Poet Dora Malech and pianist Conor Hanick
The Englert Theatre — Saturday, Oct 25, at 7 p.m.
Poet Dora Malech may have grown up in Maryland, but for her, flying back to Iowa City is like coming home.
Malech is a graduate of the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a founder and former executive director of the Iowa Youth Writing Project. She lived and worked in Iowa City for 11 years before moving back to her home state to become an assistant professor of poetry in The Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University.
Malech is making her first return trip to Iowa after being commissioned by the Englert Theatre to pen a series of poems centered on the theme of gratitude.
“To me, it’s just very gratifying that it feels that way from the other direction, too, that there are other people who recognize that this is where I’m from, that it’s home to me. That’s very moving to me,” Malech said.
Englert executive director Andre Perry asked Malech to write the poems as a part of the theatre’s 10-year celebration of its current incarnation. She will read her work as a part of a combined performance “On Gratitude: An Evening of Classical Music & Literature” with critically acclaimed pianist Conor Hanick.
“The notion of gratitude came from us putting our heads together thinking about what 10 years of the doors being re-opened at the Englert meant to us,” Perry said. “And I think a lot of it just came back to us being really thankful.”
For the Englert staff, that means being thankful not only for the community acknowledging that a reinvigorated theatre would contribute to downtown, but for also supporting the Englert by showing up for performances. It was, after all, a citizens group that convinced the city to purchase the Englert in 1999, and then spent five years raising the money to re-open the shuttered stage in 2004.
“Since then, I think the Englert has been learning the different ways in which it can support different interests within the community,” Perry said. “Generally speaking, a lot of it has been really celebrating local awesomeness. That has been that key of the programming”
In that vein, Perry and his staff wanted to celebrate artists who spent their formative years in Iowa City, and thrived after leaving. Hanick spent his childhood in Iowa City before going on to receive his doctorate at The Juilliard School.
Malech said, after taking part in so many Englert events in the last decade, she is looking forward to giving back to the community that gave so much to her.
“As we know, living in Iowa, what grows depends on the land, so there is a sense for me that I couldn’t have invested and seen the kind of returns that I did if there wasn’t already ground there and other people supportive of that kind of endeavor,” Malech said.
The Englert is celebrating its double-digit birthday with a series of events over the next four days.