Tennessee Williams one-act opens today


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For the cast of "The Long Goodbye," Tennessee Williams is more than just an iconic American playwright — he's also a 1938 graduate of the University of Iowa. So, performing his play is an amazing experience for them.

"To me, Tennessee Williams is the greatest American playwright, but to perform his play here is so neat because he actually went here," said director and UI graduate student Kristin Clippard.

"The Long Goodbye" will open at 8 p.m. in the Theatre Building's Theatre B. Admission is free for students with valid IDs and $5 for the general public.

The one-act play follows the life of Joe, a 23-year-old writer living in St. Louis. He deals with his whole family's having left him as he packs up his apartment. He not only has to say goodbye to his home but his past as well.

"This play is about how we move on from the actions of our past in order to deal with it in the future," Clippard said.

David Wheeler plays the role of Joe, who the cast describes as the "precursor to emo" or the typical tortured writer.

Wheeler is a second-year graduate student at the UI who is originally from St. Paul, Minn. He feels he can relate to his character because he is saying goodbye all the time.

"My grandfather just passed away, so I've been thinking about that throughout the course of this production," he said.

Wheeler has been acting since he was a kid and always loved how acting gave people permission to have big emotions they wouldn't normally use in day-to-day life, he said.

Having studied archeology for a semester in Cairo and two summers in Israel, Wheeler says he loves the Middle East.

"I'd like to do my acting in the Middle East," he said. "I want to be involved in socially active theater productions — productions that are trying to change the world."

He is the only graduate student in the production, and this is the first time he is acting under the direction of Clippard.

Clippard recently moved to Iowa from San Francisco to get a master's in directing. Since she was 18, her main focus has been acting, but now her interest has shifted.

"I wanted to come here because they focus on new works, and the directing has a good reputation," she said.

The nine-person cast of "The Long Goodbye" has been rehearsing since the end of October, four days a week for four hours in a small room in the Theatre Building.

The walls of the windowless room are blank, and there are props everywhere.

The actors are required to take their shoes off before walking into the room because it's a special floor that can't be stepped on with shoes.

During the last couple weeks of rehearsal, the cast members have felt confident about the performance.

"I think we're in a really good place right now," Clippard said. "I'm very blessed with a very good cast."

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