Iowa New Play Festival

University of Iowa

Monday, May 5, through Saturday, May 10


Regina Taylor And this is why I don't live in Iowa City.

From May 5 through 10, the University of Iowa presents the annual New Play Festival, and if you're a theatre junkie such as myself, this celebration of debuting works might tempt you into blowing off your job, your social engagements, and your friends and family members for six straight days.

Taking place at several locales within the university's Theatre Building, this year's festival features staged performances of five new pieces by Iowa authors, more than a half-dozen readings, Q&A with the writers, and guest respondents from the realm of professional theatre, including John Eisner, the producing director of the Lark Play Development Center in New York, and Regina Taylor (pictured), the award-winning actress from the TV series The Unit and I'll Fly Away.

The festival schedule can be found at (, and among this year's titles are Sarah Sander's ménage à trois exploration Seven Dreams of Her, Jennifer Fawcett's fantasy drama The Toymaker's War, and Morgan Sheehan-Buba's Dust Town, which the Web site tells us involves "a man, a monster, a thing from the dark, a hero, and a three-headed dog." Hmm. I didn't know Todd was the subject of a play ... .

For more information on the Iowa New Play Festival, call (319) 335-2700.




Acting Smart

Helpful Tips on Appearing More Intelligent Than You Actually Are


The Vanginanga Troupe For the organization's final Visiting Artists of the 2007-8 season, Quad City Arts has recruited the performers of The Vanginanga Troupe, who, on May 2, will present a 7 p.m. public concert at Augustana College's Centennial Hall. If the subject pops up in conversation and you wish to join in, here are five things to know in order to avoid looking stupid:


1) Know who they are. Dedicated to raising awareness of traditional Rwandan dance and song, the Vanginanga Troupe is a trio of musicians who perform (in traditional costume) at colleges, universities, and festivals worldwide, who have released four albums, and who frequently collaborate with the famed Rwandan artist Samputu.

2) Know what they do. In addition to singing and dancing, the musicians play such instruments as the inanga (guitar), amokondera (trumpets), ingoma (drums), and icyembe (piano).

3) Know who the troupe is composed of. The trio's members are Fidele Mutagoma, August Mbanda, and Vanginanga Troupe founder Vincent Nsengiyumva.

4) Know how to pronounce "Nsengiyumva." It's sin-JOOM-va.

5) Know how to effectively employ his name in a sentence. Say, "I understand that Vincent Nsengiyumva is incredibly gifted on the inanga, amokondera, ingoma, and icyembe." Then smile with confidence, even if you're not sure that you pronounced those words correctly.


For more information on the Vanginanga Troupe's May 2 performance, visit (




A World of Culture: India

Family Museum

Saturday, May 3, 1 p.m.


Wendy StegellIf your workplace is anything like mine, you're probably longing to escape to a world of culture, and on May 3, you can find one at Bettendorf's Family Museum. (If you're still reading this, that means my joke slipped past our editorial censors, so let's press on.)

The venue's World of Culture series invites children and their chaperones to explore global wonders through presentations, performances, and hands-on activities, and in this final event of the season, the museum will provide a closer look at the beauty and rich history of India. Included on Saturday's schedule: Wendy Stegell (pictured) performing the storytelling dance of Kathak; the Coffee Hound's Beth Aronson offering samples of Indian teas; a geology-station examination of how the Himalaya mountains were formed; and the construction of Indian fan toys, animal puppets, and artworks boasting traditional rangoli patterns.

Your kids will likely have so much fun they won't even realize they're learning, and if you want to psyche them up for the experience in advance, you might mention that India also produces more than 800 movies per year, is the country where bananas were first discovered, and is the only country to have a Bill of Rights for cows. Unless, of course, you don't want to raise a show-off. (Sadly, my parents had no such qualms.)

More information on A World of Culture: India is available by visiting (




Romance Language

Augustana College

Friday, May 2, through Sunday, May 11


Huck Finn Described by the New York Times as "the creation of a bold writer with an abundant vision," Peter Parnell's Romance Language - being staged at Augustana College beginning May 2 - is a surrealistic comedy that finds Huck Finn heading west with Walt Whitman, Henry David Thoreau speaking from the grave, a lesbian take on Hamlet, and the bloody Battle of Little Big Horn climaxing with a friendly soirée in Literary Heaven. I kid you not.

Just how unusual is Parnell's play? Guess which of the following 19th Century figures is the only one not involved in Romance Language's pansexual liaisons and wild flights of fancy:


A) Louisa May Alcott

B) General George Custer

C) Emily Dickinson

D) Ralph Waldo Emerson

E) Henry James


For tickets to Romance Language, call the Augustana box office at (309) 794-7306.



Answer: E. And after learning that the show contains strong language and sexual content, the spirit of Henry James is feeling totally dissed.



Support the River Cities' Reader

Get 12 Reader issues mailed monthly for $48/year.

Old School Subscription for Your Support

Get the printed Reader edition mailed to you (or anyone you want) first-class for 12 months for $48.
$24 goes to postage and handling, $24 goes to keeping the doors open!

Click this link to Old School Subscribe now.

Help Keep the Reader Alive and Free Since '93!


"We're the River Cities' Reader, and we've kept the Quad Cities' only independently owned newspaper alive and free since 1993.

So please help the Reader keep going with your one-time, monthly, or annual support. With your financial support the Reader can continue providing uncensored, non-scripted, and independent journalism alongside the Quad Cities' area's most comprehensive cultural coverage." - Todd McGreevy, Publisher