Unraveling & Mending: Art as Political Witness—An Obermann Conversation

Tuesday, February 6, 2018 - 4:00pm to 5:00pm
Iowa City Public Library
123 S. Linn St.
Iowa City, IA 52240

Amir ElSaffar (jazz musician and Hancher guest artist) and Lisa Schlesinger (UI Theatre Department, CLAS) will share their journeys as artist-activists whose work interprets strife and crisis for audiences that may feel removed from such global events. What tools do artists have to elucidate violence and injustice that might feel distant or even unimportant to some audiences? What can musicians, theater makers, and other artists add to conversations that might otherwise be relegated to politicians?

Free and open to the public.

Amir ElSaffar playing the trumpet
Born near Chicago to an Iraqi immigrant father and an American mother, Amir ElSaffar was a teenager when found his calling with the trumpet. After playing with symphonies and jazz ensembles, he traveled to Iraq in 2001 to learn all he could from surviving Iraqi Maqam musicians, pursuing them through the Middle East and Europe. He currently leads four critically acclaimed ensembles, including Two Rivers, which combines the musical languages and instrumentation of Iraqi Maqam and contemporary jazz. Their recent work “is [a] reflection on a region in turmoil and strife: revolution, civil war, sectarian violence; a culture’s struggle for survival.”

Headshot of Lisa Schlesinger
Lisa Schlesinger teaches in the University of Iowa’s Department of Theatre Arts. She is a playwright, essayist, and theater activist. Originally from New York City, Lisa has lived in Greece, Ireland, and Holland; much of her work has had an international flavor, as well as an activist approach. She has created a play about a chemical spill in West Virginia and conceived a performance parade in the city center of Ramallah on the occupied West Bank. Currently, she is working with three collaborators on The Iphigenia Project, a film opera that uses a mythological character to probe and expand our understanding of the current global refugee crisis.


Cosponsored by the Iowa City Public Library and Hancher Auditorium.

Listen to the full conversation here: