Practice Has Begun at Hancher, Too

Aug. 16, 2006

Jackson Doran admits to being a little intimidated, but adds quickly that “it’s the opportunity of a lifetime” particularly for someone who grew up a fan of the football program at the University of Iowa.

Doran will play Nile Kinnick in Iowa City’s Riverside Theatre’s production of “Kinnick,” a multi-media play commissioned by the UI Department of Intercollegiate Athletics as part of the celebration of the completion of the renovation of historic Kinnick Stadium.

“Kinnick” will be performed three times at the UI’s award-winning Hancher Auditorium during the first weekend of the college football season at the UI: Friday, Sept. 1, at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 2, at 5 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 3, at 2 p.m.

“This is a great honor, but, admittedly, it’s a little intimidating.”
Jackson Doran, the actor playing Nile Kinnick in the production, “Kinnick”

“Kinnick” imagines a live, old-time radio broadcast honoring Nile Kinnick just after his tragic death. The play juxtaposes scenes re-created from Kinnick’s own diaries and letters with extravagant commentaries from sportscasters and gossip columnists of the time interspersed with singled jingles and advertisement as well as images and popular music of the late 1930s and early 1940s.

“This is a great honor, but, admittedly, it’s a little intimidating,” Doran, a 10-year veteran of the Riverside Theatre stage who has come from Chicago to play the lead role, said about playing arguably the state of Iowa’s most revered citizen.

“It helps that I grew up a fan of the Hawkeyes and graduated from the University. I know the mystique, but I have to admit, I didn’t fully understand the depth of the man until I dug into the research. Nile Kinnick was much, much more than just an outstanding football player,” said Doran.

That’s one of the driving forces behind the play. Bruce Wheaton, the author of the script and the production’s direction, says it’s the depth of the man that makes Kinnick special.

“Nile Kinnick was very, very unique. He was a young man capable of commenting insightfully on a challenging time for our country and the world. His Heisman Trophy acceptance speech is just one piece of evidence of how thoughtful and articulate he was,” said Wheaton.

Wheaton said the audience will come away from the production with a sense of just how vibrant a time culturally the period of 1939-1943 was in the United States.

“We had great movies like `Gone With the Wind” and other classics, great music with Benny Goodman and others, and great theatre. The place was hoppin’. And, in Iowa, we had a great football team – the Ironmen – and the `Corn Belt Comet’…Kinnick, the nation’s very best student-athlete. The play brings all of it to life with video, audio and the acting on the stage,” he said.

The cast of “Kinnick” includes five graduates of the University of Iowa including Ron Clark and Jody Hovland of Riverside Theatre and Derek Degeyter, an alumnus of the Class of 2006 who plays Kinnick’s teammate, Erwin Prasse.

“Kinnick” will be performed three times at the UI’s award-winning Hancher Auditorium during the first weekend of the college football season at the UI: Friday, Sept. 1, at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 2, at 5 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 3, at 2 p.m.

“This is going to be really special. Like Jackson, as a graduate and fan, I’m thrilled to be a part of it,” said Degeyter.

Kate Berry of Chicago, Dennis Fox of New York City, and Jaclyn Johnson of Minneapolis will join Doran, Degeyter, Clark and Hovland on the stage. With the possible exception of Doran, Fox might be the busiest of the actors. At different points in the production Fox will become radio personalities Walter Winchell and George Burns, and characters Lipscomb, David, Johnny and Burt.

And, for those fans of the Hawkeyes and Kinnick who are curious, Doran’s performance of the namesake of Kinnick Stadium does include a re-creation of the speech Kinnick delivered at the Downtown Athletic Club in New York City the night he received the Heisman Trophy as college football’s most outstanding player in 1939.

Kinnick: The Play at Hancher
Tickets: Adults $30, students $10 and available at the Hancher Auditorium box office or over the phone at (319) 335-1160 or 1-800-HANCHER. Tickets can also be purchased online by clicking HERE.

Click HERE to read a more about Kinnick: The Play at Hancher written by Hieu Pham that appeared in Aug. 16 editions of the Iowa City Press-Citizen.

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