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University of Iowa News Release


Nov. 16, 2007

Chekhov comes to Texas in 'Anton in Show Business,' Nov. 29 to Dec. 9

The University Theatres Mainstage will present "Anton in Show Business," Jane Martin's popular backstage comedy about the joys and frustrations of the theatrical life, at 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29, in E.C. Mabie Theatre of the University of Iowa Theatre Building. Other performances will be at 8 p.m. Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 and 5-8 and at 2 p.m. Sundays, Dec. 2 and 9.

"Anton in Show Business," the hit of the 24th Humana Festival of New American Plays in 2000, mixes satire and farce as it follows the ill-fated efforts of Actor's Express, a small company in San Antonio to stage a production of Chekhov's "Three Sisters."

The show's three actresses face issues that resonate with the dreamers they portray: Casey is the veteran of many non-paying roles Off-Off Broadway; Holly is a surgically enhanced TV star whose agent has convinced her that she will be taken more seriously if she performs Chekhov; and Lisabette is a perky elementary-school teacher who recently made her theatrical comeback in a community theater production of "Fiddler on the Roof" and dreams of being a professional.

The rest of the all-female cast play a variety of parts -- of both genders -- including a country music star, an arrogant English director, a flamboyant costume designer, the representative of the cigarette company that's sponsoring the production, a small-time fundraiser, an incompetent producer and a haughty critic.

As the reviewer for the Austin Chronicle put it, "The star has no scruples, the artistic director has no sense, the corporate funder has no clue, and this appears to be the status quo! With all this ego, greed, lust, insecurity, and ineptitude, the American theatre is making Hollywood look like a Benedictine monastery.

"The comedy wittily paints the contemporary stage as a zoo, a madhouse, a circle of hell, overrun by loons and lunatics so preoccupied with money, image, and themselves that they can hardly be bothered to create art. . . . It's clear that the playwright may have some weighty points to make, but damn if she isn't going to have fun making them."

Director Eric Forsythe, a faculty member in the UI Department of Theatre Arts, comments, "Every now and then a play comes along that captures the imagination and replenishes the spirit. 'Anton in Show Business' is one of those rare plays. It nicely reflects Chekhov's love of life, humor and longing in a contemporary context and casts its wry wisdom back on itself, asking why those of us who 'do' theater love it so much."

The Pulitzer-nominated playwright certainly knows the theatrical life intimately, but who is Jane Martin anyway? Although she has written more than a dozen plays in the past 20 years, there are no pictures of her, and she has never made a public appearance or given an interview.

The popular speculation is that she is not a "she" at all, but rather Jon Jory, who is now retired after many years as artistic director of the Actor's Theatre in Louisville, where the Humana Festival is staged. Jory has acted as Martin's spokesperson by stating, "Jane Martin is a Kentucky native who wishes to remain anonymous . . . for she would be unable to write [these plays] if her identity was made public knowledge."

"No one knows for sure," Forsythe says. "And that just adds to the fun."

Artistic contributors to the University Theatres Mainstage production of "Anton in Show Business" include set designer Margaret Wenk, costume designer Becky Bodurtha, lighting designer Adam Boyer and dramaturg Connie Winston.

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

Tickets for "Anton in Show Business" are $17; UI student and youth $8; senior citizen $12. Tickets are available in advance from the Hancher Auditorium box office. Any remaining tickets for each performance will be available one hour before curtain time at the Theatre Building box office.

Tickets may also be purchased as part of a Division of Performance Arts subscription package. The events are detailed in a Division of Performing Arts brochure that has been sent to area music, theater and dance patrons. Copies of the brochure, which includes complete ticket information and an order form, are available at the Hancher Auditorium Box Office, in the UI Theatre Building and from the division's marketing office at 319-335-3213,

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 online 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 at

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 CONTACTS: Eric Forsythe, Department of Theatre Arts, 319-335-2700,; Winston Barclay, Arts Center Relations, 319-384-0073 (office) 319-430-1013 (cell),