CEDAR FALLS, Iowa --- Creative impulses, the madness of war and a Picasso masterpiece are at the heart of "Guernica," opening Thursday in the Bertha Martin Theatre at the Strayer-Wood Theatre on the University of Northern Iowa campus.

It is the Midwestern premiere of the play written by Cody Daigle. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and Oct. 13-15 and at 2 p.m. next Sunday and Oct. 16.

The Basque town of Guernica (pronounced Gair-KNEE-kuh) was attacked during the Spanish Civil War by the German Luftwaffe.

Spaniards were outraged by the tragedy, and although Picasso was said to have never visited Guernica, he was inspired to paint a scene depicting quintessential Spanish images on a large canvas in black, gray and white.

"It's a beautiful play, and I'm thrilled we're doing it. Cody is an emerging playwright, a talented writer. With the 10th anniversary of 9/11, it seems even more relevant. The play's meaning depends on an individual's perspective and view of the world and life," said Director Steve Taft, associate professor of performance.

Daigle was Taft's student at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, and Taft directed its premiere in 1997.

The play follows Eric (Ben Tremmel), an artist who meets a mysterious person who offers him a seductive opportunity: learn the secrets of the painting and break through to something new.

"My character is filled with self-doubt, but he has high aspirations. He's looking for affirmation - and lies about the future, as my mom says," said Tremmel, a freshman. "The show is written the way people speak. It's very real dialogue. I've been acting since I was 8, and this is the biggest speaking role I've add."

Taft cast females into male roles in the production. "We have more women than men in theater right now, so it was difficult to cast. Casting women in the male roles is a great test to see if the material works - and it does."

Senior Rachel Russell was cast as a woman who believes she is Picasso.

"It's so different from any other play I've read before. There are so many different levels to the character that it stretches me," she explained.

Junior Molly Franta, who plays the Pieta woman, is pleased that playwright Daigle will be in the audience for a performances.

"It's nice, and I know it's something I'll think about at first, then forget about it. You've just got to try to your best as the character."

Students recreated Picasso's 11- by 25-foot painting on a scrim to hang on stage.

"It seems to have a life of its own. The challenge is for actors not to be overwhelmed or upstaged by the painting," Taft said.

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