University of Rochester

EVENT: University's International Theatre Program Presents World Premiere

April 5, 2005

The world premiere of a newly commissioned theatrical work, The Puzzle Locker, by two-time Obie Award-winning playwright W. David Hancock, opens on Thursday, April 21, at the University of Rochester's Todd Theatre on the River Campus. The production runs at 8 p.m. on April 21, 22, 23, 27, 28, 29, and 30, with a 3 p.m. matinee on Sunday, April 24.

Set in an abandoned campground in Washington state, The Puzzle Locker is a vividly theatrical exploration of "what remains of a civilization, told from the point of view of those who might have survived its destruction." Often wildly surreal and comic, Hancock's distinctive theatrical voice—seen recently in Geva Theatre's production of his The Race of the Ark Tattoo—takes a narrative and removes its cohesive forces, the "glue" that holds events together. Hancock leaves audiences with an intriguing puzzle: a world and a narrative which force us to discover for ourselves the links holding the characters and their stories together; a world that is infinitely, though not confusingly, open to multilayered interpretations.

Hancock developed the play at the University of Rochester in the fall of 2004, working with student actors and International Theatre Program Artistic Director Nigel Maister. He developed the characters in the play using the actors who now play them, saying, "This play is this play because of the students . . . It's not like the characters are based on them, but their personalities—who they are—depend on the students. The students helped in the creation by being engaged, by rehearsing, and letting me see the characters develop."

Hancock hails from Minneapolis and is principally known for his two Obie Award-winning plays, The Race of the Ark Tattoo (1999) and The Convention of Cartography (1995), both presented in New York City by the Foundry Theatre. The Race of the Ark Tattoo just concluded a successful run at Geva Theatre. Hancock is the recipient of numerous awards, including a Bush Artist Fellowship for playwriting and screenwriting, a Whiting Writers award, and the Hodders Fellowship at Princeton University. He is currently the Jack Kerouac Writer-in-Residence at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell. The Puzzle Locker is his latest work.

Maister has brought challenging work to the Rochester community over many years and continues to break new ground with the commissioning and directing of The Puzzle Locker. The Puzzle Locker's production team includes two NEA-TCG (National Endowment for the Arts/Theatre Communications Group) Design Fellows: set and costume designer Marsha Ginsberg, known nationally and internationally for her extensive work, specifically in opera, such as last season's Imeneo at Glimmerglass Opera; and composer and sound designer Obadiah Eaves, a Rochester native whose work has been heard in numerous International Theatre Program productions, and who is currently represented off-Broadway in Manhattan Theatre Club's Moonlight and Magnolias. Eaves's music can also been heard on HBO and Nickelodeon. Lighting designer Aaron Black returns to the University's Todd Theatre, where he previously designed Nicky Silver's Pterodactyls and John Ford's 'Tis Pity She's a Whore, from New York City, where his work has been seen at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Lincoln Center Festival, the Loewe Theatre, and The Kaufman Theatre. Black is currently working as the art director on Storytellers' Bruce Springsteen special for VH1.

Tickets for The Puzzle Locker are $10 for the general public, $8 for senior citizens and University of Rochester faculty and staff, and $6 for students. They can be reserved online at, or by calling the box office at (585) 275-4088. Tickets can also be purchased at the door one hour before the performance.