Play will share stories of recent immigrant families


“Vang,” a one-hour play about recent immigrant farmers, will be performed Sept. 14 at 7 p.m. at the DeWitt Opera House Theatre and Sept. 15 at 6:30 p.m. at the Humility of Mary Center in Davenport. Admission is free.

The word “Vang” means “garden” or “farm” in Hmong. The two-person play about recent immigrant farmers features a cast of characters including a Hmong family fleeing to Thailand, a Sudanese man who had been thrown into prison, a Dutch boy, dressed as a cowboy, who put the flag of the Netherlands through the paper shredder and declared, “I am an American.”

Two actors, male and female, take on the parts of all eight immigrants. Photos of the actual immigrants are projected on the theater walls and bring both artistic grace and reality to the performance, according to a news release.

Playwright Mary Swander is a fourth-generation Iowan, Poet Laureate of Iowa and a distinguished professor of English at Iowa State University. She worked with Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Dennis Chamberlin, and Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival award-winner Matt Foss to create “Vang.”


Swander and Chamberlin interviewed and photographed recent Iowa immigrant farmers from many countries. Then Swander wound their words together to form a verbatim play that captures the farmers’ journeys to the U.S., and their challenges and successes as new farmers.

The public often thinks of farmers as white males of European ancestry living in isolated rural areas. And the public often thinks of immigrants as those who have slipped into the United States to take advantage of assistance programs. “Vang” blows both of those stereotypes out of the water and opens discussion about how farming is done in the United States and how immigrants have become part of the larger agricultural picture, the news release states.

The DeWitt Opera House Theatre is located at 712 6th Ave., DeWitt. The Humility of Mary Center is located at 820 W. Central Park Ave. in Davenport. The performances are presented by Our Lady of the Prairie Retreat and co-sponsored by the Congregation of the Humility of Mary, School Sisters of Notre Dame and the Clinton Sisters of St. Francis.

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