U.S. race relations the focus of upcoming Coe theatre performances

Extra: Rod Pritchard, Director of Marketing and Public Relations
(319) 399-8605 or rpritcha@coe.edu

2008-09-08 07:55:01 - General

The Coe College Department of Theatre Arts will present two plays about race relations in the U.S. entitled "A Dream Deferred, A Race Derailed." The performances will be held Sept. 26, 27, 28 and Oct. 2, 3 and 4 in Dows Theatre on the Coe campus. All performances begin at 8 p.m. except for the Sunday, Sept. 28 performance, which starts at 2 p.m.

Seats are reserved, and tickets are $10 for general admission and $8 for students and seniors. Tickets are available at the door, or by calling the Coe Box Office at 399-8600, Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Featuring all-student casts, "Florence" by Alice Childress and "Dutchman" by Amiri Baraka, will both be staged by guest director Tisch Jones, associate professor of theatre at the University of Iowa. The plays are historical at Coe, representing the first time the theatre department has presented drama that speaks directly to the experiences and struggles of African-Americans. Talkbacks with the directors and cast members will be held following the Thursday and Sunday performances.

A trip by train can be derailed by many things: a break in the track, schedules delayed or missed, or the threat of a suicide bombing. But it is a deep-rooted American phenomenon, called racism, that has derailed the two train journeys "Florence" and "Dutchman," set in the time period from the civil rights movement through the black power movement. As we move toward the general election of 2008, these plays serve as a reminder of the ways in which racism still may be derailing interior journeys within the U.S. "Dutchman" premiered in 1964 and subsequently won an Obie Award for best off-Broadway play.

"It is good to question where we've been to help determine where we are," said Jones. "With 'Florence' and 'Dutchman,' we're going to challenge the audience to look back at race relations in the 1950s and 1960s and compare it to today. The questions become, 'are we better off; have we improved?' It is important for audience members to look into their own hearts regarding these questions."

As someone who grew up in the segregated South during the height of the civil rights movement, Jones is passing her first-hand experiences along to the student actors she is directing. She spent her childhood moving from city to city, residing in New Orleans; Oklahoma City; Knoxville, Tennessee; Waco, Texas; and Orangeburg, South Carolina; before graduating from high school in Iowa City. Jones participated in protests and sit-ins, and was even arrested for her civil disobedience. Later on, she was involved in Black Power and Black Arts movements while a college student.

"I hope that I can provide the actors with an appreciation and reverence for the period," noted Jones. "It is also important for them to take what they learn in preparing for these plays into their other classes around campus. I want them to be better people and go forward and teach others as a result of this experience."

For more information, call 399-8600 or visit theatre.coe.edu.