About the time that the first crocus appears on the Pentacrest next spring, dance, music, and theatre arts students will be hard at work on a major collaborative production of Aristophanes' The Frogs, a comedy from the 5th century B.C.
The play, a comedy
in which Aristophanes satirized the great Greek tragic poet Euripides
and the warrier-poet Aeschylus-both residing in Hades-is perhaps one of
the most remarkable parodies in dramatic literature. The god Dionysus,
upset because no great poet remains on Earth, descends to Hades disguised
as Hercules and stages a competition between the two poets to see who
will return to Earth. (Click here to read the full
But that's not all that will be remarkable about the production. It's among the first collaborations in the new Division of Performing Arts. Students from all three performing arts units will be working together to stage the play.
The Departments of Theatre Arts and Dance and the School of Music have worked together frequently in the past. Now, the division will give these efforts a structure-and create more performance opportunities for undergraduates.
Professor David Nelson, head of the School of Music since 1991, was selected by the combined faculty of the three areas to direct the new division. Professor David Berkey in dance and Professor Alan MacVey in theatre arts will continue in their current positions, and Professor Kristin Thelander is the new director of the School of Music.
"I am delighted that the faculty chose David Nelson to head the division," said Linda Maxson, dean of the College of Liberal Arts. "David is well acquainted with the activities of each department in the division and will work with their chairs and director to stimulate and support the artistic and academic interaction of students and faculty across the division."
The new division announced that it plans a more coordinated performance schedule for the three departments and more coordinated educational programming for the state and region. As the first sign of that, the division published a joint calendar of events, "Staging the 21st Century," with dozens of planned performances by the departments individually throughout the school year.
Maxson said the three units have many strengths in common. All three emphasize the production of new works.
"All have young and promising faculties that are making themselves nationally known in performance, design, choreography, playwriting, and musical composition, as well as in the history and theory of music, theater, and dance."
The departments already had formed a joint Performing Arts Production Unit to serve production needs of dance, opera, and theatre arts. The unit of 12 trained production people produces one main-stage dance production, two main-stage opera productions, and eight main-stage theatre productions a year, as well as overseeing eight to ten smaller dance productions, a chamber opera, and 12 to 24 second-stage and gallery theater productions each year.
The new division received a major boost when it was announced that the Elizabeth M. Stanley Performing Arts Endowment had been created. The endowment came from a $1 million pledge established in 1987 by E&M Charities, a charitable support organization created by the late Elizabeth M. and C. Maxwell Stanley of Muscatine. The pledge was completed in 1996, and the fund now is valued at $2.4 million.
The fund will be used to create the Elizabeth M. Stanley Professorship in African Art and the Elizabeth M. Stanley Professorship in the Arts, each permanently endowed at the level of $500,000. The remainder of the fund will be used to create the Elizabeth M. Stanley Performing Arts Endowment, which will support performing arts productions and activities of the Departments of Dance and Theatre Arts and the School of Music.
David M. Stanley, president of E&M Charities and the elder Stanleys' son, said, "We are delighted to be able to recognize my parents' love for the arts at Iowa by the creation of these new funds. We are particularly pleased to be able to assist the College of Liberal Arts as its new Division of Performing Arts makes its debut."
Nelson said the funds are a tremendous boost at a critical time.
"This endowment is going to support programs that bring the performing arts to the community."
-By Anne Tanner