UI play mixes Peter Pan, multimedia, and Marxism

BY DI STAFF | NOVEMBER 20, 2014 5:00 AM

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The University of Iowa Theater Department has reinterpreted a classic tale for its latest Gallery Production, opening at 8 p.m. today in the Theater Building’s Theater B.

The Designer: A Brechtian Techno Drama, directed by Mario El Caponi Mendoza, combines theater with multimedia pieces — including sets and lighting — designed by Ray Ockenfels and Melissa L. Glibert.

Inspired by the story of Peter Pan, the show follows a group of children and teenagers working to rebuild civilization after a virus has wiped out the world’s adults. Through this concept, The Designer critiques neoliberalism and the exploitation of certain social groups to advance other’s wealth and status.

These themes fit with the tradition of Brechtian theater, which traditionally uses the stage as a forum for political discussion (usually of a Marxist bent) and avant-garde art.

“I feel that my designs were influenced by a desire to create an environment that was consistent with my own interpretation of a Brechtian style of theater,” Ockenfels said. “The way in which [Bertolt] Brecht rallied against realism, using every design element to pull viewers out of the world of the play so that they would think about the subject matter was something that I strove to embody within this show.”

The Designer is the second installment in the UI’s  “Transmitter Trilogy,” which began last year with The Playwright. Even though the play is based on a children’s tale, the cast and crew said audiences can expect strong language, violence, sexual content, drug use, and graphic images — all working toward a larger message.

“What I’ve learned from this process is that the biggest responsibility we bear for future generations is to guide them so that they do not commit the same mistakes that have been repeatedly committed throughout history,” Ockenfels said. “It was our goal within The Designer to represent this message.”

Tickets for the show are free for UI students, $5 for nonstudents, and may be picked up in the Theater Building lobby one hour before show time. Performances will continue at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

— by Emma McClatchey

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