‘Vang,’ new drama by Liberal Arts and Sciences faculty, captures the experiences of Iowa immigrant farmers

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"Vang" director, actor Matt Foss

AMES, Iowa–The Maintenance Shop at Iowa State University will host "Vang," a two-person play about recent immigrant farmers, on Tuesday, April 9, at 8 p.m. to benefit the Iowa International Center in Des Moines. Admission is $10 at the door.

Matt Foss, ISU theatre department lecturer, is the director of "Vang" and will be performing in the production along with ISU performing arts student Annie Feenstra. The two actors will take on the roles of all eight immigrants in the one-hour play.

Iowa Poet Laureate Mary Swander, Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Dennis Chamberlin and Foss, a Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival award-winner, collaborated to create "Vang" (meaning “garden” or “farm” in Hmong). Swander, Distinguished Professor in the English department, and Chamberlin, associate professor in the Greenlee School of Journalism and Mass Communication, captured firsthand the experiences of immigrant farmers in Iowa. From there, Swander wound their words together to form a verbatim play that captures the immigrants’ journey to the United States.

“The interviewing process was all absorbing. Dennis Chamberlin and I worked for three years gathering material for this project,” said Swander. “We worked hard to find the interviewees, find translators, and build a rapport with the immigrants. These immigrants all have much in common – despite their language and cultural differences.”

In the play, Hmong, Mexican, Sudanese and Dutch immigrants all speak of their struggles, survival skills and the intense desire to return to the land. Some of the immigrants came to the U.S. as refugees from war-torn parts of the world, and others came fleeing poverty in their homelands.

"Vang" was written with a grant from the ISU Center for Excellence in the Arts and Humanities. Swander, Chamberlin and Foss hope to tour the play throughout Iowa, and also across the U.S. and to Europe.

Swander, Chamberlin and Foss are faculty members in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at ISU.

NEWS RELEASE College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Iowa State University

Contacts: Mary Swander, English, (515) 294-3373 (mswander@iastate.edu) Matt Foss, Theatre, (515) 294-3782 (mfoss@iastate.edu) Paige Berg, Liberal Arts and Sciences Communication, (515) 294-0461, pmberg@iastate.edu Steve Jones, Liberal Arts and Sciences Communication, (515) 294-0461, jones@iastate.edu