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International troupe performs play about Hurricane Katrina

BY JESSICA CARBINO | MARCH 31, 2011 7:20 AM

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Halfway through watching the play Ameriville, a play about Hurricane Katrina, people in a New Orleans audience walked out of the theater, only to return a few minutes later. The audience members didn’t leave because the performance was bad, they took a break to cry.

“I love the whole show,” said Mildred Ruiz-Sapp, a founding member of Universes, about the play.
Ameriville looks at the country through the lens of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Universes, an international performing group, will perform Ameriville at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Theatre Building’s Mabie Theatre. Admission is $35 for general admission, $10 for students, $31.50 for senior citizens, and $17.50 for youth.

This troupe hosted workshops all week for University of Iowa classes to talk about its work. In the process of promoting the show, the members try to open people’s minds and persuade them to take advantage of watching something different. They also work to encourage peopleto look at each other as citizens and realize we are all affected.

“They are really giving of their time and are passionate to helping students,” said Erin Donohue, Hancher’s education programming director. “They are fun, loving, and joking people even though work can be serious.”

This is Universes’ 15th year of creating and showcasing pieces that fuse Broadway with poetry, theater, and jazz, among others. The company brings different elements together based on what each member can do to change the face of American theater.

“We create our own work,” said founding member Steven Sapp. “We write as a group, which is nice.”

The five members — Sapp, Ruiz-Sapp, Gamal Chasten, William Ruiz, and Morgan Jenness — write the pieces together. It took them four years to perfect Ameriville and a couple years to finish others.

After Jacob Yarrow saw Universes perform the play Slanguage years ago, he was very impressed, and the troupe stuck in his memory. When the group started touring in 2009, Yarrow worked to request a stop in Iowa City, something Donohue also appreciates.

“They are really inspiring to be around,” Donohue said. “They are fully committed to what they do.”


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