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Release: May 4, 2001

National theater masks conference at UI will include public performances May 17-19

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Three public performances -- including a festive outdoor entertainment -- will be offered during "Masks," the National Conference on Masks of the Theatre, hosted by the University of Iowa department of theatre arts May 17-20.

Gateway Performance Productions of Atlanta will present "The Magic Vessel," and the Joan Schirle Dell’Arte Company from California will perform "Second Skin: Stories of the Mask" at 8 p.m. Thursday, May 17 in the David Thayer Theatre of the UI Theatre Building.

On Friday, May 18 Faustwork Mask Theater from Connecticut will present "The Mask Man" and Karen Jamieson Dancers from British Columbia will perform "Raven of the Railway" at 8 p.m. in the David Thayer Theatre.

Admission to the Thursday and Friday performances will be $8 ($5 for students) at the door. Sales will begin one hour before curtain time.

Commedia dell’arte players from around the world will collaborate for a free performance of "The Troubles of Love," an hilarious comedy for the whole family, at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, May 19 in the City Park Amphitheater.

The carnival atmosphere of the outdoor event will be enhanced by giant puppets and wandering minstrels. Food will be available for purchase on the grounds, catered by New Pioneer Co-op of Iowa City and Coralville. The audience is invited to bring their own blankets and lawn chairs.

In case of rain, the performance will be relocated to the David Thayer Theatre of the Theatre Building.

"The Magic Vessel," choreographed and directed by Sandra Hughes, artistic director of Gateway Performance Productions, is a celebration of Irish heritage. Inspired by an ancient Irish agricultural myth, the production tells of the struggle between two Celtic goddesses for sovereignty of the land and how this power clash creates the cycle of the seasons. The production was recently a featured performance at the Atlanta Celtic Festival 2000.

Dell’Arte Company Artistic Director Joan Schirle created the solo "Second Skin: Stories of the Mask," in which a vivid series of masked characters trace a luminous, humorous passage through obsession, transformation and reincarnation. Schirle uses masks from the United States, Bali and a dime store near you.

"The Mask Man" is a solo (with audience participation) about masks that simultaneously entertains and educates. Since 1983, the show has been performed more than 3,000 times in schools, festivals and theaters throughout the United States and Canada. The set consists of an impressive wall of masks, exhibited at the center of the stage. Robert Faust demonstrates their power by removing the masks from the wall, one by one, and assuming the character expressed in each face.

"Raven of the Railway" is a mask-dance installation, part of a large on-going British Columbia project called Voices of the Roundhouse. The piece is the culmination of a collaboration between choreographer Karen Jamieson, Tsimpshian carver and storyteller Victor Reese and the Roundhouse Community Centre. The collaboration between carver and choreographer, and between traditional First Nations masking and contemporary dance, is the backbone of the project that explores issues of darkness and light, consciousness and unconsciousness, fragmentation and wholeness.

"The Troubles of Love" was created for the conference by UI department of theatre arts faculty member Ralph Hall in collaboration with diverse mask artists. Based on commedia dell’arte scenarios, the piece brings together many of the famous figures of this 16th- to 18th-century art form: Isabella the temptress, Pantelone the old reprobate, Arlecchino the rascally servant, Capitano the braggert, Columbine the cunning maid, Doctore the pedant, and that perpetually warring couple, Punch and Judy. The UI PanAmerican Steel Band and Musick’s Feast will also be featured.

Sponsors of the conference events are the University of Iowa Arts and Humanities Initiative, Humanities Iowa, the UI Division of Performing Arts and the UI department of theatre arts.

Full conference registrations are still available through the UI Center for Conferences and Institutes. Registration is $150. The fee for student registrants without conference meals is $50; with meals the fee is $100. The conference single day rate is $75.

Information, including registration forms and a full schedule, is available on-line at <>. Or contact the UI Center for Conferences at or (800) 551-9029.

Featured topics will cover mask making, mask training and mask performance. All conference activities will be held in the UI Theatre Building.

Featured conference presenters will include Sears Eldredge, author of "Mask Improvisation for Actor Training and Performance"; Victor Reese, Tsimpshian mask carver from British Columbia; Ralph Lee, OBIE winner and creator of the "Saturday Night Live" Land Shark; Bruce Marrs, motion specialist for the film "Godzilla"; Judy Slattum, author of "Masks of Bali: Spirits of an Ancient Drama"; and Torbjorn Alstrom, internationally renowned mask maker from Sweden.

The UI organizers are faculty members Loyce L. Arthur, who has studied masking traditions in West Africa; and Hall, who has an extensive background as a director of mask theater.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all UI sponsored events. If you require assistance in order to participate in this program, please contact the Department of Theatre Arts at (319) 335-2700. For UI arts information, visit <> on the World Wide Web. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, contact <>.