DES MOINES – The State Historical Museum will present
“Grant Wood: Prairie Rebel” next week as a fundraiser for its History
through the Arts theater program.
“Grant Wood: Prairie Rebel” will be presented at 7 p.m., April
7, 2006 at the Iowa Public Theatre in the State Historical Building, 600 E. Locust
in the heart of Des Moines’ Historic East Village. Tickets are $50 and $75,
and can be purchased at the door or in advance by contacting Maureen Korte at
515-281-4132 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Café Baratta’s will cater
dessert and Jasper Wineries of Newton will provide wine in the building’s
atrium following the show.
Written by Cynthia Mercati, the play features Tom Milligan as Grant Wood, and
explores significant events in the artist’s life. The play describes events
such as Wood’s upbringing in Anamosa, Iowa; his decision to paint his Midwestern
memories and his Iowa roots; the founding of the Artists’ Colony in Stone
City; his love of teaching and his conflict with the administration at the University
of Iowa; the debate and dissention surrounding “American Gothic,”
and the rebellion he led against the New York art world.
Former Des Moines Register theater critic Joan Bunke has described the play
as “...a fascinating vignette...the essence of Wood seems to permeate the
The presentation of “Grant Wood: Prairie Rebel” benefits the State
Historical Museum’s History through the Arts program, which is designed
to help students understand the relevance of Iowa history in the context of their
lives. Now in its fourth year, the program works with teachers across the state
to deliver history education to about 10,000 Iowa students each year. The annual
cost of the program is about $150,000.
Proceeds from the play will help support seven productions in the 2006-2007
season including plays covering all aspects of Iowa history, from archaeology
and 16,000-year-old mammoths to the story of Iowa and what Iowans were doing on
the home front during World War II.
As part of the programming, students see the productions and attend workshops
that focus on arts, literacy, science and history. Young Iowans interact with
history through theater, dance, visual arts, music, literature, reenactment, interviews,
panel discussions, creating exhibits and much more. At the same time, students
learn material that meets curriculum benchmarks and standards. All plays are presented
by professional acting companies; all workshops are conducted by professionals
with degrees in their field.
Milligan has worked professionally in the theater for many years in Des Moines.
At the Des Moines Playhouse, he has acted, taught classes, designed sets and is
a member of the Actors on Tour group. At Charlie’s Showplace, he was the
technical director and acted in many productions. Milligan has served as president
of the drama workshop board as well as its technical coordinator, and he has produced,
directed and acted there. He has done many freelance acting jobs and also conducts
tours of the Iowa State Capitol building, where his interest in history and the
arts are combined.
Author and director Cynthia Mercati has published more than 30 plays and is
playwright-in-residence at the Des Moines Playhouse, which has produced a number
of her works, including the recent “From the Window: The World of Anne Frank.”
She has also written historical novels and her commentaries and essays are often
published in the Des Moines Register. She does workshops and residencies through
the programs of the Iowa Arts Council. Mercati has also written plays that have
been produced at the Drama Workshop and has acted in shows there and at The Playhouse.
The State Historical Museum is operated by the State Historical Society of
Iowa, a trustee of Iowa’s historical legacy and an advocate for understanding
Iowa’s past. It identifies, records, collects, preserves, manages and provides
access to Iowa’s historical resources. Its dual mission of preservation
and education serves Iowans of all ages, conducts and stimulates research, disseminates
information, and encourages and supports historical preservation and education
efforts of others throughout the state.
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