UI workshop production ‘foreclosure’ navigates grief and loss

The play, which centers around feeling trapped in grief, will be available to stream on the UI Theatre Department website April 24.


Actors Sophia Kilburg and Danika Werner act as Dust Bunny 1 & 2 respectively in this scene during the dress rehearsal for Foreclosure on April 14th at the University of Iowa theater building. Foreclosure is a dark comedy about home, hauntings, and grief. The play will be virtual and performed on the University of Iowa Theatre Arts Youtube channel at 8:00 PM on April 24th, 2021 and will be available to watch until May 20th, 2021

Abby McCusker, Arts Reporter

During the spring semester of 2020, Jivani Rodriguez took a playwriting workshop. She had the floor plan of a house and images for scenes swirling in her mind, but she didn’t know how they would all fit together as the date of her presentation quickly approached. The night before she had to share with the class, she sat down and wrote foreclosure in one sitting.

foreclosure, the newest workshop production to be virtually presented by the University of Iowa Department of Theatre, goes live on April 24. The play will be available to stream through the department’s website. foreclosure was written by fourth year Jivani Rodriguez and is co-directed by Rodriguez and her longtime friend and UI fourth year student Brett Stone.

The play is centered around Cara who is trying to escape the grief and trauma of losing her husband and daughter by leaving the house they used to live in together. As she tries to move through this process, pieces of the house come alive and begin to haunt her.

Co-director Brett Stone said the play focuses on how grief traps people and makes it difficult for them to escape.

“It’s focused on how grief manifests physically and how in an American society we sort of get trapped and we are expected to grow past our grief, but we are trapped in places where the specific traumas linger and there isn’t a good way to escape unless you take your destiny into your own hands,” Stone said.

Rodriguez said that she didn’t realize until rehearsals that foreclosure is a very “American” play with themes central to society in the U.S.

“The main character is experiencing deep grief and there are all these looming specters that try to take and take and take, kind of reminiscent of a capitalist structure of just seeing people are resources and profit,” the playwright said. “There is this nuclear family that gets destroyed and ultimately it is the destruction of the American dream itself.”

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During rehearsals, Rodriguez has been adding to and tweaking the script to make it feel fuller. Both directors have also been working with their cast of five on developing the physical movement of their characters. Both said that because many of the characters are not human, they had to focus more on what physical movement for each character would look like.

Stone noted that the cast always comes to rehearsal ready to work and filled with ideas. Most of the rehearsals for the play have been conducted over zoom, but the last week of rehearsals took place in person in the Theatre Building so the cast could work on blocking and the production could be filmed for virtual viewing.

Freshman Sabrina Vlk, who plays Cara, said that being in the physical space of the theater made it easier to play her character and bond with her castmates.

“I think that just being face to face and being able to make eye contact has made a difference,” Vlk said. “Being able to physically move around instead of being restricted to a chair in front of a screen.”

foreclosure developed from Rodriguez’s personal feelings of grief. She said she hopes that it will be able to reflect those feelings in the audience while also creating something enjoyable for them to watch.

“It’s a completely reimagined story, but those real feelings are in there and so I hope that the audience can see some of themselves reflected in the play,” Rodriguez said. “I hope that the play somehow universalizes that kind of grief and I also just hope that we can deliver a fun, and weird, and sad play that is enjoyable to watch.”