By Trinity Jones
This year, the Iowa State theatre department is focusing on female playwrights with their season titled HERoic. The season is in honor of the 50/50 by 2020 initiative, a movement to create more equity in the arts and to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the women’s suffrage movement.
“We are wanting to continue the conversation beyond the stage and into the community in as many different ways as possible,” says Brad Dell, the Director of Iowa State’s Theatre Department.
One extension of the conversation is panel discussions which take place after the Sunday matinees of each of the shows throughout the entire year. The most recent panel, “All Created Equal: Teaching Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion,” took place after the production of Chasing George Washington. This panel was co-sponsored by the Women’s and Gender Studies Program.
“This particular one which as about teaching equity, diversity and inclusion was in connection with our production Chasing George Washington. [I]t’s major theme is about equity, diversity and inclusion in our country; and since it’s a play that’s geared towards children, we thought it would make sense to focus on that aspect for that talk,” says Dell.
For about an hour after the matinee, people gathered in Scheman to listen to the panel discussion. The panel was composed of a variety of people who all engage with students and was moderated by Riley Drake, a second-year Ph.D. student at ISU, and Dell. The panel was asked questions about their occupations and how they see the importance of equity and diversity in their careers, as well as how they see it being important in the arts.
Dr. Michael Goebel, a current faculty member at Iowa State University in the Women’s and Gender Studies Program, expressed how he sees art being a major part of creating more equity, diversity, and inclusion.
“The arts have always been the soul, the human spirit made manifest and so the stories that they tell are exactly the human condition at a given historical moment.,” said Goebel. “The systemized attack on the arts […] coincide with systems of power not wanting people to have their stories told, not wanting to have those stories discussed, not wanting to challenge the narrative that they are creating. We don’t just need more art, we need more engagement with art.”
Dell believes that the plays and symposiums can be opportunities to have these conversations, which can eventually turn into action.
“Theatre maybe doesn’t make change, but what it hopefully can do is spark the conversation that brings on change.”
The next panel, “An Unending Odyssey: Immigration, Intersectionality and the Arts,” will be held on December 8th at 3:00 pm. To learn more about the HERoic season the ISU theatre is putting on, you can visit the ISU theatre’s website to find out what plays they are putting on and what panels and topics are coming up.