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Release: March 15, 2001

UI international writer-in-residence is available to visit area libraries, schools, senior centers

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Those not familiar with the work of Irish playwright Mike Finn might think the title of his award-winning play "Pigtown" is a reference to his stay in Iowa. But really it is a description of his hometown of Limerick, which is famous for its bacon.

Finn is visiting the University of Iowa through July as the International Programs Writer-in-Residence. He will travel around the state to conduct readings, lectures and workshops at public libraries, schools and senior centers. The writer-in-residence program is funded by the Stanley-UI Foundation Support Organization, a Title VI National Resource Center grant from the U.S. Department of Education and UI International Programs.

Akua Akyea, the assistant director of International Programs' Cross-Cultural Programming and Outreach, said the goal of the writer-in-residence program is to bring the community, especially students in grades K-12, into contact with international writers. "It's always important to have people share their craft, and this program gives young people international role models to look up to," she said.

Through his writer-in-residence position, Finn hopes to share with his audiences the process of moving from a blank page to performance. Depending on the amount of time he has with a group, he plans to work with the group to develop a story line and characters and devise a short piece to perform.

Finn is based at the UI International Center in Room 354. Those interested in arranging a workshop or reading with Finn should contact Akua Akyea at (319) 335-0345.

Finn, who primarily writes plays, has been in the theater business for 13 years. He started as an actor and then became a playwright. He has acted in more than 30 theater productions as well as television and films. He is also a weekly columnist for the Limerick Post, which he will continue while he is in Iowa with columns about the state, its weather and its people. His columns are posted on the newspaper's Web site

Finn's first visit to Iowa and the UI campus was last fall as a participant in the world renowned UI International Writing Program. He accepted the opportunity to return to the UI as writer-in-residence so he could spend more time in what he describes as "a very writer-friendly town."

He said Iowa City is conducive to creativity. He is also fond of the many people he has met and the good stories they have shared with him, which he said are the key to his craft. "Playwriting is about storytelling. Ordinary stories are better than anything you could make up."

Finn's story of his native Limerick won him the Stewart Parker Award for emerging playwrights. "Pigtown" premiered in the summer of 1999 in Limerick and returned for another showing in 2000. It also played at the Dublin Theater Festival last November as well as at the Galway Theater.

Finn's other plays include "The Crunch"(1992), "Charlie Chaplin's Mother was an Irishman" (1995), "Nevereverland" (1998) and "The Affair in the Square" (2000).

Currently, Finn is in contact with Irish theater companies in San Jose, Boston, Chicago and New York about producing some of his work in the U.S. He has done readings of "Pigtown" at a New York theater workshop and the Portland Stage Company in Maine.

Finn is not taking a break from writing during his stay in Iowa. He is in the process of completing "Moyasta Junction," his tentatively titled next play, which is a romantic comedy set in 1893 in Limerick and Clare. After that he plans to begin researching Ellis Island, the topic of his next piece about the immigrants -- many of whom were Irish -- who arrived in the United States via the island.

The writer-in-residence program and Cross-Cultural Programming and Outreach are part of the UI International Programs, which consists of a number of offices, centers, degree programs, academic programs, research projects an services. Organized under the associate provost and dean for International Programs, these units serve to further internationalize the campus and community and promote global scholarship, research and teaching.