Allen Hall to present play this weekend

URBANA — "Vang: A Drama about Recent Immigrant Farmers" will be presented at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Main Lounge of Allen Hall, 1005 W. Gregory Drive.

The play by Mary Swander and Dennis Chamberlin is about several recent immigrants who came to the United States to farm:

— A Hmong family who fled communist bullets as well as wild tigers through the jungle of Laos and across the Mekong River to the refugee camp in Thailand.

— A Sudanese man who was thrown into prison in Ethiopia for helping the Lost Boys and was left gasping for air through a crack under the door.

— A Mexican woman who taught herself English by looking up the meaning of the profane words that were hurled at her at her first job in a meat packing plant.

— A Dutch boy, dressed as a cowboy, who put the flag of the Netherlands through the paper shredder and declared, "I am an American."

Swander, poet laureate of Iowa, and Chamberlin, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer, collaborated with Matt Foss to create "Vang," which means garden or farm in Hmong.

Swander and Chamberlin documented the immigrant farmers in Iowa, with Swander using their words to create a play that captures the immigrants' journeys to the United States.

Chamberlin took photographs of the immigrants in their greenhouses, farms and dairy barns. Foss added his theatrical skills to the production.

And Michael Ching, past executive director of the Memphis Opera, composed music to underscore the play's message.

The Hmong, Mexican, Sudanese and Dutch immigrants all speak of their struggles and survival skills — and their intense desire to return to the land.

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