Historical Museum presents fundraiser performance of “Grant Wood: Prairie Rebel”

March 17, 2006



Contact: Jeff Morgan, Jeff.Morgan@iowa.gov, (515) 281-3858

DES MOINES – The State Historical Museum will present Grant Wood: Prairie Rebel 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 by contacting Maureen Korte at (515) 281-4132 or Maureen.Korte@iowa.gov. 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, who tells us about 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 play.”

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.

“All students are special to us,” said Anita Walker, director of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. “History through the Arts has something for every student – shows for every age and grade level, programming every month of the school year and multicultural holiday programs that are affordable and accessible.”

The program presents five to nine plays that focus on all aspects of Iowa history, from famous Iowans to important scientific breakthroughs to early Iowa farm life. Students from across the state see the productions, and then stay for workshops that focus on the 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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