116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Before the light switches are flipped inside Hancher Auditorium, the building’s entire exterior will be bathed in a kaleidoscope of color after sunset this weekend, with the return of Quixotic’s “Hancher Illuminated.“
Last year’s one-night event on Oct. 15, 2020, welcomed about 200 guests, masked and socially distanced. The Gazette was there, and reported that audiences walked around Hancher’s perimeter, “past a tree dripping in cascading meteor lights and into a magical realm where the shattered light from a mirror ball danced around the front entrance plaza, casting diamond starlight on every surface above and below.
“The route led viewers past the soaring lobby windows, where (University of Iowa) dance students performed in white, then on through a series of lighted hoops, past solo musicians and dancers, small ensembles, laser lights, more UI dancers in the back hallway, and finally to a violin and cello duo that drew applause and shouts of bravo for their blend of blues and pop, including a fiery, percussive version of Toto’s ‘Africa.’”
This year’s sight and sound explosion of lights, technology and performing artistry has been extended and expanded, offering Student Night for UI students on Friday, Aug. 27, then opening to all ages after dark Saturday, Aug. 28.
Tickets went on sale Monday, Aug. 23, for UI Student Night entries at 9:30, 10, 10:30, 11 and 11:30 p.m. Saturday’s public time slots went on sale earlier, and already are sold out for entries spanning 8:30 to 10 p.m. Go to hancher.uiowa.edu/upcoming-events to see if any tickets remain for Saturday’s 10:30 p.m. time slot.
Cost is $5 children and students and $10 for adults, plus handling fees. Additional ticketing fees are among the new revenue streams Hancher added this year, as the UI phases out its funding that has helped support the performing arts center for nearly 50 years. Hancher Executive Director Chuck Swanson outlines the changes at hancher.uiowa.edu/2021-22/message-chuck-swanson.
What to expect
The multifaceted event involves a self-guided walking tour, with 150 people admitted each half-hour, to facilitate social distancing. Masks are optional, but strongly encouraged for people who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19, and anyone else who feels more comfortable wearing a mask, Swanson noted.
He added that he’s heard comments from people passing by last year’s event, out for a stroll or a drive, curious about what was going on there. So if Saturday’s tickets are all snatched up, it’s worth the trip to just go to the Hancher parking lot and view the coat of many colors Quixotic will be casting onto the building and its surroundings.
“It’s unique and it’s different, too, and that’s Hancher — creative,” Swanson said, recalling how children last year were trying to step on the little points of light cast on the path leading to the building’s front doors. They also were climbing on the “Wellspring” fish sculptures “swimming” near the sidewalks.
What: Outdoor sight and sound art installation by Quixotic of Kansas City, Mo., incorporating University of Iowa dance students
When: Student Night on Friday, Aug. 27, 2021, with entries at 9:30, 10, 10:30, 11 and 11:30 p.m. only for University of Iowa students. Public entries Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021, are sold out for 8:30, 9, 9:30 and 10 p.m., with some tickets possibly remaining for 10:30 p.m.
Tickets: $5 UI students for Student Night, at hancher.uiowa.edu/2021-22/HancherIlluminatedStudent Any tickets remaining for Saturday are $10 adults, $5 youths and college students, at hancher.uiowa.edu/2021-22/HancherIlluminated
“It takes you to another world for a half-hour or 45 minutes or however long it takes for you to go around,” Swanson added. “You do get involved and forget about your worries and your cares. That’s transformative.”
Once again, the show will be designed for all ages.
“We want to make it very accessible,” said Mica Thomas, Quixotic’s executive producer. “Something magical that’s awe-inspiring is very accessible to a wide range of people. But it’s also about creating those moments that kids feel comfortable engaging with, that adults also can appreciate. It’s that mixture of sophistication, but also with the magical artistic quality of what the performance and creating these lighted environments gives back to them.”
The experience actually begins on the drive to Hancher, when people turn off Dubuque Street, cross the Park Road bridge, and see the lighting from afar.
“Think how that will make them feel. That’s special, and that’s unique,” Swanson said, calling Hancher “a gateway” to the University Iowa. “And that night, it will be a lighted gateway to our university, to our community. …
“Even if people are just driving in that night, they’re new to the Iowa City area, new to the university, they think, ‘What a special place is this. What a unique place this is.’
“There’s a little bit of a surprise element there, too. Who knows? We may have a traffic jam there, with people stopping — that may be over-wishing,” Swanson said. “But it goes back to that gateway event opportunity for creative expression and opportunity for unique experiences that create the fact that Hancher brings people to our university, and (is) a welcoming point for these new students. I didn’t have anything like that when I came to school here years ago.”
University of Iowa dance students also will perform, adding a professional experience to their education, which Swanson noted is part of Hancher’s mission, as well.
Quixotic, headquartered in Kansas City, Mo., has been dazzling Iowa City audiences since celebrating the 2016 opening of the new Hancher, built on ground higher than the site of the original structure that was ruined by the 2008 flood.
After the building’s Sept. 9, 2016, public dedication, where Quixotic’s European cirque-style performers juggled or strolled the lobby on stilts and in sculptural white dresses, the troupe returned on Sept. 24 to rappel down the side of the building and perform breathtaking acrobatic feats on the front lawn following Steve Martin and Martin Short’s gala opening night show.
Quixotic will return for “The Big Splash!” outdoor extravaganza Aug. 26 to 28, 2022, celebrating Hancher’s 50th birthday and 100 years of hydroscience and engineering at the UI.
The sense of community is what keeps Quixotic coming back for more Hancher collaborations, Thomas said.
“What I really love about Hancher — obviously I love all the people affiliated with the organization — I also love the sense of how Hancher interacts with their community, and the community support,” he said. “The sense of family that is all-surrounding with Hancher.
“They’ve got amazing talent that they bring in, and great vision for what they want to do and who they want to be. And just the community support and that connection with community is really amazing,” he said.
“Quixotic is on the fringe a little bit, because we do so many crazy-weird projects, and … (the Hancher team’s) sense of adventure in exploring new ways of doing things has been very open and exciting and able to think of things creatively in different ways.”
That’s not common among other arts presenters, Thomas said, noting that he appreciates Hancher’s flexibility, especially during the pandemic, when performers and presenters faced so many closed doors. “Hancher Illuminated” grew out of a need to bring together artists and communities to offer some light during the pandemic darkness.
This year’s production builds on last year’s, with more attractions filling out some of the sparse spots, as well as more performers so they can rotate in and out of the five sessions each night. Thomas said last year also was a matter of “beta testing,” since even though the troupe has staged outdoor events in the woods, “engaging with architecture was something new for us.”
By the numbers, the 2020 presentation involved bringing more than 20 people to Iowa City, including technicians, five musicians and three dancers. Quixotic also brought two trucks with “at least” a couple hundred lights, and ran about 800 feet of feeder cable and another 1,000 feet of Edison cable to make it all glow, along with sound equipment.
This year, they’ll pack even more gear into the trucks, bumping up to 300 or more moving lights, more dancers and performers, more technicians and technology, and upgraded scenic elements. They were set to arrive Tuesday, Aug. 24, and will work around the clock to get everything in place by Friday’s debut.
“The big thing to convey … is hope and inspiration and appreciation for this beautiful building,” Thomas said. “Knowing what the building has done and what they’ll do in the future in these weird times, how we can appreciate and celebrate what Hancher is and brings to the community, without going inside.
“It turns into a beacon.”
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