Music, lit stage: Action

BY DI STAFF | JUNE 19, 2014 5:00 AM

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When MusicIC founders Judy Hurtig and Tricia Park conceived the idea of a summer chamber music festival in Iowa City, they knew they needed to make it unique to their hometown.

“Our first question was, how can we make this special to Iowa City? What is Iowa City? And the answer was obvious,” said Hurtig, who is also the retired artistic director of Hancher Auditorium. “It’s a city of readers and writers. So we decided to make music that both inspires and is inspired by literature.”

Indeed, the festival’s slogan is “Where Music & Literature Meet,” and it will consist of four free concerts Wednesday through Saturday.

Each concert entwines the artistic media of music and words. Tonight’s performance, “Samuel Barber: Impassioned by Poetry,” is a collection of compositions by late composer, each of which has been inspired by a specific poem.

“MusicIC is, above all, about how music can be inspired by other types of art,” Park said. “The tone and mood of the poetry informs the composition.”

This year, Hurtig and Park are taking this concept a step further, integrating the medium of stage to the music festival.

Friday’s production, “The Kreutzer Sonata: A Play in Five Tiny Movements,” will be an adaptation of the 1889 Leo Tolstoy novella The Kreutzer Sonata. The play will be followed by Beethoven’s “Violin Sonata No. 9 Kreutzer (1803),” from which Tolstoy’s novella derives its name.

Wrapping up the night will be Czech composer Leos Janacek’s musical interpretation of Tolstoy’s writing, “String Quartet No. 1, Kreutzer Sonata.”

“What is so interesting about this production is that we get to see the writing of Tolstoy filtered through theatrical performance, as well as filtered through the music of Leos Janacek,” said Jennifer Fawcett, playwright and a co-director of the production. “We are getting more and more interested in this type of interdisciplinary work, thanks to some of our past productions.”

Fawcett’s fellow director Sean Christopher Lewis and producing director Martin Andrews are the founders of Working Group Theater, a nonprofit production company that has put on shows in Iowa City since 2009. All three graduated from the University of Iowa and have worked on productions at Riverside Theater and Hancher.

Seeing them as another group of artists who have deep roots in Iowa City, Hurtig and Park approached the Working Group Theater with the idea of putting on a play.

“They said that they wanted to take a step further with Kreutzer and make something ambitious,” Fawcett said. “I was approached in the fall and asked about writing the adaptation, which I agreed to. I’m incredibly excited for the performance, and I urge anyone reading this to come by. After all, it’s free.”

— by Isaac Herman

“Samuel Barber: Impassioned by Poetry”
When: 7:30 p.m. today
Where: Trinity Episcopal Church, 320 E. College

“The Kreutzer Sonata”
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Englert, 221 E. Washington

“A Family Concert”
When: 10:30 a.m. Saturday
Where: Iowa City Public Library, 123 S Linn

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