"Farmscape" by Mary Swander

a performance by Peace Pipe Players


Friday, May 4, 2018
7:00 pm
Maquoketa Art Experience
124 S. Main St.
Maquoketa IA

Free of charge | Open discussion follows

In the words of Mary Swander:

This play documents American farmscape through interviews with real people involved in real changes in how we grow our food and live our lives in the rural United States. You’ll take delight in a sip of Zinfandel at a new winery and savor the taste of organic vegetables on a truck on its way to the local farmer’s market. You’ll make a stop at a bed and breakfast and Hispanic cultural center and gaze out the window at restored wetlands and prairie. You’ll also suit up in protective clothing and a mask before you enter a hog confinement operation and you’ll watch pigs move quickly down a conveyor belt at an IBP slaughtering plant. You’ll experience the David and Goliath story of an organic farmer up against the economic forces of the 3500 acre agri-business operation next door. In the end, you’ll understand that during the pioneer days, farming completely changed the ecosystem of the prairie. A hundred and fifty years later, this landscape is dramatically changing again.Links to articles:

Mary Swander, Iowa’s poet laureate, wrote this play with assistance from her 2007 Iowa State University creative writing class based on a series of personal interviews with Iowans connected to farming. “Farmscape” has been performed throughout Iowa and other states. “It’s one of the few plays, films or any kind of piece of media that focuses on agriculture and contemporary issues that are happening,” Swander said. “We are living in an age where we have very big large farms and also very small farms.” That juxtaposition leads to some interesting dynamics in a play that has characters representing small organic vegetable farmers, a representative from a multinational agrochemical firm and everything in between.  

Swander will be at the Maquoketa performance and will lead a 15-20 minute “talk back” afterwards that will give the audience a chance to respond to the show.

The cast includes nine men and three women playing people from different aspects of and with different views on agriculture. Cast members include Levi Burzlaff, Lowell Carlson, John Dague, Steve Fishwild, Curt Gruver, Kaitlin Luett, David Manning, William Otteman, Dennis Payne, David Vazquez, Shawn Vazquez, and June Wahl.

Swander’s play “Map of My Kingdom” was performed at MAE in 2015. Commissioned by the Practical Farmers of Iowa, the play deals with the issues of land transition.

Mary Swander is the Poet Laureate of Iowa, the Artistic Director of Swander Woman Productions, and the Executive Director of AgArts, a non-profit designed to imagine and promote healthy food systems through the arts. Her latest book is a collection of essays called The Sunny Side from Route 3 Press.

Ms. Swander received her M.F.A from the University of Iowa Writers Workshop. She is a professor of English and a Distinguished Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences Emerita at Iowa State University. She lives in an old Amish schoolhouse, raises geese, goats and a large organic garden. She performs her own work playing the harmonica and the banjo.