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Coralville acting company prepares for multiple performances

BY AUDREY DWYER | JANUARY 31, 2013 5:00 AM

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A common object — a urinal, symbolizes a town’s outrage at corporate greed. A scene set for a town like that of Gotham City.

Jesse Jensen, the director of the satirical comedy Urinetown, written by Greg Kotis and Mark Hollman, creates an avant-garde satire about current issues and scenes in today’s society. The play is a production of the City Circle Acting Company of Coralville, which will present the show at the Coralville Center for the Performing Arts on 7:30 p.m. Friday. Admission is $22 for the general public, $17 for seniors and students, and $12 for children.

Jensen said the performance will likely resonate with students.

“I would assume it would appeal to college students because the show is very social conscious,” Jensen said. “… It’s a ton of fun, but because it’s a satire that explores current social and economic issues, it also makes you think a little bit.”

During a time of poverty and shortage of basic needs such as water and use of public amenities, a hero rises to create a “revolution” for the city. Elements of greed, corruption, love, and revolution are all explored in the story of a town experiencing difficult circumstances.

Jensen said the play started with a group of fringe artists from Chicago traveling in Europe who discovered fees had to be paid in various locations in order to use the public restrooms.

The bizarre idea sparked the idea for the play.

An experimental theater group from Chicago, the Neo-Futurists, agreed to produce the play.

However, plans fell through, and the play was accepted in the New York Fringe Festival once the play began to catch attention of audiences. The production company Araca Group optioned the musical to première Off Broadway at the American Theater for Actors, then to Broadway in September 2001. Now a decade old, the play has won three Tony Awards.

“This play is about paying homage or tribute to the roots here in town,” Jensen said.

Additional performances of Urinetown will take place 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Feb. 3 and will continue through Feb. 10.

Additionally, City Circle  will perform nine short plays at its New Play Festival at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 4 and 5. Admission is $10.

Chris Okiishi, the choreographer of Urinetown and supervising director for the the New Play Festival, the submissions for the festival came from authors located in various places, some as far as New Zealand.

“I enjoyed reading all the submissions of the plays. It was interesting to read plays no one else has ever seen before, and now we are the first people to perform them,” he said.

A committee of six individuals gave preference and priority to submissions fewer than 10 minutes long as well as authors who had a strong Iowa connection or who recently lived in Iowa.

“The neat thing about running the productions together is that Urinetown started at a small-play festival in Chicago, then went on to Broadway in New York and became a hit,” Okiishi said.

These plays, with a chance to become the next big sensation on Broadway, range in content from memories of childhood, friendship, and love to a couple with a clown in their living room.

Performances included in the New Play Festival:

Directed by Elizabeth Tracey
A Different State, by Terry Riley
Retail Therapy, by Anthony Craine

Directed by Brian Tanner
Choices, by Barbara Lau
Mads, by Matthew Falduto

Directed by Robyn Calhoun
Driven to Distraction, by Matt Crowley

Directed by Chris Okiishi
Batting Practice, by Rand Higbee
Picnics at Windy Creek River, by Brian Tanner
We Appear to Have Company, by Greg Freier
Ken and Barbie’s Root Beer Date, by Kent Forsberg


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