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: Sept. 29, 2000

(NOTE TO EDITORS: Director Eric Forsythe is reachable through the UI Department of Theatre Arts, 319-335-2700, or by e-mail at <>.)

University Theatres season at UI opens with 'Marat/Sade' Oct. 12-19

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University Theatres Mainstage season at the University of Iowa will open with Peter Weiss’ "Marat/Sade," one of the most provocative and influential musical plays from the 1960s, Oct. 12-29 in the David Thayer Theatre of the UI Theatre Building. Performances will be at 8 p.m. Oct. 12-14, 18-21 and 25-28, and at 3 p.m. Sundays, Oct. 15, 22 and 29.

A German-born Swedish playwright, Weiss is considered among the most important and controversial dramatists of post-World War II Europe. With "Marat/Sade" he created an unconventional stage spectacle that has been termed "total theatre," combining drama, comedy, choreography, special effects and music in an exploration of the relationship between revolution and madness. The play, featuring music by composer Richard Peaslee, captured both the New York Critics’ Circle and Tony awards for best play of 1966.

"The result is a vivid work that vibrates on wild, intense, murmurous and furious levels," wrote a critic for the New York Times in a1965 review of the play’s premiere at New York’s Martin Beck Theater. "It is sardonic and impassioned, pitiful and explosive. It may put you off at times with its apparent absurdity, or it may shock you with its allusions to violence and naked emotions. But it will not leave you untouched."

"The Persecution and Assassination of Jean Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade," to give the play’s full title, was first performed in West Berlin in 1964. It is set in the bath hall of a French asylum, where the imprisoned Marquis de Sade leads mental patients and political prisoners in a theatrical retelling of the murder of the revolutionary leader Jean-Paul Marat. This shocking drama unfolds before an audience of French gentry, who can only wonder: Will the violence and madness remain contained on the stage?

Weiss’ script builds a dramatic fiction from two historical facts. First, the Marquis de Sade -- best remembered for his violent pornographic writings that inspired the term "sadism" -- actually did direct plays while confined to the Charenton asylum from 1801 until his death in 1814. Second, Jean-Paul Marat, who incited the French people to commit violent acts during the French Revolution, was soaking in an herbal bath to treat a painful skin condition contracted from hiding in the sewers of Paris, when he was stabbed to death by Charlotte Corday, an activist in a political faction who opposed the bloodbath that the revolution had become.

Although Marat and Sade never met, Weiss imagines the rich possibilities for both humorous and dramatically charged commentary as the two leaders debate human history, dreams, obsessions and institutions. Does freedom mean simply the license to act on one’s private urges, or does it imply loftier aspirations?

Director Eric Forsythe, a faculty member in the UI department of theatre arts, says, "‘‘Marat/Sade’ is a musical play that got under my skin the moment I saw its original production more than 30 years ago. I’ve been humming the songs ever since. I think the intellectual focus of the production, the imaginary debate between Marat (the uncompromising architect of the French Revolution) and de Sade (the uncompromising visionary of personal freedom) is more pertinent and balanced today than ever. And there are those great songs . . . "

Other artistic contributors to the Mainstage production of "Marat/Sade" are set designer Alison Ford, costume designer Kaoime Malloy, lighting designer Wendy Luedtke, music director Anton Hatwich, and dramaturgs Tom Gibbons and Will Nedved.

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

"Marat/Sade" 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 <>.