Building memories: Hancher holds special place in people's hearts

The former Hancher Auditorium Monday, Feb. 6, 2012 in Iowa City. (Gazette file photo)
The former Hancher Auditorium Monday, Feb. 6, 2012 in Iowa City. (Gazette file photo)

Everybody has a Hancher story. That’s the lesson that’s emerged for Executive Director Chuck Swanson in the wake of the 2008 flood that ruined the original structure and gave rise to the University of Iowa’s new performing arts center.

See also: Eight years in the making, Hancher's triumphant return

Swanson was a student living right across the Iowa River when the first Hancher Auditorium opened in 1972. “It was exciting,” he said. “Everybody knew that Hancher was special, because it was ... going to bring world-class artists — nothing but the best.”

He’s not the only staff member with a special place in his heart for Hancher.

Love story: Rob Cline, director of marketing and communications, began his Hancher story as a student usher in the early 1990s. “I liked everything we did except the dance,” he said.

However, that quickly changed.

“There was a young woman on staff with me who was so far out of my league, we weren’t playing the same sport. She was a dance major, and so I figured I better learn about dance in a hurry. What I always say is that the experiment paid double-dividends, since dance is now my second favorite thing we do, right after jazz. And I’m married to the girl, and we have three kids.”

Other area residents offered up these memories, via Facebook.

Bob Dorr of Cedar Falls, frontman and founder of Bob Dorr and the Blue Band: Springsteen, 10th row center. Literally life changing. September 1975.

Brian Glick of Cedar Rapids, co-founder of Revival Theatre Company: “The first theatre experience I ever had at Hancher was seeing ‘Cats’ when I was six years old. My mother had brought me along with her class for a Kirkwood field trip. She thought for sure I wouldn’t make it through the performance. I was antsy and unpredictable before the show even started. Once the house lights went down and the curtain went up, my mother found me mesmerized by the sounds, lights and dancing. I was on the edge of my seat in awe during the entire performance. And as my mother would say, ‘the rest is history.’”


Tim Boyle of Cedar Rapids: “I warmed up for Seinfeld in 1989. We performed in front of a closed curtain at a simple mike stand. For some reason, my opening line was an ad-lib. I said it’s the most beautiful auditorium in the state and the curtain looks like a bedspread at the Ramada. Audience erupted and I cruised through it. Afterward, Mr. Seinfeld and I got paid backstage. I got $250, he got $6,000. Apparently we were paid 10 bucks a laugh.”

Jeffrey Allen Mead of Iowa City: “Aside from the fact that my high school graduation ceremony was held there (Iowa City West High, Class of 1995), I performed at Hancher a couple of times (community fundraisers for Ronald McDonald House), and have seen several shows there. When Mummenschanz performed there in the early ’80s, my mother and grandmother took me to see the show after we’d seen them on Johnny Carson. After the performance — to this day, I still dunno how she managed it — my mom got to take me backstage to meet the performers, and I got their autographs in a souvenir book. I had that book for many years. Not sure what happened to it. Probably lost in one of our many moves. But I think that was pretty cool. I was maybe 7 or 8 at the time.”

Letter: And when the Hancher workers attending a recent thank-you concert opened their programs, they saw a letter that Scott Walker, a site-safety supervisor on the project, sent to Swanson. It ends this way: “I love this building. It’s like a child of mine. I have seen it grow, and now it’s time to see it walk on its own. I will always love this building.”

See also: Gallery - Hancher prepares to open


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