March 23, 2007
NOTE: The location of the performance has been corrected in this release.
UI Maia Quartet Performs Live at Performances of Strindberg's 'Ghost Sonata'
The University of Iowa Maia Quartet will perform live at each performance of the University Theatres Mainstage production of August Strindberg's psychological drama "Ghost Sonata," opening at 8 p.m. Thursday, April 5, in the E.C. Mabie Theatre of the University of Iowa Theatre Building. Additional performances will be at 8 p.m. April 6-7 and 11-14, and at 2 p.m. Sundays April 8 and 15.
The performances with "Ghost Sonata," a theatrical milestone by the most famous playwright in Swedish history, are an extension of the Maia Quartet's Nordic-Scandinavian Festival, which featured events almost daily during February. During the "Ghost Sonata" production, the UI School of Music's resident quartet will perform portions of Beethoven's "Grosse Fugue."
This is the centennial year of "Ghost Sonata," the best known of the works Strindberg called "chamber plays," written near the end of his life and modeled more on the mood-creating power of Beethoven's music than on traditional theatrical structures. Strindberg wanted the audience to focus on themes and their development throughout the play - like listening to a musical composition -- rather than focusing on plot and character.
The chamber plays are short plunges into psychological darkness, performed without intermission, and thematically intense, to keep the audience involved. And music plays such an integral role that Strindberg's stage directions often call for the use of specific pieces to create the correct mood.
"In 'Ghost Sonata,' Strindberg relentlessly unravels his own psyche -- his terror, passion, and hope -- in a way unmatched in theatre for the last 100 years," says director Kevin Harris, a Master of Fine Arts candidate in the UI Department of Theatre Arts. "Our production strives to remain true to Strindberg's original, intricate vision, using the music of the Maia quartet to make his nightmare come to life."
"After much deliberation on what would be the ideal musical pairing for this play, we agreed that Beethoven's 'Grosse Fugue' captured the intense psychological landscape of 'Ghost Sonata' while simultaneously paying homage to Strindberg's inspiration from Beethoven," said Elizabeth Oakes, the violist of the Maia Quartet.
"Although the 'Grosse Fugue' was written almost 200 years ago, this is a work that feels thoroughly modern in its structure and musical content. With its complex themes and far reaching impassioned emotional range, I feel the intertwining of Beethoven's 'Grosse Fugue' with Kevin's production will create an unforgettable experience for the audience, as well as for all of us directly involved in the performance."
"Ghost Sonata," with apparitions, mummies and vampires fit for a horror movie, has been described as the first expressionist, surrealist and absurdist drama. Village Voice critic Michael Feingold, reviewing a 2001 production, wrote, "Simple, immediate, and unpretending, it's nevertheless impossible to pin down to any literal sense. Its images constantly shift their ground, its themes trail off or link up in unexpected ways. No one in it is exactly what he or she seems, though they all give us ample warning about what they may be.
"The action hurtles constantly forward, though a story never exactly takes shape and doesn't precisely resolve at the end. Influenced by Buddhist thought, the experiments of Symbolist painters and poets, and possibly by Strindberg's ventures in drug experimentation as well, the little three-scene chamber play, running roughly 95 minutes, is as rich and meaningful as a piece of the best chamber music -- and about as easy to explain in literal terms."
These chamber plays emerged after Strindberg battled mental illness in the mid-1890s, following his second divorce. He was observed stabbing the air behind him with knives to fend off hostile spirits. He wrote letters claiming that his estranged wife was sending electrical currents through his room to kill him. And, in addition to dabbling in the occult, he began to believe in his ability to synthesize elements, which led to extensive experiments in alchemy and chemistry.
"Strindberg battled his own demons throughout his life," Harris says. "Like many of us, he was never able to find the balance between his mind and the outside world; unlike nearly all of us, he left behind the results of that life-long struggle. 'Ghost Sonata' is part of his last, desperate attempt to make sense of the 'morgue of the world.' "
Artistic contributors to "Ghost Sonata" include Leiko Fuseya, set design; Jim Albert, lighting design; and Jae Hee Kim, costume design.
The resident string quartet at the UI School of Music since 1998, the Maia Quartet participates in a series of chamber music concerts on campus each year. Its members -- violinists Tricia Park and Zoran Jakovcic, violist Elizabeth Oakes and cellist Hannah Holman -- also teach chamber music and coach student ensembles as members of the School of Music faculty.
The Maia Quartet was founded when the four original members were students at the Cleveland Institute of Music. They were subsequently awarded fellowships at the Peabody Conservatory and the Juilliard School, where they worked closely with the Juilliard Quartet and served as their teaching assistants.
"Ghost Sonata" tickets -- $17; UI student and youth $8; senior citizen $12 -- 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.
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: http://www.hancher.uiowa.edu.
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The Department of Theatre Arts and the School of Music are units of the Division of Performing Arts in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
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