The University of Iowa
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us

University of Iowa News Release

June 10, 2003

Iowa Summer Rep's Stoppard Festival Opens With 'Rough Crossing'

"Tom-Foolery: Three Comedies by Tom Stoppard," the 20th-anniversary season of Iowa Summer Rep's unique single-playwright festivals, will open with the romantic musical comedy "Rough Crossing" at 8 p.m. Thursday, June 26, in E.C. Mabie Theatre of the University of Iowa Theatre Building. Other performances will be at 8 p.m. June 27 and 28, and July 3 and 5.

Iowa Summer Rep is the professional Actors' Equity company of the UI Department of Theatre Arts.

"Rough Crossing," staged by guest director Michael Sokoloff, features not only the trademark wit of Stoppard, who won an Academy Award for the "Shakespeare in Love" screenplay, but also music by Andre Previn. Actors' Equity members Eric Forsythe and Kristen Behrendt head the cast.

This romantic comedy is Stoppard's free adaptation of P.G. Wodehouse's "The Play's the Thing." Set on a 1930s ocean liner, "Rough Crossing" follows the misadventures of a theatrical team attempting to finish and rehearse the next Broadway musical blockbuster. When infidelities threaten to destroy the romance of the composer and the leading lady, it's up to the creativity of the playwrights to see the project through, transforming reality's confusion into the play's conclusion.

Chicago critic Tom Williams enthused, "Laughs abound in Tom Stoppard's brilliant romantic farce, 'Rough Crossing,' which starts fast and never lets up. . . . Rapid-fire wordplay with sight gags and double entendres based on miscommunication produces a hysterical show. I laughed myself silly."

Critic Colin MacLean of the Edmonton Sun explained: "Playwright Tom Stoppard inevitably spikes his comedies with strong philosophical and social comment. . . . This is not the case in this devilishly clever 1984 comedy, 'Rough Crossing.'"

Damien Jaques wrote for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, "Stoppard writes with his trademark cleverness. He peppers the piece with puns and other bits of wordplay, and the dialogue sometimes caroms around the stage like a high-speed ping-pong match. The play-within-a-play structure allows him to have fun with mirror situations."

Michael Sokoloff, the Iowa Summer Rep veteran who is the director of "Rough Crossing," has directed on and off Broadway in New York, in major regional theatres and in summer stock theatres large and small, including a 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."

Other members of the "Rough Crossing" artistic team are scene designer Matthew York, costume designer Laura Thudium, lighting designer Jim Albert and sound designer Anton Jones.

Stoppard began as a journalist and theater critic in the late 1950s, but the production of his first full-length play, "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead," in 1967 catapulted him into the ranks of England's most famous comic playwrights. His learned silliness is now seen as part of a classic tradition that includes the Goon Show, "A Hard Day's Night" and Monty Python's Flying Circus.

"Shakespeare in Love," the 1999 Oscar winner, is one of several film scripts he has written, or on which he has collaborated, including Terry Gilliam's "Brazil," the adaptation of E.L. Doctorow's "Billy Bathgate," "The Russia House" and Steven Spielberg's "Empire of the Sun" and "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade."

Iowa Summer Rep is America's only professional company that makes each summer a festival of plays by a single contemporary playwright. Along with "Rough Crossing," "Tom-Foolery" will feature Stoppard's "Travesties" and "The Real Thing," as well as a reading of "The Real Inspector Hound."

Tickets for "Rough Crossing" are $19 ($14 for senior citizens, and $10 for UI students and youth) from the Hancher box office. Any remaining tickets for each performance will be available one hour before curtain time at the Theatre Building box office.

A series package -- which includes tickets to all three "Tom-Foolery" productions -- is $46 ($34 for senior citizens, and $24 for UI students and youth). The series package offers a discount of more than 20 percent.

Hancher Auditorium summer box office business 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. 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. Information and brochures may be requested by e-mail:

Ticket-holders may chose to complete their evening out with a pre-performance dinner on the Theatre Building Plaza, overlooking the Iowa River. From 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Iowa Memorial Union Catering will offer a choice of three entrees, plus a Florentine Cooke Basket desert selection. The entrees will be Grilled Sliced Breast of Chicken, Seared Salmon Filet, and Stuffed and Roasted Squash Boats, each with harmonious side dishes.For dinner reservations, call the IMU Food Service at 319-335-3105.

Beverages will be also available before each performance and at intermission, and beverages and desserts will be served on the Plaza after each performance.

For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit To receive UI arts news by e-mail,

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACTS: Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073, Iowa Summer Rep Artistic Director Eric Forsythe, one of the stars of "Rough Crossing," may be reached at Director Michael Sokoloff may be reached through the Department of Theatre Arts office at 319-335-2700.

PHOTOS are available at