UI Gallery series presents Sunshine


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Andrew Saito wanted to be original when deciding upon a career. Growing up in Los Angeles, he developed the idea of becoming a screenwriter. But that soon faded.

“I thought that was a very original career idea, and then I realized that everyone in LA has a script or has written a script,” he said.

While taking undergraduate courses at the University of California-Berkeley, he developed a passion for writing plays. Now studying in the University of Iowa’s Playwrights’ Workshop, he is in his last semester of graduate school, and doesn’t know where he’ll end up over the next few years. He may stay in Iowa City, he may move to the Bay Area in California, or he may be in Papua New Guinea.

“There are lots of things I want to do in the next few years, so we’ll see what happens,” he said.

For now, Saito is focusing on his latest creation, Sunshine. The play will open at 8 p.m. today in the Theatre Building’s Theatre B as a part of the Gallery Series. Performances will continue at 8 p.m. through Saturday and at 2 p.m. on Feb. 27. Admission is $5, free for UI students with valid IDs.

Sunshine is inspired by his growing interest in Latin American cultures. The story follows the journey of two women who are persecuted and imprisoned for opposing a dictatorial regime.

“The country is never named, and that was on purpose,” Saito said. “The play is very much inspired by the widespread disappearance of citizens in Argentina and Chile in the 1970s and ’80s.”

The playwright also drew inspiration from the treatment of the prisoners of Guantánamo Bay and Abu Ghraib, in which many prisoners underwent torture and some were wrongfully imprisoned, he said. Sunshine was also written with influences by the Peruvian theater company Yuyachkani, with which he spent some time.

“It has had a great aesthetics influence on me, so the play is dedicated to it,” Saito said. “My visual and physical storytelling in theater comes very much from that theater company.”

His many travels in such Latin American countries as Mexico, Guatemala, and Peru have had an effect on him; many of his experiences wind up in his writing.

“I regularly go back to all three of those countries and am wanting to expand,” he said. “Part of the reason I keep going back is I develop these relationships and friendships, so I want to keep heeding those.”

He feels blessed about the production of Sunshine, saying the play has grown immensely since rehearsal began last month.

Director Nathan Halvorson has worked with him to find the essence of the play. Sunshine is intense, Halvorson said, at times violent but beautiful nonetheless.

“We’ve worked very closely trying to find the play’s voice,” he said. “I think this play is spectacular; what [Saito] wants to talk about is really important.”

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