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University of Iowa News Release


Nov. 21, 2007

MFA Directors One-Act Play Festival will run for two weekends

The University of Iowa Department of Theatre Arts will present the MFA Directors One-Act Play Festival, featuring two productions of one-act plays on consecutive weekends at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Dec. 6-8 and Dec. 13-15, in Theatre B of the UI Theatre Building.

The first weekend the plays will be "Free Gift" by Israel Horowitz, directed by Sarah Ballema, and "The Collection" by Harold Pinter, directed by John Kaufmann.

The Dec. 13-15 production will feature "Chicago" by Sam Shepard, directed by Brandon Bruce, and "Walkin' Backwards" by Brian Silberman, directed by Anthony Nelson.

"Every three years the Theatre Arts Department presents a One-Act Play Festival directed by first-year graduate students," explains Alan MacVey, chair of the department. "This year's new MFA directors -- who came to Iowa City this fall from Chicago, Seattle and Los Angeles -- have chosen four contemporary plays to showcase their talents. Written by Harold Pinter, Sam Shepard, Israel Horowitz and Brian Silberman, the plays are funny, edgy, touching and full of surprising characters."

In "Free Gift," an African-American woman posing as an insurance agent returns to the house of a middle-aged white woman, where she left her baby on the doorstep 10 years before. The conversation drifts to the child, the choices each woman made, and what makes someone a mother.

Ballema is a first-year student in the Master of Fine Arts directing program. "Being the only female director in this class made me particularly sensitive to finding a piece about women's lives and a piece with good roles for actresses," she says. "Both characters in this piece have complexity, subtlety and humor."

"The Collection" traces the awkward, unlikely friendship between a man and his wife's lover. "I like being drawn into the vacuum of the text," Kaufmann says. "Pinter leaves many things unsaid, letting the audience complete the story in the silences and the simple presence of the actors."

Kaufmann worked as planetarium supervisor at Pacific Science Center in Seattle and as a Cranium game-developer. His theatrical creations include "Starball," a musical astronomy comedy that toured to planetariums across the country, and "Date of Birth," with a script taken from recordings he made during the birth of his sister's first child.

"Chicago" is one of Shepard's earliest plays, in which a young man, Stu, stews in his bathtub, struggling to understand a world that is forever abandoning him. "I'm drawn to the play's theme of being isolated while being surrounded by people," director Bruce says. "We are all so withdrawn from each other given the advent of the Internet, television, or whatever technological drug we use to keep others away from us."

Bruce was the artistic director of the BackStage Theatre in Chicago, where he directed a Jefferson Award-winning production of "The Skin of Our Teeth."

"Walkin' Backwards" portrays three young Virginians on the eve of the Vietnam War.

Nelson, a native of Fort Dodge, Iowa, is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He has directed political and socially conscious theatre in Phoenix, Los Angeles, Edinburgh and Des Moines.

Admission to each weekend of the MFA Directors One-Act Play Festival is $6 (UI student, senior citizen and youth $4). Tickets will be available at the door, one hour before each performance.

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 (office), 319-430-1013 (cell),