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IU Department of Theatre and Drama presents Sarah Ruhl's award-winning play 'The Clean House'

WHAT: The Clean House by Sarah Ruhl under the direction of Jonathan Michaelsen.
WHEN: Opens Friday, Oct. 23 at 7:30 p.m.; runs Oct. 24 and Oct. 27-31 at 7:30 p.m.; Oct. 31 at 2 p.m.
WHERE: All performances take place at the Wells-Metz Theatre on the IU Bloomington campus. No photography or recording of any kind is permitted during performances.
TICKETS: $20 for adults and $15 for students, seniors and those 30 and younger; Student Rush Tickets are $12 cash with a valid IU Bloomington student ID on the day of each performance.

Indiana University's Department of Theatre and Drama continues its 2009-2010 theater season with the Pulitzer Prize-finalist The Clean House by Sarah Ruhl, directed by Jonathan Michaelsen, chair and producer of the Department of Theatre and Drama and the Brown County Playhouse.

"The Clean House"

Cleaning woman Matilda argues with her employer in Sarah Ruhl's "The Clean House," which opens Oct. 23 at the Wells-Metz Theatre on the IU Bloomington campus.

Print-Quality Photo

Playwright Ruhl has said the play was inspired by a comment she overheard at a party, where she heard a doctor say "My cleaning lady is depressed and won't clean my house. So I took her to the hospital and had her medicated -- and she still won't clean." That chance remark was the genesis of Ruhl's sixth play, The Clean House, which won the prestigious Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for Best Play Written in English by a Female Playwright.

The Clean House tells the story of Matilde, a young Brazilian woman who is hired as a live-in maid for a woman named Lane and her husband, Charles. Matilde, however, hates to clean and would rather spend her time dreaming up the perfect joke. Lane's sister, Virginia, loves cleaning. She, unbeknownst to Lane, offers to clean her sister's house for Matilde. Meanwhile, Charles meets his soulmate, Ana, and decides to leave his wife. As the characters are forced to pick up the pieces of their broken lives, they all come to discover that they share a common bond.

Ruhl has said of her playwriting, "I wrote poetry before I wrote plays. In poetry you always try to create an image very quickly; I also tried painting when I was younger. I wasn't very good, but I've always thought visually. I think both of these activities carried over into my playwriting."

Director Jonathan Michaelsen said the play is truly theatrical. As the play progresses, the once clean house becomes as messy as the lives of the characters. "The sense of life, death and rebirth is remarkable," Michealsen said. "It's a funny, very touching play with amazing language."

The New York Times wrote of the play: "The Clean House is not, by any means, a traditional boy-meets-girl story . . . This comedy is romantic, deeply so, but in the more arcane sense of the word: visionary, tinged with fantasy, extravagant in feeling . . ."

The talented five-person cast of The Clean House includes graduate and undergraduate IU theater majors. Second-year MFA student Abby Rowald (An Ideal Husband; Dead Man Walking) plays Virginia, Lane's sister. Two graduate students will be making their debut performances in the Lee Norvelle Theatre and Drama Center: Molly Casey plays Lane and Alex McCausland as plays Charles.

Undergraduate student performers include Stephanie Feeley as the maid, Matilde, and Alana Chesire as Ana. These talented students have performed in theaters across the country.

In addition to director Michealsen, the production team consists of scenic designer Katie McDermott (scenic designer for Stop Kiss), costume designer Erica Griese (costume designer for An Ideal Husband, The Wild Party and Metamorphoses), lighting designer Rob Shakespeare and sound designers Michael Goodpaster and Allysa Lytell.

For more information about the Department of Theatre and Drama, see

This story was originally published Oct. 6, 2009.