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University Relations

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April 10, 2008
Contact: Charla Jenkins, University Theatre, (785) 864-2684.

University Theatre closes season with play written by celebrated KU alumnus

LAWRENCE — University Theatre and Capitol Federal Savings will present “The Shape of Things” by Neil LaBute, a 1989 University of Kansas alumnus, at 7:30 p.m. April 25 and May 1-3 and 2:30 p.m. April 27 in the Crafton-Preyer Theatre in Murphy Hall. The production is part of “Alums Come 5,” the KU theatre and film alumni reunion to be held April 24-27.

Jack B. Wright, professor of theatre and film, is directing the KU production. Scenic designer is Nicholas Kostner, a second-year graduate student from Murdock; lighting designer is Del Unruh, professor of theatre and film; costume designer is Tammy Keiser, a graduate student from Lawrence; and sound designer is Boone J. Hopkins, a doctoral student from Gainesville, Ga.

The play premiered at the Almeida Theatre in London in 2001, directed by LaBute. A 2003 film, also directed by the playwright, featured the original cast of KU alumnus Paul Rudd, Rachel Weisz, Gretchen Mol and Frederick Weller.

Wright, who had LaBute as a student at KU, said “The Shape of Things” is LaBute’s best, most accessible play.

“The play is episodic ... like a film,” he said. “There are quick changes in location and the story flows quickly from scene to scene. It is an intriguing, witty story of betrayal.”

Set on a midwestern college campus, the drama centers on the lives of four young students who become emotionally and romantically involved with each other. The play examines the meaning of art.

Evelyn, an art student, meets the nerdy Adam in a museum where she’s about to deface a statue. She begins a makeover on the hopelessly smitten student and, with him in her thrall, convinces him to take various self-improvement steps: he changes his hairstyle, goes to the gym and begins losing weight, changes his style of dressing, gets contact lenses and even has cosmetic surgery.

As it turns out, Evelyn is using Adam as the subject of her “art” for her master’s thesis.

“Every artifact she has collected from Adam, every conversation they’ve had, every videotape of their sex together, all the documentation of the behaviors she has used her wiles to elicit from him were unfeelingly, clinically collected so she can put on a display in a gallery,” Wright said.

LaBute’s other films include “In the Company of Men,” which received the New York Critics’ Circle Award for Best First Feature and the Filmmakers’ Trophy at the Sundance Film Festival; “Your Friends and Neighbors,” “Nurse Betty,” “Possession” and “Wicker Man.” His stage plays include “bash: latter-day plays”; “The Distance From Here”; and “The Mercy Seat.” In the spring of 2004, the MCC Theater performed five of LaBute’s one-act plays, collectively titled “Autobahn,” and later staged “Fat Pig.” In the spring of 2005, his play “This Is How It Goes” premiered at New York’s Public Theater, then debuted at the Donmar Warehouse in London. Also in May 2005, “Some Girl(s)” premiered on London’s West End, then had its New York debut; later in 2005, LaBute directed the premiere of his one-man, one-act play, “Wrecks in Cork, Ireland,” then moved it to New York for a premiere at the Public Theater. In the summer of 2007, MCC premiered his latest play, “In a Dark Dark House.”

A talkback with the playwright and the cast will be held immediately following the Friday, April 25, performance.

Reserved-seat tickets for “The Shape of Things” are on sale in the KU ticket offices: University Theatre, 864-3982; Lied Center, 864-ARTS; and Student Union Activities, 864-7469, or online at kutheatre.com. Tickets are $16 for the public, $10 for students and $15 for senior citizens and KU faculty and staff. Visa and Mastercard are accepted for phone and online orders.

Members of the cast for the KU production are listed by hometown, level in school and major, parents’ names, high school and role.

DICKINSON COUNTY
From Chapman 67431
Kelsie DeNaze Clark, senior, theatre, daughter of Jim and Debra Clark, Chapman High School, Evelyn.

JOHNSON COUNTY
From Olathe 66062
Cali Gilman, senior, theatre, daughter of Barbara Signor, Olathe South High School, Jenny.

From Stilwell 66085
Matthew Crooks, junior, theatre and English, son of Nancy Wunderlich and Mike Crooks, Blue Valley High School, Phillip.

SHAWNEE COUNTY
From Topeka 66604
Adam R. Burnett, senior, theatre, son of Vicki Fulmer and Russell Burnett, Topeka High School, Adam.

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