Iowa City Community Play
The offerings continue with the Iowa City Community Theater returning to in-person performances with a play documenting a historic fire in New York that drew attention to worker safety.
Between that and two Hancher Auditorium shows, here are three things to do in Iowa City this weekend.
Iowa City Community Theater’s “The Triangle Factory Fire Project”
The 60-plus-year-old nonprofit halted in-person programming in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On February 11, the theater made a comeback with “The Triangle Factory Fire Project,” which continues for its second and final Friday-Sunday weekend.
Michele Hinz directs the nearly two-hour play by Christopher Piehler and Scott Alan Evans. It depicts a fire that broke out at the Triangle Shirtwaist factory in New York over 100 years ago that killed 146 people, mostly immigrant women. The performance depicts the trial of factory owners, Isaac Harris and Max Blanck, who were charged on seven counts of manslaughter and acquitted of all chargesaccording to PBS.
On March 25, 1911, a fire spread through the clothing factory on the 8th, 9th, and 10th floors.
The building had an emergency exit, which collapsed during the rescue effort, and the doors were locked to prevent worker theft. The firefighters’ ladders were too short for the tall building, according to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire Memorial.
The fire killed 146 workers in less than 15 minutes.
Hinz said the story is relevant today, pointing out that employers such as those in the meatpacking industry failed to take precautionary measures during the emergence of COVID-19 to ensure employee safety.
An “undercurrent” in the piece concerns the suffragist movement, which is also relevant today, Hinz said. It is linked to the importance of the right to vote.
“We can’t stop being vigilant when it comes to making sure those voting rights are protected,” she said.
The play uses eyewitness accounts, court transcripts, and archival documents to recreate the events that occurred. Speeches by the suffragettes are incorporated into the play’s dialogue in several places.
Hinz said the actors in the play were careful to stay true to the original source material. She said there is an “incredible” number of trial transcripts, interviews with fire survivors and newspaper articles about it.
Hinz talked about some of the memorable scenes throughout the play, including a mother searching for the body of her dead daughter, 24-year-old Margaret Shultz, or the trial scene from the play.
Although the story has a serious subject, there are moments of levity, including how the play marks the times by reading the headlines and newspaper advertisements of the time.
Auditions began in December and rehearsals began in January.
There are 10 actors playing more than 50 roles, Hinz said. These actors will step in and out of character, sometimes just for a few lines.
They don’t try for realism, Hinz said. Instead, they hope to communicate to audiences that the characters are telling an important story.
The play often has figures in the middle of the stage speaking directly to the audience trying to get a reaction, which cannot be done virtually.
“There are so many of us in the theater community doing things virtually during the heights of the COVID crisis, and it’s so nice to be back on stage, to have a stage partner (and) to know that an audience is going to see you,” Hinz said.
Visit the Iowa City Community Theater website for ticket prices and timetables.
Hancher Auditorium presents ‘Pepperland’ and the Castalian String Quartet
The Mark Morris Dance Group is coming to the Hancher Auditorium on Friday.
The dance group was founded by choreographer Mark Morris in New York in 1980 and has been touring with his own musical ensemble since 1996, combining dance with live music.
“Pepperland” by the Mark Morris Dance Group features arrangements of songs from The Beatles’ eighth studio album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” performed by a live ensemble.
The show also features original music by pianist and composer Ethan Iverson.
“Pepperland” begins at 7:30 p.m.
On Sunday, the Castalian String Quartet will perform at 3 p.m.
The show is a collaboration with the University of Iowa String Quartet Residency Program. The program connected virtually with the Castalian String Quartet in November 2020.
the quartet formed in 2011featuring three violinists and a cellist, and has performed in venues ranging from Carnegie Hall to the Philharmonie de Paris.
Tickets for Hancher events can be purchased on the auditorium site website.
Erin Young in conversation with Ace Atkins at Prairie Lights
On Friday, author Robyn Young, under the pseudonym Erin Young, will discuss her first procedural crime “The Fields,” which takes place in Iowa.
The novel follows newly promoted Sergeant Riley Fisher of the Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Office as a dead young woman is discovered in a cornfield on a family farm.
Young, who lives in England, is the author of several historical fiction series. She will be in conversation with author and journalist Ace Atkins, known for his crime novels.
The event will be hosted on Zoom, starting at 6 p.m.
Those interested can visit Prairie Light’s website to register for the event.
Paris Barraza covers entertainment, lifestyle and the arts at Iowa City Press-Citizen. Contact her at [email protected] or (319) 519-9731. Follow her on Twitter @ParisBarraza.