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UI junior writes play

BY SAMANTHA GENTRY | SEPTEMBER 08, 2011 7:20 AM

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The Swan Lake score acts as an inspiration for junior theater student Bethany Jackson.

As the death scene of the ballet plays, she is usually writing some of her most intense work.

With the help of the powerful music, Jackson finished her first full-length play, Tinwomen, which will be read at 8 p.m. Saturday in 172 Theatre Building. Admission is free.

The story follows a girl named Gabi, who was a part of a cult when she was young. The people in this religious group believe that when a girl is 13, she needs to get zippers over her eyes, mouth, and ears, because women are thought to have created the fall of man.

After Gabi escapes from the cult, she struggles with the ties she once had with the group, but she also tries to go beyond.

"I've always had an obsession with religious cults," Jackson said. "But the idea for this play came from the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz and how all of these women have to almost become metallic in their presence and harden themselves against the world."

After living in four different states, Jackson feels she can relate to Gabi's struggle of adapting to modern life. She also added a little part of herself to the character.

"Gabi has a zipper over her mouth [in the play], and I've always been shy to talk," she said. "So the inability to talk inspired some of her story."

Eight actors from the UI Theater Department will present the story to the audience, although it will be a reading without costumes, scenery, or staging. With only four rehearsals, and limited time and resources, Jackson and director Kyle Lefeber believed that would be the best choice for the play.

Lefeber and Jackson are fairly new to the process of staging a reading, but they feel confident with the choices they have made.

"We're kind of making it up as we go," Jackson said. "But so far, I'm excited about the people I've chosen, and I'm also a little anxious."

Aside from this reading, Jackson also created a piece for the 10-Minute Play Festival last year called "Sweep it Under." The piece had similar themes of adjusting to life and letting go of one's past.

Jackson went to theater instructor David Hanzal for feedback on "Sweep it Under" and returned to him in the spring for an opinion on Tinwomen.

"From the first day of class, she was one of the most articulate students I ever had, and she was always so smart and intuitive," Hanzal said. "She continued to have those skills, but her voice for someone her age was very specific but also unique and refined."

Hanzal has not seen the final version of Tinwomen, but he said he is interested to see how Jackson has honed in on the provocative themes she wrote about last spring and to see her voice develop as a writer.

While this is the first chance for the community to be exposed to the story of Gabi, Jackson hopes that it doesn't end here.

"I really want these characters to be seen by as many people as possible," she said. "I'm not sure where it's going to go from here, but I'm excited to see."


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