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University of Iowa News Release


May 2, 2007

Sander's Experience In D.C. Corporation Launched May 4 Festival Script

Sarah Sander taught in Taiwan and Prague after she graduated from Middlebury College in 2000, but when she returned to the United States she took a job that provided a "brutal contrast" -- at a corporation on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., that produced training videos for big-time corporate and governmental clients. Now that she is a graduate student in the Iowa Playwrights Workshop, her responses to that experience have come to artistic life in "WorkWeek."

The fourth production in the Iowa New Play Festival, "WorkWeek" will be performed at 5:30 and 9 p.m. Friday, May 4, in Mabie Theatre of the University of Iowa Theatre Building.

"We fulfilled contracts with the military, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and McGraw Hill, among others," Sander says. "I began my tenure as a video editor, and by the time I left, three years later, I'd edited and written a number of videos with topics ranging from racial profiling for the Maryland police to safety and abduction prevention for elementary-age children.

"Though I was never given that much to accomplish, I was still required to time in and time out and always look busy. The falseness of this pretense, as well as the superficial manner in which certain managers treated me -- I was encouraged to wear skirts and more feminine attire -- was infuriating but tolerable. The irony of working at a company that so badly needed the training videos we created did little to dull the daily tedium."

Sander's sense of alienation became more acute as a result of events near the end of her tenure with the production company. "About three months before I left, the company hired a new producer: a strong, affable black man, who stuck out like a sore thumb in the white suburbs of Potomac," she explains. "The producer and I became fast friends and we soon began a ritual of two-martini Fridays where we would walk to local bars and see how long it would take before we were served.

"Witnessing how we were perceived together was eye-opening and unsettling," she added. "Though the racism wasn't overt, it was still there, subtle and insidious."

A further contrast impressed her when she became a student in the Iowa Playwrights Workshop, after having her work produced at Phoenix Theatre D.C. and The Hatchery. "When I came to Iowa -- particularly after living in D.C. -- I found the homogeneous makeup of the college community jolting," Sander says. "This lack of diversity only served to exacerbate some of the preconceptions certain people held. 'WorkWeek' was catalyzed by all of these experiences.

"With this play I'm interested in exploring how racism, sexism and biases of all kinds are still employed today, albeit in a covert manner. I'm also interested in exploring how the corporate grind stifles individuals, causing people to put on specific veneers while submerging baser instincts."

The Iowa New Play Festival production of "WorkWeek," which received an initial reading at the Kennedy Center's Page to Stage Festival, will be directed by graduate student Rachel Edwards Harvith. Harvith's work has been seen on the University Theatres Mainstage and in Iowa Summer Rep.

The Iowa New Play Festival, a tradition unique in American collegiate theater, is presenting more than a dozen new scripts from the Iowa Playwrights Workshop in productions and readings through May 5 in the University of Iowa Theatre Building.

The UI Department of Theatre Arts concludes each spring semester by dedicating all its resources -- acting, directing, design, stage management and technical -- to an intense and event-packed festival that offers student playwrights the productions and feedback that are essential for their development and offers audiences an opportunity to participate in the creation of significant new American theater at the ground level.

Tickets for all the evening productions -- $6 for the general public and $4 for UI students, senior citizens and youth -- will be on sale one hour before each of the performances through May 5, and tickets will also be on sale noon to 1:30 p.m. each day at the Theatre Building box office.

The Department of Theatre Arts is part of the Division of Performing Arts in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

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;