By Claire Dietz
It’s that time of year again, when theaters begin to announce their 2017-18 seasons, and Hancher Auditorium is no different. Now in its second year in its new building, Hancher promises another great lineup for the season.
This season is unique for Hancher because it marks its 45th anniversary.
Hancher Education Manager Micah Ariel James said the success of this year’s season has created an excited, and maybe even anxious, feeling around the facility.
“There’s an air of celebration in this season,” she said. “Because following a new season, how can we maintain this level of excitement in the community?”
James is not worried, however. Next season, the lineup boasts Leslie Odom Jr., The King and I, Joshua Bell, the New York City Ballet, Motown: The Musical, Kinky Boots, Taylor Mac, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, just to name a few.
Odom was in town earlier this spring as a part of the UI Lecture Committee series, and he will take the Hancher stage on Sept. 14.
James said that during the years without a proper auditorium, Hancher still strove to bring the best and brightest artists to its various venues, and that desire has not burned out.
“We want to maintain that and the excitement to show artists who haven’t been around in this area or are making their début in this region,” she said. “There is this opportunity to bring in things we’ve seen before and seen new options.”
Something is new at the auditorium this year: the “Embracing Complexity” series, which will, according to the website, “take a multidisciplinary and collaborative approach to building understanding of contemporary Islamic cultures and Muslim identity.”
It will feature Niyaz, G. Willow Wilson, Amir ElSaffar and Rivers of Sound, Zeshan Bagewadi and the Transistors, and the production of Feathers of Fire: A Persian Epic.
The new project is a result of Hancher being awarded a grant from the Association of Performing Arts Professionals for the Building Bridges: Arts, Culture, and Identity program.
The group awarded Hancher the grant because it, according to the press release, “sought projects designed to build knowledge and appreciation for arts and culture with roots in Muslim-majority societies.”
James said this will result in Hancher connecting with numerous departments at the University of Iowa as well as bringing the larger Iowa City community into the fold in order to further discuss what it means to be Muslim and the Muslim identity. The Hancher people are excited to see what conversations will come out of the project.
“Artists will be in residence at various times over the course of two years and will work with partners both on and off the University of Iowa campus on a broad range of activities, including performances, classes, exhibits, discussions, and lectures,” a release said. “The project will also document and explore the experiences of Muslims in eastern Iowa through sharing of local stories and oral histories.”
The release went on to describe the goal of the project as a way to “build textured knowledge of Islamic cultures while creating a greater sense of empathy for the experiences of peoples of diverse racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds. We believe this is an urgent program at this moment.”