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UI Theater Workshop seeks feedback on adaptation of La Ronde

BY JUSTUS FLAIR | FEBRUARY 28, 2013 5:00 AM

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Sex is the unifying connecter among races, sixes, genders, classes, and ultimately all people.

At least it is this weekend at Roundabout, a University of Iowa Theatre Workshop production premiering at 8 p.m. today and running through 2 p.m. March 3. The performance will take place in 172 Theater Building. Tickets are $5 for the general public and free for students.

Roundabout is based on the 1897 Austrian play La Ronde, by Arthur Schnitzler.

"[M.F.A. playwright] Basil Kreimendahl and I joined forces to update [La Ronde] and use the original structure to shine a light on gender and sexuality," said director Nathan Halvorson.

These two held a series of meetings to create the adaptation, with Kreimendahl writing the script and Halvorson selecting the music and choreography for each dance involved in the production.

UI graduate student and actor Valeria Avina said she looked forward to working with Kreimendahl and Halvorson.

"Basil's writing skills and Nathan directing is like mixing peanut butter and jelly," she said. "It was an inspiration to work with Basil and Nathan and see how many risks they take to create something incredible like this show. They make us feel we're really playing every night, challenging [us] to discover together who these people were, why their needs are so important, the things these characters do to get what they want, and the truth that lies in their actions. It's incredibly funny, outrageous, and truthful, because sometimes we do this in real life."

Although the themes the performance deals with are common by todays standards, La Ronde was quite a scandal at the time of its première.

Sex and sexuality seem to be a recurring theme for Halvorson, who most recently directed UI's Mainstage production of Spring Awakening.

"Yes, the subject matter is risqué to some people," he said. "However, we are not just doing some 'naughty' sex show. Sex, sexuality, and gender are issues that confront every single person on this campus. Who am I? How do I define myself? What is my 'label'? Why do I have to shrink myself into fitting into other people's ideas of what is 'appropriate'? What is intimacy? Why can't I connect to another person? These are the questions we are trying to explore in Roundabout."

"At the time, it was incredibly controversial," Halvorson said. "It was a frank observation on sex and class."

Miriam Thoe, a first-year undergraduate actor in the show, said the show presents some enlightening insights about the subject of sex.

"It explores how sexuality isn't black and white and how many people still do not understand that," she said. "I hope people take away a sense of understanding that sexuality is really a complicated subject, and we as a society need to know more about it before judging others or creating stigmas."
Avina agreed with Thoe's desire to create a less judgmental world.

"I guess what I love the most is the way this show does make you see things and people differently," she said.

Audience members will be able to discuss their new views afterwards; a panel will follow each performance to allow input that could be integrated into the next performance. As a workshop, the show technically remains in development for the entirety of the run.

"The script has changed and/or been rewritten as we have rehearsed," Halvorson said. "Songs have moved from scene to scene, been eliminated and reshaped. My assumption is that the script will continue to change throughout the run."

That seems a safe assumption, given that changes have been made up to the final rehearsal.

"To begin with, we only had about 20 pages of the play," Thoe said. "And yesterday, two scenes got rewritten just like that. There were surprises around every corner."

The continual changes led many to wonder what this show will eventually become.

"I wish I could have the chance to see how the show is going to look like in two years," said Avina. "I think this show is quite different from the original — the need and the depth into these characters is immense; like a buffet for us, there are so many ingredients to play with, but those ingredients are so subtle, beautiful, and funny at the same time."

This focus on the process is quite interesting for the cast members, who do not have to focus on the result, a rarity in theater arts.

"It is different for me, because I am used to working toward a product; this show is very much for process," Thoe said.

Those involved said they look forward to the input they will receive.

"I really hope people get the chance to see the show and share their ideas about it — the chance to make it better and add more dimensions for us," Avina said. "And also for the director and playwright for future references."

What: Roundabout
Where: 172 Theater Building
When: 8 p.m. today, Friday, Saturday, and 2 p.m. March 3
Admission: $5 or free with UI student IDs


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