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Release: June 21, 2001

(NOTE TO EDITORS: Iowa Summer Rep Artistic Director Eric Forsythe may be reached at <>. "Zastrozzi" director Michael Sokoloff may be reached through the Department of Theatre Arts, 319-335-2700. Ticket sales have been brisk, so please call the box office for the latest ticket-availability information.)

Iowa Summer Rep 2001 opens final production, 'Zastrozzi: The Master of Discipline,' July 5

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The Iowa Summer Rep festival of comedies by Canada’s most popular English-language playwright, George F. Walker, will open its third and final production, the swashbuckling "Zastrozzi: The Master of Discipline," at 8 p.m. Thursday, July 5 in E.C. Mabie Theatre of the University of Iowa Theatre Building. Other performances will be at 8 p.m. July , 6, 7, 13 and 14.

Michael Sokoloff, the director of "Zastrozzi," has worked on and off Broadway in New York, in major regional theatres and in summer stock theatres large and small, including a recent production of "Equus" for the Riverside Theatre in Iowa City. He was the fight director for Steppenwolf Theatre’s Tony Award-winning production of "The Grapes of Wrath," and his fight direction will also be on display in "Zastrozzi."

Since premiering in 1977 "Zastrozzi" has been given more than 100 productions, although it is a departure from the contemporary urban comedies for which Walker is primarily known. Instead, it is what he has called a "medieval nightmare."

"It dates back two decades to early in Walker's career when he was experimenting with different genres," an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer explained. "‘Zastrozzi,’ which Walker described as a kind of homage to 19th-century melodrama, has proved one of his most popular plays."

Filled with dialogue that is alternately sharp and goofy, this Italian fable has been described as "an odd hybrid of melodrama, revenge tragedy and grand opera with bodies all over the place at play’s end, and a strange, almost surreal, tone throughout." Walker constructed the script with references from a variety of legends and theatrical scripts,

Zastrozzi -- self-proclaimed master criminal of the world -- is out to seek revenge on his arch nemesis, the hapless impressionist painter, Verezzi, who Zastrozzi believes killed his mother. Zastrozzi concocts a diabolical plot to destroy Verezzi using Matilda, his sometimes mistress and the most acclaimed seductress in Europe, as bait.

A review concluded, "‘Zastrozzi is all about Heroes and Villains, Grand Gestures and Great Loves. Above all it’s about our common love -- and need -- for drama that’s larger than life; for outsized personalities treading boldly across life's glorious stage."

The production features set and costume design by Dan Nemteanu, lighting design by Bryon Winn, and sound design by Ethan J. Bade.

Forsythe says of the entire UI summer festival: "George F. Walker is not a household name in the United States, unlike many of the playwrights we’ve worked with over the years. He’s as celebrated in Canada as Neil Simon is here, and just as prolific. He’s simply a great playwright I’m proud to produce -- and, oh, so funny."

Walker’s darkly comic stage plays have been translated into more than a half-dozen languages, and he has also been the writer of popular Canadian TV series and movies. Among his many honors in Canada are the Governor General’s Awards for Drama twice, the Chalmers Canadian Play Award six times, and three Outstanding Play Awards in the DORA Awards. Walker has been resident playwright of the New York Shakespeare Festival, and his "Nothing Sacred" was a Los Angeles Times "Play of the Year."

A Chicago Sun-Times review declared, "No other living playwright pushes the boundaries of comedy as far, with often stunning results." And a review in the Washington Post said Walker creates a world "where humor and horror waltz drunkenly around in each other’s arms."

The production of "Zastrozzi" contains material of an adult nature. Potential audience members who are concerned about whether it is appropriate for them should contact the department of theatre arts at (319) 335-2700 for additional information.

For many seasons Iowa Summer Rep has pursued a unique focus in American summer theater with its single-playwright festivals, but two seasons ago Iowa Summer Rep also became an Actor’s Equity Company, elevating its status as a professional theater company.

Tickets for "Zastrozzi" are $17 ($13 for senior citizens and $9 for UI students and audience members 17 and younger. Tickets may be purchased 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 also available at a substantial discount as part of an Iowa Summer Rep subscription package. A package, which includes tickets to all three Walker productions, are $40 ($31 for senior citizens, and $22 for UI students and youth)

Iowa Summer Rep theatergoers may enhance their theatrical outing with a choice of picnic dinners at the outdoor Comedy Cafe, overlooking the Iowa River. Reservations are strongly recommended by calling 319-335-3105, and orders are due before 5 p.m. one day in advance.

Hancher box office hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays. 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. People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial (319) 335-1158. The line is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

The department of theatre arts is part of the Division of Performing Arts in the UI College of Liberal Arts. For UI arts information, visit <> on the World Wide Web. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, contact <>.