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“Squatters on Red Earth” Production Comes to Clarke

By Clarke News  |  October 17, 2023
Squatters on Red Earth Promotional Image

LOCATION CHANGE – This performance will now be held in Jansen Music Hall at 7 p.m. Tuesday November 7.


As part of its Edward J. and Cathy Gallagher Arts at Clarke Series, Clarke University is thrilled to host a performance of “Squatters on Red Earth” on Tuesday, November 7. The production will begin at 7 p.m. in Terence Donaghoe Hall and is free and open to the public. 

Squatters on Red Earth” is a play written by Mary Swander under the guidance of members of the Meskwaki Settlement, and supported by grants from Anon Was a Woman Environmental Art Award (The New York Foundation for the Arts) and The State Historical Society of Iowa, Inc. The drama explores the issue of the white settler land grab from the Native Americans. The core story revolves around a peaceful encounter between the Meskwakis and the Inspirationists near what is now the Amana Colonies,  all the while the colonialists were forcing the Natives from their land. 

“’Squatters on Red Earth’ will resonate with those who have desired a more comprehensive history of the United States,” said playwright Mary Swander. “It addresses serious questions like what civilizations, ecological and agricultural systems were in place before the white settlers arrived? And how do they compare to our present systems? How did two communal groups hidden in the middle of Iowa become an example of peace and cooperation for the rest of the country?” 

This drama is enacted through the use of a crankie, a medieval puppetry device, designed and built by Shelley Buffalo (Meskwaki Settlement in Iowa). Shadow puppets were made by Monica Leo of Eulenspiegel Puppets (West Liberty, Iowa). The music was composed and performed by Laura Hudson Kittrell (Coralville, Iowa), and costumes designed and made by Michele Payne Hinz (Cedar Rapids, Iowa). Brant Bollman from William Penn University (Oskaloosa, Iowa) directs. Rip Russell (Iowa City, Iowa) stars in this one-man show. The play is produced by Swander Woman Productions, a theatre company that creates and tours dramatic performances based on food, farming, and the wider rural environment.  

Following the performance, ecologist and author Connie Mutel will explore the play’s environmental themes with a discussion of how native ecosystems were impacted during the settlement of Iowa and continue to adapt today. 

About the Arts at Clarke Series 

The Arts at Clarke Series hosts musical programs, theater productions, gallery shows, and more throughout the year at Clarke University. The series is graciously endowed by Edward J. & Cathy Gallagher. See a full list of Arts at Clarke events at