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Release: Oct. 4, 2002


How do we discern reality from illusion? Are we the masters of our own destinies, or just playing out a script? And what does it all mean, anyway? These ancient but ever-contemporary issues and live Flamenco music drive the opening production of the University Theatres Mainstage season at the University of Iowa -- “Life is a Dream,” by 17th-century Spanish theatrical master Pedro Calderon de la Barca.

Performances will be at 8 p.m. Oct. 17-19 and 24-26, and at 3 p.m. Sundays, Oct. 20 and 27 in E.C. Mabie Theatre of the UI Theatre Building.

Calderon’s play has been described as a “drama of profound and universal philosophical significance.” But director Jeremy Wilhelm, a graduate student in the UI Department of Theatre Arts, also finds in it a focus in contemporary international affairs.

“Beyond the traditional dramaturgy of the play, the impetus for this production comes from a desire to critique the Bush administration's authoritarian parade, and infuse our now xenophobic culture with a taste of something that draws a great deal on Islamic influences -- the Flamenco tradition,” Wilhelm says. “The production will resonate with metaphysical questions, tight dramatic action, and strenuous physical acting.”

As this play of poetic sentiment and mystical symbolism opens, there is something rotten in Poland. The horoscope of the newborn prince, Segismund, convinced King Basilio that his son was destined to overthrow him. Banished to a remote tower, Segismund has grown up chained to a ring in the floor under constant guard.

But now the King has had a change of heart, and he has his son drugged and brought to the court. The prince, overcome with the passions of revenge, must be restrained from attacking his father and is once again banished.

Back in the tower, the prince becomes convinced that the entire episode was just a dream. When a peasant uprising offers him another chance for revenge, and the opportunity to seize the throne, will this prove to be just another dream, from which he will once again awake in his lonely exile?

Wilhelm explains, “This performance is primarily a collaboration with my brother David Wilhelm, who is a Flamenco guitarist. We are both Americans and Iowans, and yet we identify artistically and emotionally with the aesthetics of other cultures. We hope to be cultural tour guides in this respect, and we do not use the culture of Spain to simply illustrate the many meanings of the play. The guitar, palmas and cante remain in and of themselves worthy of consideration.”

The costumes, designed by Emily Bennett, will extend the Spanish flavor, drawing on traditional Flamenco and Spanish peasant dress.

The scenic design by Edward Matthew Walter is spare and symbolic, using relatively few set pieces, enabling the lighting by Bryon Winn and sound to become major elements of the production. Wilhelm describes the set as “austerely beautiful.”

Tickets for “Life is a Dream” are $16 ($8 for UI students, senior citizens and youth), and are available in advance from the Hancher Auditorium box office. Any remaining tickets for each performance will be available at the Theatre Building box office one hour before curtain time.

Hancher Auditorium box office business 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. People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial (319) 335-1158, which is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

Tickets may be ordered on-line 24 hours a day, seven days a week through Hancher’s website:< >.

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.

Tickets may also be purchased at a substantial discount as part of University Theatres three-play and five-play season packages. A brochure detailing the entire University Theatres Mainstage season is now available from the Division of Performing Arts marketing office, 319-335-3213 or < >.

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