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University of Iowa News Release


Nov. 21, 2011

'Iowa and Invisible Man' to examine black experience at the UI

A series of events beginning Tuesday, Nov. 29, and continuing through Saturday, Dec. 3, will examine the black experience at the University of Iowa. The project, "Iowa and Invisible Man: Making Blackness Visible," will include first-hand memories of a panel of "Black Hawkeyes" and culminate in the first-ever staged reading of a theatrical version of Ralph Ellison's seminal and best-selling novel.

All of the events are free and open to the public.

The project includes a week-long residency at the UI by Oren Jacoby, who is adapting the novel to the stage, and producer/director Christopher McElroen. Their theater production of Invisible Man will premier at the Court Theatre in Chicago in mid-January, marking the first time the novel has been presented on stage.

This is the schedule of events for the week:

--Tuesday, Nov. 29, 7 p.m., Shambaugh Auditorium, UI Main Library: "Black Hawkeyes: Midcentury Memories of the University of Iowa."

What was it like to be a black individual on the UI campus in the 1950s? UI alumni will offer first-hand memories of that period. The panel will be moderated by Richard Breaux, assistant professor in Ethnic Studies at Colorado State University and author of Maintaining a Home for Girls: The Iowa Federation of Colored Women's Clubs at the University of Iowa, 1919-1950 and To the Uplift and Protection of Young Womanhood: African American Women at Iowa Private Colleges and the University of Iowa, 1878-1928.

—A Roundtable on the Literary Past and Theatrical Future of a Great American Novel.

In this roundtable, panelists will reflect on Ellison, the literary landscape at mid-century, the power of the novel, and the challenge of bringing it to the stage. McElroen and Jacoby will be joined by Horace Porter, UI Wendell Miller Professor of English and American Studies; Lena Hill, UI assistant professor of English and African American Studies; and Michael Hill, UI assistant professor of English and African American Studies.

--Wednesday, Nov. 30, 6:30 p.m., African American Museum of Iowa, 55 12th Ave. Southeast, Cedar Rapids: "Visions in Process: Orations from the University of Iowa's Invisible Man Residency."

This public dialogue will examine about the 21st century implications of Ellison's ideas about race and democracy and will present scenes from the theatrical script. Panelists include McElroen, James Randall, retired professor of English at Coe College in Cedar Rapids; Shanna Benjamin, professor of English at Grinnell College in Grinnell; and Chad Simmons, interim director of Diversity Focus of Cedar Rapids, a nonprofit organization devoted to enhancing diversity in the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City area.

--Thursday, Dec. 1, 3 p.m., Iowa Memorial Union, Illinois Room (Room 348): "For My People: Elizabeth Catlett at Iowa and Beyond."

UI Museum of Art chief curator Kathleen Edwards will discuss the work of UI alumna Elizabeth Catlett (MFA '40), including her sculpture Invisible Man: A Memorial to Ralph Ellison, 2003. Edwards visited with Catlett in Mexico in 2006. Subsequently, the UIMA purchased 26 of Catlett's prints. After the lecture, the audience may view prints by Catlett in the UIMA@IMU Visual Classroom.

--Thursday, Dec. 1, 7 p.m., Shambaugh Auditorium, UI Main Library: "Now You See It, Now You Don't: A Civic Reflection Discussion."

Georgina Dodge, UI chief diversity officer and associate vice president, will facilitate a discussion focusing on issues of perception and difference. How do we see people who are different from us? How do they see us? What defines difference? Who determines that definition? Using a shared text as discussion catalyst, participants will be encouraged to consider the central issues from both societal and personal perspectives.

--Friday, Dec. 2, 5-7 p.m., Senate Chamber, Old Capitol Museum: WorldCanvass.

"Iowa and Invisible Man: Making Blackness Visible" will be the focus of the live WorldCanvass radio and television program, hosted by Joan Kjaer and produced by UI International Programs. Kjaer's guests will reflect on Ellison's life and work, including his place among other African-American writers of his era; the benefits of integrating performance into the classroom as a teaching tool; and the history of African-Americans at the UI and in Iowa.

--Saturday, Dec. 3, 7 p.m., Shambaugh Auditorium, UI Main Library: "Staged Reading, Invisible Man."

A unique opportunity to get a glimpse of the new and first stage production of Invisible Man, set to open in Chicago in early 2012. The largely local cast will engage with Oren Jacoby's script, adapted from the Ellison's novel.

More than a dozen UI offices and organizations have come together to sponsor "Iowa and Invisible Man." They are Hancher, the Office of the Provost, UI Libraries, the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, the Chief Diversity Office, Iowa House Hotel, the Departments of African American Studies, American Studies, English, and History; the Center for Teaching, African American Council, and Humanities Iowa, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities headquartered in Iowa City. UI International Programs, the UI Museum of Art, and the African American Museum of Iowa, Cedar Rapids, have also provided support.

For more on how "Iowa and Invisible Man" came to fruition, see the story on the Hancher website.

PHOTOS: Audition for staged reading of Invisible Man:

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa, 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Rob Cline, Hancher, 319-335-3827,; Steve Parrott, University News Services, 319-384-0037,