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University of Iowa News Release


Jan. 12, 2007

University Theatres Presents Sondheim's 'Into The Woods' Jan. 25-Feb. 4

University Theatres Mainstage will open Stephen Sondheim's hit fairy-tale musical "Into the Woods" at 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 25, in E.C. Mabie Theatre of the University of Iowa Theatre Building. Additional performances will be at 8 p.m. Jan. 26, 27 and 31, and Feb. 1-3, and at 2 p.m. Sundays, Jan. 28 and Feb. 4.

The production is an ambitious collaboration among all the academic units of the UI Division of Performing Arts and the local community. The 20 performers include theater faculty member Jack Cameron and music faculty member Rachel Joselson, along with dance and music students and several local children. The movement was choreographed by dance faculty member Daniel Stark. Set-building has required a crew of 20, and 11 people have been constructing costumes for more than two months.

"Into the Woods," with book by James Lapine, is populated by familiar Brothers Grimm fairy-tale characters, but it combines and transcends the traditional stories to investigate what happens after happily-ever after. What happens when the prince doesn't seem so charming anymore, and what do you do with a dead giant in your backyard?

When the show opened on Broadway, a New York Times review proclaimed, "'Into the Woods' simply sings. . . you float into an enchanted world." A the reviewer of the Daily News called the show "Total enchantment. A spell-bounding score, witty enough to make old stories fresh for adults, lovely enough to enchant youngsters."

"'Into the Woods' is, first of all, as timeless as the fairy tales it's based on," says director Alan MacVey, chair of the Department of Theatre Arts. "Cinderella and Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Jack and the Beanstalk -- these are stories about how hard it is to grow up. They are also about the difficulty of being a parent, in particular about knowing how much freedom to give our children. And like all the characters in the musical, everyone has wishes. 'Into the Woods' explores the journeys we take as we try to realize them.

"But the play is particularly timely today. Act One follows the characters as they try to obtain their own personal wishes. In act two, though, their entire world is attacked. They live in terror and have to band together to solve a dangerous problem. They succeed, but not without the loss of their homes, their environment and even some lives. They have a very hard time, but in the end they learn they must work together and risk everything or they will end up with nothing."

MacVey's production of "Into the Woods" differs from most because it takes place in a child's bedroom. A single father tells stories to his three children and, as he does, fairy tale characters emerge from the walls and the room becomes a forest. What the audience sees is what the children imagine in their dreams. 

"The production is also unusual in that it highlights the extraordinary range of talent in the Iowa City area," MacVey says. "It's one of the largest community projects we have ever mounted.

"The cast is composed of students and faculty from the Theatre Arts Department and the School of Music, as well as adults and children from the community. The artistic staff is made up of faculty and graduate students from the entire Division of Performing Arts, and the 16 members of orchestra, led by Jason Rausch and Ben Bentler, are all local residents. In this way the production mirrors the message of the play itself: In order to be strong and safe, the entire community must work together."

The original Broadway production of "Into the Woods" opened in 1987, starring Bernadette Peters and Joanna Gleason, and featuring musical staging by UI alumnus Lar Lubovitch. The show won three Tony Awards including "Best Score," and was nominated for a half-dozen more, and captured both the Drama Desk Award and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for "Best Musical."

The musical was inspired by "The Uses of Enchantment," the book in which famed child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim explored how fairy tales educate children and liberate their emotions. "Into the Woods" draws new, mature lessons from old stories.

Other artistic contributors to the UI production of "Into the Woods" include set designer William Moser, costume designer Catherine A. Parrott, lighting designer Bryon Winn and sound designer Scott M. Hanlin.

Tickets -- $22; UI student and youth $12; senior citizen $16 -- are available in advance from the Hancher Auditorium box office. Any remaining tickets will be available one hour before curtain time at the Theatre Building box office.

Families qualify for a special "Four for $44 deal" for the Sunday matinee performances. With the purchase of two adult tickets, ticket buyers can receive two children's tickets free.

Hancher Auditorium box office business hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. From the local calling area, dial 319-335-1160. Long distance is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. 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:

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;