Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Iowa a folder

When rehearsals begin for Shakespeare Festival each summer, all guest artists receive a packet containing information on the Festival, Riverside Theatre, and the Iowa City area and all it has to offer. We try to provide them with everything they’ll need to get into the flow of Iowa City, whether they’re from Chicago, Kansas City, or New York. This summer, it was up to me to assemble everything we’d need to fill these packets. And I had to wonder, how do you distill what’s important about Iowa City into just one folder?

First things first: the food! I’ve seen how actors can eat on rehearsal breaks or after a demanding show, so I knew food was first on the agenda. I broke it down into a few different kinds of places. The first was “Quick and Dirty,” the places where you could run in, grab what you need, and hightail it back to rehearsal in fifteen minutes. Knowing also that fast food can really weigh you down in rehearsal, I pointed them to better-for-you options like Panchero’s, Jimmy John’s, or even Oasis. Next was “Sit Back & Relax,” where a bunch of company members might want to grab a more leisurely bite on their day off or on the long dinner break. These included Hamburg Inn (a favorite for last year’s company), The Mill, or Bread Garden. Then there was “Elegant Dining,” fancier fare to celebrate a show’s opening or to take family who come into town to see the shows. Linn St. CafĂ©, the Motley Cow, and Devotay all made that list. Add to that the local coffeehouses, grocery stores and of course some after-hours hotspots, and I figure the summer should be full of good eats and drinks for the RTSF company. Several places I contacted even threw in coupons or special deals for the RTSF artists. Gotta love Iowa City!

Next: the gyms. Actors love to work out, after all, so I knew I had to send them somewhere! I had to dig around a bit on this, because the out-of-towners are only going to be here a total of eight weeks, and short-term memberships are hard to come by. However, we got the non-local company a great deal at Iowa City Fitness, which has a great location (right on the ped mall) and great hours (24-hours everyday!).

Finally, I wanted to give them a sense of all that Iowa City has to offer. I made notes about summer events in the area, from the Farmer’s Market to the Jazz Festival. I gave them information on the rec center, area libraries, and the wonderful bike library for artists who didn’t want to drive all summer. We got offers from The Bodysmith Massage and Bella Vita Chiropractic for special RTSF service deals. Trying to put Iowa City on paper was tricky, but I’m hoping that the company has a good sense of it by the time they leave and that they find all the ways there are to enjoy their summer here.

-Danielle Karczewski, Administrative Assistant

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Exit, persued by a bear

A spotlight on The Winter's Tale

The Story: (beware of spoilers)

In Sicilia, King Polixenes of Bohemia prepares to return home after visiting his lifelong friend Leontes, the King of Sicilia. Unable to persuade Polixenes to stay longer, Leontes urges his pregnant wife Queen Hermione to try. When she succeeds, Leontes immediately suspects that she and Polixenes are in love, and he becomes violently jealous.

Learning from the nobleman Camillo that Leontes plans to poison him, Polixenes flees home. Leontes jails Hermione despite her protests of innocence. She gives birth to a daughter, Perdita. Hermione's friend Paulina takes the baby girl to Leontes in the hope of softening his heart. But, believing that Polixenes is the baby's father, Leontes angrily orders Paulina's husband Antigonus to take Perdita away and abandon her.

At the trial, a priest proclaims Hermione's innocene. At first, Leontes denies it. Then news comes that Mamillius, the royal couple's son, has died in despair over his mother's treatment. Hermione collapses and is taken away. Leontes begins to recognize his mistakes, but too late, because Paulina returns and announces Hermione's death. Meanwhile, far away in Bohemia, Antigonus abandons Perdita and is killed by a bear. An old shepherd finds the baby and lovingly adopts her.

Sixteen years pass. In the Bohemian countryside, the now-grown shepherdess Perdita is in love with King Polixenes' son, Prince Florizell. The young lovers hide their relationship from the King, who would not approve. Suspicious, Polixenes disguises himself and spies on them at a sheep shearing, where the trickster Autolycus comically sells songs and attempts to cheat the audience. Discovering his son's deception, Polixenes angrily orders punishments for everyone.

The young lovers flee to Sicilia, followed by Polixenes, With Autolycus' help, the old shepherd and his son follow and reveal how they found Perdita and adopted her. The Court realizes that Perdita is Leontes' long-lost heir. At Paulina's home, the statue of Hermione is unveiled and miraculously comes to life.

Comedy or Tragedy:

Well actually, neither. It's a romance. The modern term (not a classification in Shakespeare's time) refers to a hybrid play, with comic and tragic elements. The four such plays commonly grouped as romance are Pericles (1607-1608), Cymbeline (1609-1610), The Winter's Tale (1610-1611), and The Tempest (1611).

*Like a comedy, romance includes a love-intrigue and culminates in a happy ending.
*Like a tragedy, romance has a serious plot-line (betrayals, tyrants, usurpers of thrones); it is darker in tone (more serious) than comedy.

While tragedy emphasizes evil, and comedy minimizes it, romance acknowledges evil -- the reality of human suffering.

Characterists of a romance include:

*an enveloing conflict (war, rebellion, jealousy, treachery, intrigue) that may cover a large timespan (conflict begun a generation before events of play) and is resvoled at end of play
*happy endings to potentially tragic situations (i.e. apparent resurrection, sudden conversions, etc.)
*themes of transgression, expiation and redemption; villain(s) penitent rather than punished at end
*improbable plots, rapid action, surprises, extraordinary occurrences (shipwrecks, disguises, riddles, children/parents lost and found, supernatural events/beings)
*characters of high social class, rural and court settings, extremes of characterization (exalted virtue and deep villainy)
*love of a virtuous hero and heroine, "pure" and "gross" loves often contrasted

More information about romances can be found at

Monday, May 05, 2008

Playwrights in the News

Congratulations to some of our favorite Riverdogs! Perhaps you know these folks from The Evidence or goat show?

(First posted at

May 1, 2008

UI students win awards at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival

University of Iowa Department of Theatre Arts students Sean Christopher Lewis, Jennifer Fawcett and Jessica Dart won awards at the national American College Theatre Festival, held in late April at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

Lewis won the Rosa Parks Playwriting Award for "The Aperture," Fawcett won the National Science Playwriting Award for "Twenty Moments in the Space Between" and Dart won the O'Neill Playwrights Conference Fellowship in dramaturgy.

The goals of the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) are to encourage, recognize and celebrate the finest and most diverse work produced in university and college theater programs; to provide opportunities for participants to develop their theater skills and insight, and achieve professionalism; to improve the quality of college and university theater in America; and to encourage colleges and universities to give distinguished productions of new plays, the classics and experimental works.

Through regional and national festivals, KCACTF participants celebrate the creative process, see one another's work and share experiences and insights within the community of theater artists. The KCACTF honors excellence of overall production and offers student artists individual recognition through awards and scholarships in playwriting, acting, criticism, directing and design.

Since its inception, KCACTF has given more than 400,000 college theater students the opportunity to have their work critiqued, improve their dramatic skills and receive national recognition for excellence. More than 16 million theatergoers have attended approximately 10,000 festival productions nationwide.

The UI Department of Theatre Arts is among the most-honored programs in the history of the KCACTF, receiving many of the organization's highest honors in playwriting, design, acting and production. The UI was the inaugural winner of an award for support of student playwrights, administered by ACTF for the Association for Theatre in Higher Education.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Shakespeare's Globe and the Riverside Festival Stage

I like to think that RTSF has a strong connection with the Globe Theatre in London. After all, the festival stage in Lower City Park was designed with the Globe in mind (see below). But here's one more connection. Among other shows in the upcoming summer season, the newly restored Globe in London will present King Lear and The Merry Wives of Windsor. (Sound familiar?) Not only that, but in an interview with Dominic Dromgoole (The Globe's Artistic Director) he talks about his penchant for disorder and chaos, calling Lear Shakespeare's "biggest and messiest". Perhaps they'll use deconstructed clothing as well? Well, it just goes to show that great theatre minds think alike....

A Brief History of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre:

The original Globe Theatre was built in 1599 for the Lord Chamberlain's Men in Bankside on the Thames. Although the Globe was rebuilt on the same site after a fire, it remained home to Shakespeare's company until the closure of all theatres by England's Puritan administration in 1642. In 1644, no longer in use, it was demolished.

Elizabethan playhouses were not truly circular; they were polygonal buildings. A small portion of The Globe was excavated in 1989 and researchers discovered it was originally a 20 sided building with a 100 foot diameter. The original Globe was three stories high and seated up to 3,000 people. The nobles occupied the preferred, most expensive seats in the covered galleries and on the stage itself. Below them stood the "groundlings".

The new Globe Theatre was built 200 yards from the original. Founded after 25 years of work by Sam Wanamaker, it opened in 1997. The working replica seats 1,500 people between the galleries and the groundlings.

The Riverside Festival Stage is loosely based on Shakespeare's Globe Theatre of 1600. Festival Stage designer, Paul Sannerud, (also designing this summer's productions of The Comedy of Errors and The Winter's Tale) used elements such as the flag flying overhead (the Globe's way of announcing a performance), the circular configuration of the building, the open acting platform with a balcony above, and the positioning of the audience around the trust (3/4 round) stage. The major difference between the Globe and the Riverside Festival Stage is the use of lighting. The Elizabethan theatres performed their plays in the afternoon because the sun was all they had to light the outdoor stage.

A Virtual Tour of The Globe Theatre: While it makes me a little dizzy, it's very cool.