Orpheum presents ‘Vang’ this October


This October, the IVCCD Orpheum Theater Center will present Vang, a performance piece written by Iowa poet-laureate, Mary Swander.

This production, part of the Orpheum Performance Series, is about migrant workers including Mexican, Hmong, Sudanese and Dutch farmers in Iowa, featuring Ramona and Beni Lopez, and Joseph Malual of Marshalltown.

Mary Swander, Pulitzer Prize winning photographer, Dennis Chamberlin and ACT Kennedy Center award-winner Matt Foss collaborate to create this drama. The play captures the immigrants’ journeys to the U.S. and speaks of their struggles, survival skills and their intense desire to return to the land.

“This production will be followed by a talk back session with Mary Swander and the acting company so that attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions about the content and the production process,” Pip Gordon, Director of the Orpheum Theater Center, said. “Diversity is a core value of the IVCCD mission statement and with the MCC sustainable agriculture program it is an excellent opportunity to bring those two components into the same room through this performance. It is also a privilege to hear the stories of our own Marshalltown farmers.”

The immigrant farmers in this production came from four continents, speaking more than six different languages, with multiple experiences of the world. In their own ways, they adjusted to life in America. Some of these immigrants came to the U.S. as refugees from war-torn parts of the world and others came fleeing poverty in their homelands. Some came with money, invited to join agri-business ventures. Many of these immigrants landed in the U.S. and took the only jobs they could find in meatpacking plants and auto repair shops. But all of these immigrants had grown up on farms and wanted to once again assume the livelihood that they had known in the past, the work that had formed the foundation of their cultural roots.

Judith Conlin of the Iowa International Center said, “For any sensitive soul, it is not possible to be a witness to this play and not to be changed by it, not be moved by the gut-wrenching experiences of these recent refugees and immigrants. We applaud their ability to survive the horrific and find solace in their farms and gardens.”

The entire play runs an hour and has two actors, male and female, who take on the parts of all eight immigrants. Actress Annie Feenstra is an award-winning Iowa State University student actor. Originally from Sioux City, Feenstra has had major roles in ISU productions including “Rent,” “Alice in Wonderland” and “A Street Car Named Desire.”

Actor Matt Foss’ production of “Six Characters” received five Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Awards in 2012 including: National Outstanding Production of a Play, Outstanding Director, Outstanding Lighting Design, three Distinguished Performance Awards and Distinguished Production and Performance Ensemble Award. Foss studied theatre at Roosevelt University in Chicago and in Moscow. He received his Ph.D. from Wayne State University in 2013. Currently, he is a lecturer in theatre at Iowa State University. Dennis Chamberlin’s photos of the immigrants are projected on the walls of the theatre and bring both artistic grace and reality to the performance.

This one night only performance is set for 7:30 p.m. Oct. 5; admission is $12. Seating in the black box theater is limited so you are encouraged to get your ticket early by calling 844-5909 or coming to the Orpheum Welcome Office. For more information, visit www.OrpheumCenter.com.

The Orpheum Theater Center is administered by Iowa Valley Community College District and demonstrates IVCCD’s vitality and commitment to partnering, educating and building our communities.