres, Raggedy-Assed Theatres and/or Rogues in American Typecasting -- but it was the rat metaphor that became the rallying point.

Mary DeDanan wrote in American Theatre magazine, "Alternative theatremakers across the nation easily identified with the image of the rat: wily, indestructible, pestilent, squeezing through impossibly tight places, sneaking into the Xerox room at the day job, using up all the toner, then

sneaking out. The rat doesn’t seek to change or reform the dominant structures and forms, but to infest them."

Ehn’s previous plays include "Wolf at the Door," "Maids," "Heavenly Shades of Night are Falling," "Gold to Mud" and "The Saint Plays," as well as "Ideas of Good and Evil," which was premiered at the UI in 1996.

Coleman currently leads a New York music-based performance group called Hot Mouth. Carlos was one of the original performers in Ntozake Shange’s "for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf."

Tasic and Mitic voted in the Yugoslavian elections and left the country just as chaos was erupting, making this a difficult time for them to be separated from their families and colleagues. Several years ago, Dah Teatar made a commitment to remain in Belgrade to build a new theatrical and social future in a country that has lost many of its most educated people to war and emigration.

Dah director Dijana Milosevic has written, "The members of Dah Teatar are not members of any political party but with their work and lives they have strongly opposed the war and violence and the official political attitude of the ruling party. To stay, live and work in this country despite the fact that thousands of young people of this generation have emigrated presents a definite political attitude. That position can be formulated in a few words: resistance to chaos, because Dah Teatar has chosen to stay and welcome those who will one day return."

Other contributors to the production include set and lighting designer Bryon Winn, costume designer Loyce Arthur, and composer/sound designer Erin Gee

Partnership in the Arts annually invites prominent theater professionals to the UI, where they develop new works for the stage in collaboration with UI theater students, faculty and staff.

Tickets for "When the Angels of Heaven Saw the Daughters of Man" 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.

Tickets are available at a 20-percent discount as part of a 3-play or 5-play University Theatres Mainstage subscription package. A brochure that details the entire season 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 and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays. From the local calling area, dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance 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.

Information and brochures may be requested by e-mail at <>.

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 UI arts information, visit this new address -- -- on the World Wide Web. Learn more about the Department of Theatre Arts and University Theatres at <>. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, contact <>.