Color of the world

BY BRIAN DAU | MAY 05, 2009 7:27 AM

With a reading of The Boy in Black, UI playwright Tony Meneses illustrates a different kind of existence as part of the Iowa New Play Festival.

Despite the evocative title, The Boy in Black is not, as you might expect, some previously unreleased material recorded by a preteen Johnny Cash. Actually, it’s theater department graduate student Tony Meneses’ play.

Today’s staged reading of The Boy in Black is part of the Iowa New Play Festival, and it will begin at 1:30 in 172 Theatre Building.

The play is set in an alternate reality in which all the single denizens of the world are the same shade of gray. When a pair of the ashen crowd falls in love, the two become a new color. The exception to this rule is the play’s titular character, who is single yet a different hue from that of his fellow bachelors. The Boy in Black chronicles his search for love and ultimate realization that being single isn’t the worst thing that could happen to someone.

For UI sophomore and theater major Bethann Gavin, who plays one of a pair of women named “Ms. Green” in the play, The Boy in Black’s strength lies in the people Meneses created to populate his imaginary world.

“The characters that Tony has written are all unique and have their own distinct personalities,” she said. “I really like that everyone has her or his little place in the total big scheme of things.”

This play marks Gavin’s first year participating in the Iowa New Play Festival. She said that whereas a full play production includes a set, costumes, lights, and all the performers must memorize their lines, reading a play for an audience “puts less pressure on the actors to produce this product in a short amount of time.” A reading requires only a few weeks of rehearsals for the performers to prepare for it, as opposed to the months it takes for a larger event.

“What I like about the readings is that they’re more relaxed — you have your script in front of you so you can keep track of what’s going on,” Gavin said.

She also stressed the importance of the Iowa New Play Festival as a way for the UI theater department to “promote a lot of new work” and present students and play-goers with opportunities that may not be available at other universities.

“It’s a chance for student actors to perform and for playwrights to get their work across to an audience,” Gavin said. “It’s a good way to see new plays. Shakespeare gets boring after a while.”

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