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University of Iowa News Release


June 10, 2011

Iowa Summer Rep 2011 opens with Pulitzer-winning lyrical drama

Iowa Summer Rep 2011, 'About My Family,' will open with Paul Zindel's Pulitzer Prize-winning lyrical drama "The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds," directed by Summer Rep veteran Mary Beth Easley, at 8 p.m. Tuesday, June 21, in the David Thayer Theatre of the University of Iowa Theatre Building. Additional performances will be at 8 p.m. June 22-26 and 28-30, and July 5 and 7.

In a family drama whose characters have been compared to the work of Tennessee Williams, Ruth and Tillie are school-aged sisters trying to cope under challenging conditions. Their dysfunctional single mother is the main challenge. While shy Tillie prepares her science fair experiment involving marigolds exposed to radioactivity, her envious mother continually attempts to sabotage any chances precocious Tillie might have at success or happiness.

To make matters worse, Tillie's sister Ruth, an unstable adolescent prone to cooperating with their mother's antics, blackmails Tillie to hand over her prized pet rabbit. When optimism and perseverance collide with fear and malice, can the family unit survive?

Iowa Summer Rep Artistic Director Eric Forsythe, a UI theater faculty member, wrote, "Zindel uses the metaphor of a high school science project to investigate how a toxic environment can somehow produce an extraordinarily resilient and beautiful young person. How does one child thrive while another is beaten down? Can love exist without responsibility?

"As parents, how can our own limitations and pain turn to hope for our children, and what's the line between discipline and abuse? As children, when do we stop being extensions of our parents and teachers, and become ourselves? Big questions in a beautiful play!"

The play won the 1971 Pulitzer Prize for drama, as will as a New York Drama Critics' Circle Award and an Obie Award, and Paul Newman directed a film adaptation for which Joanne Woodward won Best Actress honors at the Cannes Film Festival.

Zindel, who was a chemist, high-school science teacher and science writer as well as a playwright and author, explained that the play was developed directly from his personal experience. "I grew up on Staten Island with my mother and sister," he explained. "When I was young, my father left the family. My mother struggled to get money from him, and tried to keep us together, moving from apartment to apartment and coming up with 'get-rich-quick' schemes.

"By the time I was 10 I had gone nowhere, but had seen the world. I dared to speak and act my true feelings only in fantasy and secret. That's probably what made me a writer. In high school, I wrote my first play. During my 10 years of teaching, I continued to write plays. My first staged play was 'The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds.' It is the kind of story that just sort of pops right out of you, because you've lived it."

Easley, who has been directing plays and teaching acting in New York City for more than 20 years, has directed for Iowa Summer Rep for more than 15 years, including "The Family of Mann" last summer. Artistic director for the CUNY-Brooklyn College Department of Theater, Easley has worked in New York at the Ensemble Studio Theatre, Circle Rep, the Women's Project, Home For Contemporary Theatre and Art, Circle East, LaMama and other companies.

Other artistic contributor to "The Effect of Gamma Rays…" include scene designer Edward Matthew Walter, costume designer Jenny Nutting Kelchen and lighting designer Bryon Winn.

Tickets are now on sale from the Hancher box office in the Old Capitol Centre. Hancher Box Office summer business hours, for walk-up and phone sales, are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays. 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.

Any remaining tickets for each performance will be one sale one hour before curtain time at the Theatre Building box office.

Other productions in the "About My Family" summer are Neil Simon's domestic comedy "Lost in Yonkers" July 14-23; and the evergreen two-person musical comedy "I Do! I Do!" July 1-24.

Individual tickets are $26, $23 for senior citizen, $13 for youth and $5 for UI student with a valid UI ID. A season package -- including a ticket to each of the plays -- is available for a discount of 20 percent.

The 2011 theme-based repertory is a departure from the single-playwright-festival that has been a Summer Rep tradition since 1984. In 2000 Iowa Summer Rep became an Actor's Equity Company, elevating its status as a professional theater company. The cast of "The Effect of Gamma Rays…" includes Equity actor Rachael Lindhart.

For additional information about each of the productions, and the Iowa Summer Rep tradition in the Department of Theatre Arts, visit

The production of "The Effect of Gamma Rays…" includes simulated smoking, but no tobacco smoke is involved.

The Department of Theatre Arts is a unit of the Division of Performing Arts in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Iowa Summer Rep is sponsored, in part, by the UI Office of Summer Session.

UI arts events are searchable on the UI Master Calendar: To receive UI arts news by e-mail, go to click on "Subscribe or Unsubscribe and then follow the instructions.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACT: Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073, University News Services,