UI Theatre Department’s workshop series to present ‘Cupid Tyrannous,’ a play about love and loneliness

Kicking off the spring semester within the University of Iowa’s Department of Theatre Arts is a new play focused on Cupid’s desire to find a soulmate.


Braden Ernst

Actors act out a scene in “Cupid Tyrannous,” a play written by Kiley E Rowe and co-directed by Albert Williams and Alexis Vaselopulos on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022. The play is set to premiere on Friday, Jan. 28 and Saturday, Jan. 29, in the Alan MacVey Theatre at the Theatre Building.

Anaka Sanders, Arts Reporter

Only a few weeks away from Valentine’s Day, a play about Cupid, the Roman god of love, and their desire to find a soulmate will take the stage as part of the University of Iowa Department of Theatre Arts’ latest workshop series.

Cupid Tyrannous follows Cupid’s rather treacherous attempts to find a soulmate after the god places a bet with Zeus, the Greek ruler of the gods, who says there is an odd number of mortals on Earth. The one left over is Cupid’s soulmate. From there, Cupid ventures out and exerts their tyranny on Earth in order to find them.

The free play will be held on Jan. 28 and 29 at 8 p.m. in Alan MacVey Theatre at the Theatre Building as part of the UI Department of Theatre Arts’ workshop series, which allows undergraduate students to submit and stage their own plays alongside a creative team of other students.

Playwright Kiley Rowe, a senior double majoring in creative writing and theater, said her playwriting process for Cupid Tyrannous was unique.

“My favorite thing is to get to the end [of the script], so I normally start with an end and then build from that. But this one I kind of went scene-by-scene based on what I thought was needed,” Rowe said.

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Senior Kyle Watkins, who portrays Zeus in the play, described his character as a “selfish bastard” at times who carries a lot of authority and understood power.

Watkins said that while he doesn’t describe himself as a “millennia-old god” or a “selfish, demeaning person,” he does think he has something in common with the character, which has allowed him to play Zeus with ease.

“There is a sense of competition that Zeus carries that I have been finding as my strong through line,” he said. “I’m a very competitive person; Zeus likes to find competition. He likes to think, ‘How do I make this a fun activity?’” Watkins said.

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Junior Emily Parr, also a theater major, portrays Cupid in the play. She said she hopes to be able to convey to the audience what it truly means to desire love, but also how pride can get in the way and ruin it.

A play about love, Cupid Tyrannous includes plenty of amorous moments between characters. Rowe said she wasn’t fully expecting her play to get chosen for production because of the intimacy required in the script – an especially difficult undertaking to stage during the pandemic. Through the workshop process, however, the cast was able to overcome that key element and safely work intimacy into the play.

The playwright emphasized that while one theme of the play is love and how it is defined for each person, the other theme is loneliness — both of which are strikingly relevant to the connections being felt in the world during the pandemic.

Parr echoed those themes in her description of the play’s central ideas.

“It’s a really powerful message about love that can connect to a lot of people, especially since Valentine’s Day is coming up, our love holiday, where Cupid is very relevant,” she said.

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