In coordination with national Banned Books Week (Sept. 24-30), ISU Theatre kicks off its 2017-18 season this week with a locally infused production of "Out of the Fire: The Banned Books Monologues." A series of 15 monologues, including two written by Iowa State students, explore the topics of censorship and banned books from a variety of viewpoints, such as the author of a banned book, a library patron requesting a banned book, a book character who's been banned or a reader challenging a book's validity.
"What does it mean to have freedom of expression? What are the ramifications when that is taken away? It's a timely and relevant conversation to be having," said Amanda Petefish-Schrag, assistant professor of theater and director of the production.
Performances begin at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Sept. 29-30 and Oct. 6-7. Sunday matinees on Oct. 1 and 8 begin at 2 p.m., all in Fisher Theater.
Petefish-Schrag said it's exciting -- and a bit unusual -- to perform a play so recent. Most of the monologues were written by playwrights from around the country for a festival at the Forward Theater in Madison, Wisconsin, in February 2015. ISU Theatre leaders received permission from the Madison group and used its original solicitation to recruit student writers last spring. Monologues by graduate students Mat Wymore and Emily Horner emerged from a competitive writing and review process.
Petefish-Schrag called a monologue "a soulful journey with a beginning, a middle and an end." Because they're not interacting with other actors, monologue actors especially have to connect with their audience.
For the student actors, "it's a pretty vulnerable spot to be in, but they have lots of wonderful opportunities to make it earnest, urgent, honest and truthful," she said.
Tickets are $18 ($16 for seniors, $11 for students) and available at the Stephens Auditorium ticket office, through Ticketmaster or at the door.
Petefish-Schrag said she wanted to collaborate with local libraries during the show's run because of the "vital role libraries play in access to information and ideas." ISU Theatre students held public rehearsals at Parks Library Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon this week. The library lobby currently features a display of the banned books referenced in these monologues. It will remain on display through the play's run.
The student playwrights and several monologue actors and production staff will participate in a panel discussion about banned books at the Ames Public Library on Tuesday, Oct. 3 (7-9 p.m., library auditorium, 515 Douglas Ave.). Wymore and Horner's monologues will be performed as part of this event.