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A classic madwoman at the UI

BY JOSIE JONES | APRIL 15, 2010 7:30 AM

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Katie Consamus faces a complicated process when dressing for her role in Jean Giraudoux’s The Madwoman of Chaillot.

The first-year M.F.A. student’s character first washes her face with rose water.

The come the accessories — pins, rings, broaches, bracelets, pearls, and earrings.

Finally, she finishes the costume with — what else — a feather boa.

It all contributes to becoming the character.

“When you put something on, and you see what you’re wearing, you learn something more about the person that you’re trying to discover,” she said.

Consamus and the rest of the 19-person cast will perform the play at 8 p.m. today in the Theater Building’s Mabie Theatre. Performances will continue through April 25 with shows starting at 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday. Admission ranges from $5 for students to $17 for other adults.

Set in Paris in the 1940s, the events in Chaillot follow a group of vagabonds as they create a plan to keep their beautiful French café, despite the greedy corporate-type attempts to drill the oil found under the building. While the play combines political satire with a comedic twist, there is a deeper message.

“I think it’s kind of timeless,” Consamus said. “For me, a lot of what the story is about is not losing sight of what’s important in life and all of these darker, less important things we get caught up in.”

Director John Kaufmann feels that even with a universal message, the production can be dense for modern audiences. The original version of Chaillot features a juggler, but he turned the character into one that is more realistic in today’s society — a hip-hop dancer.

Despite departing a bit from the original, Kaufmann feels the audience will enjoy the modern aspect.

“Hopefully, [the audience members] are excited and pleased by it,” he said. “I think if they’ve seen it before, they’ll be delighted by this production.”

While the play’s time frame caused some difficulty, it also stood as a muse.

“I come to the theater to see another world,” Kaufmann said. “And this play brings me to another world in time, place, and style. So that it was set in the ’40s was actually an inspiration.”

Consamus agreed, noting that stylistically, the play is different from anything she has read before.

“I think the biggest thing for me is how beautiful the play is,” she said. “The text is just really, really beautiful.”

A cast of graduate and undergraduate students, along with members from the Iowa City community, help illuminate the message in Chaillot.

“The script tells the story,” Kaufmann said. “As collaborators, we’re helping to clarify that.”

Quad Cities native Consamus agreed, saying her job as an actor is more centered on playing a person rather than the story.

With the play set in the spring, Kaufmann and Consamus believe Chaillot is a perfect end to the season, and they feel the play would be ill-timed if produced earlier in the year.

“This, unlike the other things on the Mainstage this year, is trying less to be a reality that we know or a reality that we’re familiar with,” Consamus said.

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