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Release: April 13, 2001

Iowa New Play Festival Will Premiere 12 New Scripts

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The Iowa Playwrights Festival, a week-long whirlwind of adventurous theater with a premiere production each day, has been an annual University of Iowa theater highlight for many seasons. The department of theatre arts tradition of producing, reading and analyzing new Iowa Playwrights Workshop scripts in a concentrated festival continues this spring, April 30-May 5, in the Theatre Building, but the event has a new name -- the Iowa New Play Festival.

The new name more accurately symbolizes what the festival has always been about: the collaboration of all areas of the department -- playwrights, directors, designers, actors and technical resources -- in the production and showcasing of new work. And the educational value of the enterprise is shared by students in all of those disciplines.

With its new name, the Iowa New Play Festival remains a unique event for theater lovers to sink their teeth into. It is the most ambitious festival of new student theatrical work anywhere in the country. This season the festival will premiere a dozen new scripts in readings and productions.

Guest respondents for the festival will be: Elissa Adams, literary manager of the Children’s Theatre Company and former literary director of the Playwrights Center in the Twin Cities; Smith College faculty member Len Berkman, a playwright and dramaturg with Mark Taper Forum’s Playwright Mentor Series in Los Angeles; Robert Blacker, artistic director of the Sundance Theatre Laboratory; Juliette Carillo, director of the Hispanic Playwrights Festival and the Pacific Playwrights Festival; Scott T. Cummings, a faculty member at Boston College and a regular contributor to American Theater magazine; and Irish playwright Mike Finn, who was a participant in the UI International Writing Program last fall and this spring is writer-in-residence with UI International Programs.

The entire schedule of festival events takes place in the UI Theatre Building.


Reading: ‘stunning" by David Adjmi, 2:30 p.m., Cosmo Catalano Acting Studio (Room 172).

Production: "Tossing Sticks" by Lisa Day, directed by Maggie Conroy. 5:30 & 9 p.m., Theatre B, Day’s capsule description of her play is, " Baby sister hides vodka under the bed, father communicates with squirrel life, the dog watches with enlightened detachment -- Welcome home."


Reading: "Urgent Fury" by Allison Moore, 1:30 p.m., Cosmo Catalano Acting Studio.

Productions: "Jeremy Frey Kicked a Hole in the Sky" by Kara Hartzler, directed by Andrew Golla; and "The Misbegotten Pilgrimage of Bilbal and the She-Ass, or, The Donkey Play" by Mark Perry, directed by William Barbour. 5:30 & 9 p.m., David Thayer Theatre.

In the fantasy "Jeremy Frey Kicked a Hole in the Sky," a ball kicked a little TOO high launches best friends Jeremy and Natalie into an epic adventure involving absurd mothers, giant squirrels and God’s escape from Heaven as they attempt to repair the punctured sky.

The Biblical story of Balaam and the ass is the starting point for the comic romp of "The Donkey Play."


Reading: "Three Figures" by Robert Wray, 1:30 p.m., Cosmo Catalano Acting Studio.

Production: "Familiar" by Kirsten Greenidge, directed by Kristin Horton. 5:30 & 9 p.m., Theatre B. Confronted by clams, cats and catastrophic yearning, Jill finds herself in a web of predicaments: Her mother won’t leave her hole in the sand, her brother is afraid to leave the house unassisted, a new employee has infiltrated the family business, and her only friend is drowning in a sea of sexual confusion


Reading: "The Road to Santiago" by Jeannine Coulombe, 1:30 p.m., Cosmo Catalano Acting Studio.

Production: "The Last Scene" by Victoria Stewart, directed by Carol MacVey. 5:30 & 9 p.m.,
David Thayer Theatre. Based on an actual event in 1949, "The Last Scene" tells a story of marriage, betrayal and artistic ideals. Director Nick Ray’s marriage to his leading lady, Gloria Grahame, is on the rocks; his leading actor, Humphrey Bogart, has had too much to drink; and his best friend, Art Smith, is about to be blacklisted. Through all of this, Nick tries to find the perfect ending to his classic film noir, "In A Lonely Place."


Production: "The Ghosts of Romance" by Cyndi Coyne, directed by Lad Brown. 5:30 & 9 p.m., Theatre B, Theatre Building. Coyne says her five meditations on concept of love are "filled to the brim with sex, ‘harsh language’, with wholesome intention, and high quality drugs in moderation." Production: "Untitled (Five Boxes for Joseph Cornell)" created by Bronwen Bitetti, Jeremy Wilhelm and Joseph Ferron Hiatt. 8 p.m., 9:30 p.m. and 11 p.m., E.C. Mabie Stage. This collaborative work is an investigation of the life, work, and influences of visual artist Joseph Cornell.


Production: "Missed America" by Joseph Ferron Hiatt, directed by Liza Williams. 5:30 & 9 p.m., Theatre B. "BEAUTY QUEENS ATTACK!" warns Hiatt. In "Missed America," an abject family ventures out into a mythic American utopia. On their way they encounter wandering beauty queens of every form: "virginal and slack, benevolent and venal, blessed and cruel."

Admission to the readings is free.

Tickets for festival productions are $6 ($3 for UI students, senior citizens, and youth). Tickets will be available noon to 1:30 p.m. April 30 through May 4 at UI Theatre Building Box Office, or one hour before each performance.

Some festival productions include material of an adult nature. Potential patrons who are concerned about whether the productions are suitable for them should contact the department of theatre arts -- (319) 335-2700.) -- for additional information.

Many of the plays developed through the Iowa Playwrights Workshop and presented in the festival have gone on to successful professional productions, have been honored with theatrical awards or have been invited to theater festivals.

For example, Peter Ullian’s "In the Shadow of the Terminal Tower" was selected by Harold Prince for development as a musical, and as "Eliot Ness in Cleveland" it premiered in Denver. Naomi Wallace’s Iowa Playwrights Festival scripts "The War Boys" and "In the Heart of America" have been given major productions in London. Kate Aspengren presented "Dear Mrs. Martin" in the festival, where it was seen by a representative of the Samuel French publishing house, leading to the script’s publication and availability to theaters throughout the country.

More recently, Levy "Lee" Simon won the American College Theatre Festival Lorraine Hansberry Award for "The Bow Wow Club," which premiered in the 1998 Iowa Playwrights Festival and is in development for a film production. Both Simon and current playwright Kirsten Greenidge were invited to the prestigious National Playwrights Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center.

Over the years, the festival has produced scripts by numerous young playwrights who have gone on to distinguished careers in theater -- including Rebecca Gilman, whose "Spinning into Butter" has been one of the most talked-about plays of recent months; Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award finalist Lee Blessing; Emmy Award and Jefferson Award winner Rick Cleveland; Darrah Cloud, whose "O Pioneers" was broadcast by PBS and is currently being toured by the Acting Company; Todd Ristau, the editor of whose work has been performed at the Edinburgh Festival and the London West End; Judy GeBauer, whose plays have been widely produced; Charles Smith, playwright-in-residence at the Victory Gardens Theatre in Chicago and a faculty member at Ohio University; "Halloween 5" screenwriter Shem Bitterman; and Obie Award winner David Hancock.

The department of theatre arts is a unit of the UI Division of Performing Arts, in the College of Liberal Arts.

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