ACLU Update

Art Roche, Mary Denmead, William Dutcher, Zach Twardowski and Atticus Dutcher in Richard III. Photo by Andrea Wilson.

I am not the only American to have spent the past week alternately devastated and enraged but I am so grateful to have also experienced flashes of true hope and deep love for how my community has responded.

Between our event on Friday which raised $833.25, Writers Resist! last Sunday, and The Last Night in America organized by Megan Gogerty on Thursday, eastern Iowa artists have raised upwards of $3700 for the Iowa ACLU this week. Many people do not realize that the ACLU is a non-partisan organization that prides itself in upholding everyone’s civil liberties, no matter who they are or what they believe.

We are going to take care of each other. We are going to resist injustice. We are going to pay attention and participate in the democratic process. We are going to use our art to magnify what is going on around us because, as my friend and mentor Ron Clark said recently in a Press-Citizen interview: “It’s our artistic community that most effectively holds out a mirror and says, ‘Look at what we have become.'”

There are many petitions circling. I’d like to direct your attention to this one in particular asking that we preserve the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. When I signed it, it still needed almost 100,000 more signatures to get a response from the White House. This is quite literally the least you can do but is still so important.

Together we rise.


RIII gratitude

We had our final rehearsal last night for our pop-up activist abridged reading of Shakespeare’s Richard III coming up on Friday and I am overwhelmed with gratitude.

For Ron Clark, for bringing his lifetime of experience and leading us with his characteristic vision and deep compassion, all the while giving us hours upon hours of his time.

For Jody Hovland, who joined us in our final rehearsal to share her amazing talent and mentorship.

For Keith Reins, who will be with us on Friday, guitar in hand, for our musical partnership and for always having my back.

For Nick Westergaard and Meghann Foster who are not only incredibly gifted actors but also run Brand Driven Digital and are sharing their marketing expertise with us.

For Bethany Horning, costumer extraordinaire, and her support team of Jeremy and Chase, for her creativity, cheerful encouragement, and texts that make me snort coffee out of my nose.

For Chris Okiishi, easily one of the most generous and supportive people any of us will ever know, for lending his time to get the script in our actors’ hands.

For my beloved family Carmel and Rayburn Vrabel and Jon and Susie Dutcher who have spread their pride in this project far and wide which included, in some cases, defending us against the criticism of political disagreement among their own Facebook community.

For my friends who have pressed money into my hands earmarked for the ACLU.

Finally, for these beautiful actors who are sharing their time and talent with all of us: including Ron, Meghann, and Nick mentioned above and also Larry Baker, John Clarence Cameron, Aprille Clarke, Mary Denmead, Carrie Houchins-Witt, Art Roche, Katie Roche, Zach Twardowski and my very patient and wonderful men Joe, Liam and Atticus Dutcher.

You all give me hope and that is the most beautiful gift we can share with one another.

RIII in the Press-Citizen

Many thanks to Jeff Charis-Carlson at the Iowa City Press-Citizen for a wonderful, comprehensive article about our upcoming pop-up abridged activist reading of Shakespeare’s Richard III!

From the article:

Although Donald Trump won Iowa by almost 10 percentage points on Election Day, for some Iowans the upcoming presidential inauguration kicks off not a season of celebration but a “winter of our discontent.”

There are marches and other protest events scheduled across the nation to correspond with Trump taking the nation’s highest oath of office Jan. 20 in Washington, D.C.

Some critics in the Iowa City area are lodging their protest by turning to a 400-year-old play to express their political concerns for the next four years. To them, William Shakespeare’s descriptions of King Richard III seem equally applicable to the president-elect.

Click through to read the entire article on the Press-Citizen website.

To address Dr. Hagle‘s thoughtful query in the article, our aim is to illustrate a historical comparison and to come together as a community to unite in our real concerns about our prospective leadership. I assure you, we aren’t changing Shakespeare’s lines to fit the circumstances. There’s no need to. Shakespeare doesn’t need any help from us to make a salient timely point.

Everyone, please share far and wide. We’d love for this article to draw people to the production but we’d also like our voices to be heard around the world. Iowans are paying attention and we will rise up and resist. #notmymegalomaniac

Cast List for RIII

Ron Clark and I are thrilled to announce our powerhouse cast for RICHARD III, A Reading for Inauguration Day!

Richard, Duke of Gloucester     Zach Twardowski
King Edward IV     Ron Clark
George, Duke of Clarence     John Cameron
Cecily, Duchess of York     Katie Roche
Edward, Prince of Wales     Liam Dutcher
Richard, Duke of York     Atticus Dutcher
Queen Margaret     Meghann Foster
Lady Anne     Aprille Clarke
Queen Elizabeth     Carrie Houchins-Witt
Earl Rivers     Art Roche
Lord Richard Grey     Larry Baker
Marquis of Dorset     Larry Baker
Duke of Buckingham     Mary Denmead
Sir William Catesby     Nick Westergaard
Sir James Tyrrell     Larry Baker
Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond     Nick Westergaard
Bishop of Ely     John Cameron
Lord Hastings     Joseph Dutcher
Mayor of London     Art Roche
Lord Brakenbury     Art Roche
Murderer 1     Joseph Dutcher
Murderer 2     Carrie Houchins-Witt
Messenger     Aprille Clarke
Messenger     Joseph Dutcher

Costumes     Bethany Horning

Music     Tara McGovern , Keith Reins, and Joseph Dutcher

RICHARD III, A Reading for Inauguration Day
Friday, January 20, 2017
North Ridge Pavilion in Coralville, Iowa
Doors open at 6:30 pm
Coffee, wine, and dessert
Free will offering to cover the venue’s rental fee ($200) with all remainder going to the ACLU.


Iowa City’s beloved consummate theatre professional Ron Clark and I are delighted to announce a project in the works for Inauguration Day 2017.

RICHARD III, A Reading for Inauguration Day
Friday, January 20, 2017
North Ridge Pavilion in Coralville, Iowa
Doors open at 6:30 pm
Coffee, wine, and dessert
Free will offering with all proceeds going to the ACLU.

We intend that the takeaway message of this Inauguration Day performance be that we the people are not defeated by ambition’s horrific consequences. On the contrary, we are a community committed to the common good. Art allows us to take a balcony view and, from that vantage point, we are better able to discern what it is that unites us.

More details will unfold as we get closer. In the meantime, mark your calendars and always choose love.


“Hot Tamale Louie” or “Two Buckets and a Yoke” ***The Story of Zarif Khan***

17990668_10158527592675453_9164810119306617296_oI am delighted to be part of this (free!) performance tonight at Voxman Music Building in the Recital Hall beginning at 7:30 pm.

More details from John Rapson:

“Hi friends,

I am writing to invite you to a Faculty Showcase this Tuesday at the School of Music. I am proud of the wonderful collaboration that has produced this “jazz tone poem” (a story told with music) and am truly excited to share both the story and this unusual music with you. Please read below to get a semblance of the various threads we are pulling together.

(We are expecting a good sized crowd, so please come early.)

“Hot Tamale Louie” or “Two Buckets and a Yoke”
*** The Story of Zarif Khan ***

Tuesday November 1, 2016
7:30p – Voxman School of Music Recital Hall
100% free and open to the public

Created and performed by
John Rapson
Special guest artist:
Dave Moore voice, slide guitar, accordion, harmonica
Iowa City’s legendary singer/songwriter

Introducing singer/songwriter:
Daniel Gaglione voice, North African mandole
Recent Iowa City immigrant from France

and UI alumni:
Ryan Smith, alto and soprano saxophones, flute, clarinet
Tara McGovern, fiddle
Dan Padley, guitars
Blake Shaw, doublebass
Justin LeDuc, drums

Cameo monologues by UI faculty member Paul Kalina

A genre-bending tale with lilting Western ballads, gentle Mexican waltzes, folk songs and melodies from the East, evocative tone poems and raucous ragtime melded together by
JAZZ; Based on an article by Kathryn Schulz in the June 6/13, 2016 issue of The New Yorker: American Chronicles: Citizen Khan and used with permission.

a story about LEAVING HOME
of TRAVEL and wandering the WEST
a story of FORTUNES won and lost
a story of LOVE late in life
and a dastardly MURDER

with cowboys and Indians, landowners and congressmen,
society ladies and ladies of the night, school children and old folks
Afghanís, Mexicans, Chinese, Czechs and Poles,
and special appearances by the famous
Buffalo Bill Cody and Medicine Joe Crow

You will laugh, you will cry, you will fret, you will sigh.

An Afghani child of twelve leaves his home near the Khyber Pass, wandering India for years before boarding a boat in Bombay and landing in Seattle. After exploring the west, he settles in Sheridan, Wyoming to take over a business selling tamales. He works 80 hours a week and becomes famous for his food, eventually learning how to invest in the stock market. As he gains and loses fortunes, he nonetheless lives frugally choosing to spend his money in acts of kindness and generosity. He gains citizenship in 1925, has it revoked by U.S. xenophobic laws and regains it again thirty years later. He becomes a legend, both back home in the borderland between Afghanistan and Pakistan and in Wyoming. He has an arranged marriage late in life and sires six children before abruptly and tragically being murdered in his 80s. His children and their offspring have recently founded a mosque in Gillette, Wyoming that has drawn the ire of some eastern Wyoming residents and received national attention in the press.”

You can read the article “Citizen Khan” by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Kathryn Schulz (upon which this tone poem is based) here.