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University of Iowa News Release


April 20, 2009

Iowa New Play Festival May 4-9 provides a deluge of new theater

The University of Iowa Department of Theatre Arts survived the flood of 2008 and is back in the Theatre Building for its annual deluge of new theater: the Iowa New Play Festival, the most ambitious new-play festival in collegiate theater. Readings and staged productions will be presented the week of May 4-9, Monday through Saturday.

This season the New Play Festival is a bit truncated because of ongoing repairs to the building, but it will still present four new scripts from the Iowa Playwrights Workshop in full productions and more than a half-dozen plays in staged readings.

"This year's New Play Festival comes at what has been a special time of renewal for our department, which has re-taken its stages after the flood of '08," Art Borreca, co-head of the Playwrights Workshop, said. "With several first-year playwrights and dramaturgs working in the Theatre Building for their very first times, we're putting the 'new,' and a commitment to the theatre of the future, back into the festival."

The New Play Festival requires the deployment of all the Department of Theatre Arts' resources -- acting, directing, dramaturgy, design, stage management and technical abilities -- to orchestrate an intense and event-packed festival that offers student playwrights the productions and feedback that are essential for their development. At the same time, the festival offers audiences an opportunity to participate in the creation of significant new American theater at the ground level.

The full productions will be presented at 5:30 and 9 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

--Monday, May 4: "La Lechera" by Andrew Saito, directed by Sarah Ballema. Lubia speaks perfect English, sleeps on a queen-sized bed, eats organic plums for breakfast, and produces the sweetest milk man has ever tasted. Years after leaving her village of El Paraíso, she is employed in the United States as a wet nurse to Conroy, the 17-year old son of wealthy parents. While Conroy breastfeeds and fantasizes about life in the tropical paradise of El Paraíso, his father, Laszlo, invests in development projects to improve the village. Both men are obsessed with consuming and capitalizing on Lubia's milk, while Madeline, Conroy's mother, would rather see Lubia's lactation run dry.

--Wednesday, May 6: "Akarui" by Jen Silverman, directed by Brandon Bruce. In a "rave cave" at the end of the world, DJ Akarui spins transformative beats that summon the lost, the desperate and the dangerous. Among those summoned are a transboy searching for a new skin, a Manta Ray turning into a man, and a recently killed teenage boy seeking revenge. As seekers and revelers follow the sound of DJ Akarui's summons, they're led into a world where everything comes at a price, and the price is often themselves.

--Friday, May 8: "The Decline of the Front Porch" by Mary Hamilton, directed by Anthony Nelson. Oliver and Delaney travel to the beach in hopes of finding a home. After weeks of searching, the couple is only driven further apart. When Oliver begins an affair with the realtor, Delaney looks for new ways to gain the attention of her husband, searching in nature for consolation that she does not find in her relationship. They both search to fill an absence, only to find that the connections they seek continue to evade them.

--Saturday, May 9: "Truth and Truth" by Sheela Kangal, directed by John Kaufmann. A young woman and middle-aged writer reconstruct their broken memories to find the truth within the violence of their past.

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. Tickets will also be on sale noon to 1:30 p.m. Monday through Friday of the festival at the Theatre Building box office. Discounted festival packages are also available.

All the daytime readings are free, and the public is invited to attend. The readings will take place in the Cosmo Catalano Acting Studio, Room 172, of the Theatre Building, unless otherwise noted:

--Monday, 1:30 p.m., "The Sea Cares Nothing" by Lisa Leaverton in the David Thayer Theatre.
--Tuesday, 1:30 p.m., "The Boy in Black" by Tony Meneses.
--Thursday, 5:30 p.m., "This is Who Comes" by Joe Luis Cedillo.
--Wednesday, 1:30 p.m., "Dressed in Money and Ink" by Jessica Foster.
--Thursday, 1:30 p.m., selections from the Undergraduate Playwrights Workshop.
--Friday, 1:30 p.m., "In the Starry Nights" by Kevin Artigue.
--Saturday, 2 p.m., "The Promised Land" by Tali Ariav.

The Iowa New Play Festival began in the 1960s as Critics Week and developed into the more public Iowa Playwrights Festival. The festival's name was changed to the Iowa New Play Festival to stress that the production of new plays was of educational value not only to the playwrights but to all students in the department.

Over the years, the festival has produced scripts by numerous young playwrights who have gone on to distinguished careers in theater.

Among them are Rick Cleveland, Emmy-award winning writer for "The West Wing"; Evening Standard Award-winner Rebecca Gilman; Dan Coffey, known to public radio audiences as Dr. Science; Darrah Cloud, whose "O Pioneers" was broadcast by PBS and was toured by the Acting Company; Todd Ristau, the co-founder of No Shame Theatre whose work has been performed at the Edinburgh Festival and the London West End; Charles Smith, playwright-in-residence at the Victory Gardens Theatre in Chicago and a faculty member at Ohio University; two-time Obie winner W. David Hancock; and Keith Josef Adkins, whose plays have been commissioned by the New York Shakespeare Festival, the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, the Mark Taper Forum, and the Actors Theater of Louisville, and who has written and acted in the sitcom "Girlfriends."

Many of the plays developed through the Iowa Playwrights Workshop and presented in the festival have gone on to successful professional productions, have been honored with theatrical awards or have been invited to theater festivals.

For example, from the 2008 festival, Jennifer Fawcett's "The Toymaker's War" is a production at the 2009 Alcyone Festival at the Halcyon Theatre, Sarah Sander's "Seven Dreams of Her" was produced last fall at the Inkwell Theatre, and Tony Meneses was a finalist for the 2008 National Latino Playwriting Award for his "Bajo Agua." Fawcett and Playwrights Workshop writers Sean Christopher Lewis and Jessica Dart won award from the 2008 Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival.

From recent festivals, Samuel D. Hunter's "I Am Montana" was produced by Montana Rep Missoula and the Arcola Theatre in London; and Hunter was a 2008 Lark's Playwright Fellow and a 2008-09 Playwrights of New York Fellow. David Adjmi's "Strange Attractors" was produced at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre in Washington, D.C. Kirsten Greenidge's festival play "Feeding Beatrice" won the American College Theatre Festival Lorraine Hansberry Award, and her "Familiar" was published by Dramatic Play Service. Levy "Lee" Simon won the Lorraine Hansberry Award for "The Bow Wow Club," which premiered in the festival. And Robert Alexander's "A Preface to the Alien Garden" has had several national productions, including at Trinity Rep.

Some of the 2009 productions and readings contain material of an adult nature. Potential audience members who are concerned about whether a particular show or reading is appropriate for them should contact the department at 319-335-2700 for additional information.

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 and click the link "Join or Leave ACR News," then 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),