Screen readers: Two navigational links to follow.Skip to site navigation.Skip to page content.
The University of Iowa News Services
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us

University of Iowa News Release


May 5, 2009

What is a 'rave cave'? Find out Wednesday night at the Iowa New Play Festival

Do you know what a "rave cave" is? You will after you attend the 2009 Iowa New Play Festival production of "Akarui" by Iowa Playwrights Workshop student Jen Silverman. Performances are at 5:30 and 9 p.m. Wednesday, May 6, in the David Thayer Theatre of the University of Iowa Theatre Building.

The festival runs through Saturday, May 9, with two more evening productions -- Friday and Saturday, May 8 and 9 -- and numerous free staged readings. Learn the details at

The play description suggests something fantastic and other-worldly: "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."

Fantastic is certainly how the script initially struck director Brandon Bruce, a graduate student in the Department of Theatre Arts' directing program. "When I first read 'Akarui,' my response was, 'This is impossible . . . OK, I'll do it,'" Bruce says.

"What attracts me to 'Akarui,' and Jen Silverman's writing in general, is its bold approach. There's a lot of 'safe' theatre out there and I generally want no part of that. Theatre should be theatrical. And works like 'Akarui' fit that bill.

"'Akarui,' however, is a challenge to the nth degree. Aside from dealing with a great deal of 'unstageable' stage directions involving the mutilation of bodies and traveling through space and time, 'Akarui' is a beautifully written play that requires good old-fashioned acting. Making both of these things happen in the same show -- and with limited resources in the form of time and money -- is a feat in and of itself.

"The beginning of the rehearsal process was much different from most plays in that we, as a cast/crew, had to figure out how to direct this play -- as none of us had ever read anything quite like it. So, first, we needed to learn our approach and then try to actually do the play. Needless to say, this was not an easily accomplishable task."

But Silverman, an "emerging playwright" at the 2008 Bay Area Playwrights Festival, insists that, stage directions aside, the play is not as crazy as all that, and in fact is grounded in experience rather than fantasy. "I was born in this country, but I grew up both in and out of America, spending a large amount of time in Europe and Asia," she explains. "I think this has had a profound influence on my obsessions as a playwright. I find myself drawn to stories that cross cultural and linguistic barriers that exist in uneasy and unsafe between-spaces that try to negotiate and renegotiate questions of identity.

"'Akarui' is a play that, in some ways, has been a long time in coming. In 2006 and 2007 I was living in rural southern Japan in a small rice-field surrounded by mountains. A South African friend living nearby suffered from the same intense, almost pathological restlessness that sweeps over me after setting my roots down anywhere, and the two of us found our escape by periodically running off to follow the underground trance scene.

"Following hand-written pamphlets or maps drawn on napkins by musicians, strangers and drifters, we followed raves from the Japan's valleys and forests to islands, dead volcanoes and finally to Thailand, where we hitch-hiked, walked and stole rides on buses, trains, and elephants in order to reach the Full Moon Rave on Koh Phangan Island.

"I was and continue to be fascinated by the sense of transience and urgency that I found at these raves. The people I met came from all over, driven by the overwhelming need to leave their lives behind for two or three nights. For a thousand different reasons, they craved the opportunity to be stirred, to be scared, to be shaken by rhythms old and tribal and powerful, to emerge that much more awake, that much more different. Many of them were willing to trade stories, but some of them wouldn't even give their names. Everyone had something they were fleeing."

Others have pointed out to her that "Akarui" contains controversial material, but she says that, for her, it is neither magical nor surreal. "I think it's a very human story in which people desperately desire to be something other than what they are -- to be more powerful or more fearless or less guilty or not so terrifyingly alone," she says.

"I think it's the story of people who are willing to take huge risks because the possibility alone of being transformed is worth more than continuing life as they've been living it. Despite the multiple cultures and languages that I draw from, I think 'Akarui' is a very American play -- although I am still and always trying to understand what 'American' means to me -- because we're a country founded on big risks and desperate hopes. This country, more than any other and almost to a fault, believes in beautiful and drastic acts of transformation."

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.

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, and it remains the most ambitious college festival of new student theater.

The New Play Festival requires the deployment of all the UI 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.

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), 319-338-4274 (home)