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University of Iowa News Release


University of Iowa News Release

Jan. 13, 2011

University Theatres Mainstage presents Naomi Iizuka's 'Tattoo Girl' Jan. 27-Feb. 6

University Theatres Mainstage will present Naomi Iizuka's edgy comedy "Tattoo Girl," directed by University of Iowa faculty member Meredith Alexander, opening at 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 27, in the David Thayer Theatre of the UI Theatre Building. Additional performances will be at 8 p.m. Jan. 28 and 29 and Feb. 3-5, and at 2 p.m. Sundays, Jan. 31 and Feb. 6.

Iizuka, a former visiting faculty member in the UI Department of Theatre Arts and now director of the Master of Fine Arts playwriting program at the University of California at San Diego, is the daughter of an American Latina and a Japanese banker, and her fanciful, surreal theatrical quests reflect her experience living in Japan, Indonesia, Washington, D.C, the Netherlands . . . and even Iowa.

The audience at "Tattoo Girl" will see not only the ambitious but frustrated Perpetua (Katie Consamus) and the free-spirited girl of the title (Jennifer Harris), but also a bassoon player in a kilt, an Elvis impersonator, French WWI Field Marshal Foch, Romanian Olympic gymnast Nadia Comaneci and projections of the Loch Ness Monster.

Dramaturg Christine Scarfuto explains, "At a moment when Perpetua, the protagonist of Naomi Iizuka's Tattoo Girl, feels like she has lost all hope, Nadia Comaneci (who makes a series of "cameo" appearances throughout the play) appears again to assure her, 'My dear, this is your story.'

"Perpetua has aspired to be 'Olympic' a la Comaneci, but she lives in a decidedly un-Olympic world populated with a husband she has fallen out of love with, a child she has no idea how to care for, and the hundreds of silly men she tries to find meaningful relationships with. In so mundane a world, how can she find her own way of being Olympic without first finding the value and worth of her own story?

"Perpetua's journey begins when she divorces her husband and rediscovers life as an autonomous person. She embarks on a quest to rediscover passion in her life, and imagines her life 'spread before her like a red velvet map.' She expects to be rewarded by meeting people that make her 'spine tingle with electric delight.' Of course, her journey does not go as idyllically as planned, and she must slay a number of both expected and unexpected dragons along the way."

Iizuka based the play on the Donald Barthelme story "Perpetua," but the inclusion of Nadia Comanici is an addition that presents a casting challenge. But the Department of Theater Arts was lucky to have just the right actor among its students to portray the young Nadia, freshman Elizabeth Hinkler, a tiny gymnast who made her acting debut at age three with twin sister Emily in the movie "Losing Isaiah."

Hinkler's role includes a performance on the balance beam and poses made famous by the Olympic gold medalist.

Tattoos are often featured in Iizuka's plays. "In some instances, tattoos are a very literal trace of an event or a person you want to remember," Iizuka says. "But I also think the act of getting a tattoo is in some ways a way of facing up to your own mortality. Their permanence in the face of your own impermanence speaks to me."

The tattoo's prominent role in this story -- including projections of tattoos throughout the performance -- led to this production's collaboration with artist Steve Barjonah of Crossroads Tattoo in Coralville (

Barjonah created an image that will be applied with make-up for each performance by Anthony Carter, who has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting from the UI and is working on a degree in art education (

Iizuka was at first headed for a legal career, but after one year at the Yale Law School she decided she must follow her passion for theater. She headed west, joined a playwriting program and has written steadily ever since.

Her work has been produced throughout the country, from small alternative theater companies to major regional institutions. Ilana M. Brownstein wrote, "Iizuka masterfully, and unpredictably, weaves the stories of her characters with equal measures of pain, humor and above all hope."

Iizuka's plays include "36 Views," "Strike-Slip," "Anon(ymous)," "At the Vanishing Point," "Polaroid Stories," "Language of Angels," War of the Worlds," and "Skin." University Theatres Mainstage produced her "Aloha, Say the Pretty Girls" in 2001, and she did major rewriting specifically for the UI production.

Her plays have been produced by Actors' Theatre of Louisville, the Huntington Theater, Berkeley Repertory Theater, the Joseph Papp Public Theatre/New York Shakespeare Festival, the Children's Theater Company, the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, GeVa Theater, Portland Center Stage, Campo Santo + Intersection for the Arts, the Dallas Theatre Center, the Brooklyn Academy of Music'' Next Wave Festival and Soho Rep.

Iizuka is a member of New Dramatists and the recipient of a PEN/Laura Pels Award, an Alpert Award, a Joyce Foundation Award, a Whiting Writers Award, a Stavis Award from the National Theatre Conference, a Rockefeller Foundation MAP grant, an NEA/TCG Artist-in-Residence grant, a McKnight Fellowship, a PEN Center USA West Award for Drama, Princeton University's Hodder Fellowship and a Jerome Fellowship.

This production includes nudity, simulated drug use, camera flashes and language that is not suitable for younger audiences.

Tickets for the performances are $17 general admission, $12 senior citizen, $10 youth, $5 UI student (with valid UI ID) from the Hancher Box Office.

The Hancher Box Office in the Old Capitol Town Centre, open for phone 319-335-1160 or 800-HANCHER or walk-up business from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays. Tickets may be ordered online at Any remaining tickets will be available for sale one hour before show time at the UI Theatre Building.

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

UI arts events are searchable on the UI Master Calendar: Exhibitions are searchable at 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 News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACT: Winston Barclay, University News Services, 319-430-1013,