In the news: University of Iowa theater project spotlights the Muslim experience in Iowa

Diana Nollen, The Gazette

While Hancher’s Embracing Complexity initiative is bringing artists with Islamic cultural ties to Iowa City, nine University of Iowa students are fanning out across the state to gather the stories of Muslims living in Iowa.

Enrolled in an independent study program through the UI theater department, they are spending the fall interviewing 30 to 50 Muslims of varying ages in urban and rural areas, from Iowa City and Cedar Rapids to Des Moines, Elkader and beyond. From those interviews will emerge a documentary theater piece that’s a collage of the Muslim experience in Iowa, built around their “unique and rich personal stories,” said UI theater professor and project leader Anne Marie Nest.

Students will help with transcribing the interviews and constructing the play. Nest and her assistant will finish the process, workshopping the script over the winter and staging a public reading April 10 at Hancher.

It’s a project born out of heartache.

“I was in New York for 9/11, and it had a deep impact on me,” Nest said. “It was so hard to watch my Muslim friends and neighbors become the enemy instantly, and that experience never left me. (With) the political climate today, it just feels like I had to help in any way that I could.”

With Embracing Complexity, she found the niche she needed.

“It was the right time,” she said, and Hancher embraced her project.

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