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University of Iowa News Release


Nov. 29, 2006

UI Turner Action Theatre Participates In 365 Days/365 Plays Festival Dec. 11

The University of Iowa Darwin Turner Action Theatre will participate in the Days/365 Plays National Festival by performing seven short plays by Pulitzer Prize-winning dramatist Suzan-Lori Parks (right) at 7 p.m., 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. Monday, Dec. 11, in UI Art Building East. Audiences for the free performances will gather in the lobby of the UI Theatre Building, to be escorted to the several spaces in Art Building East where the plays will be performed.

Groups will depart from the Theatre Building at 7, 8 and 9 p.m., so audience members should plan to arrive before those times.

The National Festival began Nov. 13 and for the next year more than 725 performing arts groups around the country will stage productions until the entire cycle is performed in each of 15 cities and regions. The UI - the only Iowa participant in the project -- is one of more than 50 groups that will perform seven plays during the week of Dec. 11.

Parks, who has also been the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation "genius grant," embarked on her yearlong writing odyssey on Nov. 13, 2002. The project began as a private commitment to her life as an artist. University Theatres Mainstage produced Parks' "In the Blood" in 2005, and she wrote the screenplays for Spike Lee's "Girl 6" and Oprah Winfrey's production of "Their Eyes Were Watching God." She won the Pulitzer Prize for the play "Topdog/Underdog."

Learn more about the yearlong performance project at

Participating organizations include the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, the Bay Area Playwrights Foundation, the Goodman and Steppenwolf Theatres in Chicago, the Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles, the Public Theater in New York, Seattle Rep and Yale University.

Darwin Turner Action Theatre (DTAT) is the social outreach component of the UI Department of Theatre Arts. Its productions are directed by members of the graduate directing seminar taught by theatre arts faculty member Tisch Jones.

DTAT is the new name for a UI tradition that stretches back more than 35 years to the civil-rights and black-power eras. Since its founding as Black Action Theatre (BAT) in the 1960s, the group has exposed Iowa audiences to African-American culture through performance.

As an activity of a course jointly listed by the Department of Theatre Arts and the African-American World Studies program, BAT produced many of the most famous plays in African-American dramatic literature, as well as original works.

DTAT has continued the efforts of social and cultural awareness, but has become more inclusive, expanding to reflect Iowa's increasingly diverse cultural and social reality.

The group now memorializes the original mentor of BAT, Dr. Darwin T. Turner, who was for many years the chair of the African-American World Studies Department and the "Dean of Black Dramaturgy." Turner is nationally recognized as one of the pioneers in African-American studies. Under his leadership, the UI was a trailblazer in the field.

DTAT includes members of the college and community who are motivated by the goals and mission of social and cultural outreach for all ages. The group presents published plays, multicultural folktales and original material developed by the members, with audiences ranging from elementary and high school students, to events at libraries and museums.

The group also leads workshops with children to create and perform their own plays, and initiates discussion with groups about issues including race, gender, age, social status, family/social relationships and cultural history.

The performances are co-sponsored by the UI School of Art and Art History.

The Department of Theatre Arts and the School of Art and Art History are academic units of the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

The plays contain material of an adult nature. Potential audience members who are concerned about whether the plays are appropriate for them should contact the department at 319-335-2700 for additional information.

For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit To receive UI arts news by e-mail, go to, click the link "Join or leave the list (or change settings)" and follow the instructions.

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

MEDIA CONTACT: Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073; cell: 310-430-1013;