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Witching Hour hosting virtual fest featuring Danez Smith, Stacey Walker, Black Belt Eagle Scout and more



Writer Danez Smith will present for Witching Hour’s virtual 2020 fest. — courtesy of the Englert Theatre

The arrival of COVID-19 in Iowa on March 8 spelled disaster for the 2020 Mission Creek Festival, which was set to take place in downtown Iowa City April 1-4. But the Englert Theatre had time to adapt their other annual festival, Witching Hour, for a pandemic world.

The 2020 Witching Hour Festival, presented by the Englert and Little Village, will take place Oct. 30 and 31, featuring completely virtual programming, including presentations from a diverse set of creators, innovators and thinkers.

“If there is a festival that’s built to pivot in a tumultuous year, it’s Witching Hour,” Andre Perry, Englert executive director and founder of the Witching Hour festival, said in a statement. “The platform is different but the creative expression, challenging questions, and celebration of the human spirit remain. Through these amazing artists and thinkers, we look forward to better understanding the time we are living in and what wondrous futures might lie ahead.”

The Witching Hour line-up was announced Friday afternoon and includes returning artists Beatrice Thomas (creator and star of Black Benatar’s Black Magic Cabaret, a social-justice drag queen on the leadership team for the national Drag Queen Story Hour program), Black Belt Eagle Scout (rising rock star Katherine Paul, who speaks to her experience as an indigenous queer feminist) and Tomeka Cage Conley (an Iowa Writers’ Workshop graduate working on her first novel, which centers on the untimely deaths of Black men in Louisiana over six decades).

Black Belt Eagle Scout — Jason Quigley

Danez Smith, a St. Paul, Minnesota-based Black and queer writer and performer, also tops the bill. University of Iowa alumnus, Meskwaki artist and owner of the Indigenous Peoples Art Gallery and Cafe Dawson Davenport is set to present, as is Linn County Supervisor and progressive political activist Stacey Walker.

ASJ co-founder Tamara Marcus and Linn County Supervisor Stacey Walker speak during the panel discussion organized by ASJ on July 18, 2020. — Izabela Zaluska/Little Village

Bringing a surrealist and experimental soundtrack to the festival, “Avant-psychedelia” ensemble Heavy Color will present their new, softer sound.

Witching Hour organizers are forgoing sales of festival passes this year, and are instead charging admission on a “pay as you can” basis.

“We believe that art should be accessible to all and appreciate whatever amount people are able to contribute,” a statement from the festival said.

More information on this year’s Witching Hour can be found at witchinghourfestival.com.


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