Swander performs one-person version of ‘Farmscape’ for Secretary Vilsack

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Mary Swander

Mary Swander takes her reader’s theatre play, "Farmscape: Documenting the Changing Rural Environment," here, there and everywhere. It usually features a cast of about 10 readers, each playing a character describing the challenges of modern farming in Iowa. But in December, the distinguished professor in English turned it into a one-woman show for a group of USDA officials, including Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, at a retreat in West Virginia.

"The USDA ‘Farmscape’ show finally happened," Iowa’s Poet Laureate said. She and the former Iowa governor had been trying to schedule a "Farmscape" performance for a couple of years. Said Mary, "Secretary Vilsack spoke of his work as a lawyer during the farm crisis trying to keep farmers out of foreclosure. I also talked about the project, how it had developed in an Iowa State class, and how it has toured around the country."

To handle all the play’s characters, Swander wore a seed cap and positioned it differently for each person. "Cap straight on for Donald. Cap tilted back for Nate. Cap turned around backwards for Jon," she explained.

– Steve Jones