One of the most exciting aspects of Theatre Cedar Rapids’ new Beyond the Stage initiative is the way it can spring into the future, said Katie Hallman, TCR’s executive director.
This season’s contemporary issues series looks to bridge the past with the present, by linking community groups around themes explored in TCR’s upcoming productions of “The Diary of Anne Frank” on the main stage and “Bent” in the Grandon Studio space.
Some of the free events are site-specific to TCR. Others were already in the works around the city when the theater decided to explore collaboration possibilities to spark deeper dialogues in March, during the theater’s Linge Series plays dealing with Holocaust persecution.
“I challenged the staff to reach out in the community to say, ‘Hey, this is what we’re doing at this time, what are you doing?’ Those conversations turned out to be so exciting and fruitful and landed us where we are now,” Hallman said.
The series seeks to connect the persecution from World War II and the Holocaust with “issues we might be facing today in our own community,” she said, which has turned into panel discussions tied to the well-known Anne Frank play and the lesser-known “Bent.”
“For ‘Bent,’ we’re dealing with challenges in identity and challenges in persecution, based on how people are identified by their peers, by the public, by external sources. So for the ‘Bent’ discussion, we wanted to call out the pink triangle, which was the identifying mark for homosexuals during the Holocaust, and discuss what the historic injustice looked like — but also what present-day challenges are for LGBTQIA community members, families, friends and allies. What progress have we made in that discrimination?”
A multi-panel traveling exhibit on the history of Anne Frank and her family, including their time in hiding and in the Nazi death camps, will be featured prominently in the TCR lobby. The Cedar Rapids Civil Rights Commission, another major player in developing the initiative, also is sending a timeline exhibit focusing on the history of civil rights in the city.
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In addition, the theater will feature information on its past productions of “The Diary of Anne Frank,” as well as highlighting a little-known pen-pal connection between the Frank sisters and two sisters in Danville in southeast Iowa, that took place before Anne and Margot Frank went into hiding.
The community conversations begin today (3/1), with “Legacies: Veterans” at 6 p.m. in the Cedar Rapids Public Library’s Whipple Auditorium. The program features four different 10-minute perspectives on the topic of veterans. Other public discussions will be held at the library, as well as at TCR.
“Once we started diving into this, it’s invigorating to see how much is going on in the community,” Hallman said. “It has become such a natural way to amplify working conversations.”