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Playwright Naomi Iizuka's Seattle opening will complete an unusual West Coast tour

October 7, 2010 |  5:30 pm

NaomiIizukaRichardHartog Naomi Iizuka's latest play, "The Scarlet Letter," is an adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne's 1850 novel about an adulterous love that brings scorn on its heroine in the Puritan world of 1600s Boston. When it opens Oct. 29 at the Intiman Theatre in Seattle, the playwright will have completed an unusual theatrical circuit by notching accomplishments in each of the West Coast's biggest metropolises in little over a year.

Iizuka, 45, is best known for "36 Views," a twisting tale of art world intrigue that takes its title from a series of prints by the 19th century Japanese artist, Hokusai. "The Scarlet Letter" will extend her considerable oeuvre as an adaptor of classic tales, joining such dramas as "Polaroid Stories" and "Anon(ymous)," updates, respectively, of Ovid's "Metamorphoses" and "The Odyssey," and "Hamlet: Blood in the Brain," a loose retelling of the Bard's tragedy, set amid street-gang warfare in 1980s Oakland.

The former Los Angeles resident is now based in San Diego, where she became head of UC San Diego's playwriting program in 2008; before that, Iizuka had taught at UC Santa Barbara.

In March, UC San Diego made her the first arts recipient of its Chancellor's Associates Faculty Excellence Award. The citation for the $2,500 prize praised Iizuka as "a leading voice in shaping the field of new playwriting" and a writer engaged in "consistently grappling with large ideas while giving voice to the voiceless."

Her L.A. stop came in June, when Cornerstone Theater Company premiered "3 Truths" outdoors at California Plaza. Iizuka's show capped Cornerstone's multi-year "Justice Cycle," interweaving themes from the previous plays in the series. She took in the Bay Area in March, when Berkeley Repertory Theatre premiered her most recent original work, "Concerning Strange Devices From the Distant West." The show hopscotched between scenes depicting photography taking hold in 1800s Japan and a present-day buyer's hunt to acquire some of those vintage pictures.

"Concerning Strange Devices" also brought Iizuka to Portland, Ore., as Portland Center Stage presented a workshop staging at its new play festival in July 2009.

In January, Oakland high school students had revived "Hamlet: Blood in the Brain," a production they subsequently took to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland during August. Iizuka's plays also get frequent airings on college campuses; for instance, if you're going to be in Santa Rosa between tonight and Sunday, the theater department at Santa Rosa Junior College has "Anon(ymous)" on the boards. The play's main character, like its Tokyo-born, Maryland-raised creator, is someone who really gets around.

— Mike Boehm


NaomiIIzuka36Views Exporter of the art

Theater review: `3 Truths' from Cornerstone Theater Co.

Real life mixes with art fakery

Theater review: `Strange Devices' a sexy puzzle

Berkeley world premiere for Naomi Iizuka play


Photo: Naomi Iizuka. Credit: Richard Hartog/Los Angeles Times.

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