Minority students shine in Iowa City High play

Guest director sought to bridge diversity gap on stage

Published: February 12 2014 | 7:00 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 3:31 am in

Portraying the tragic tale of ancient Greek sorceress Medea takes passion, and that’s something Iowa City High School senior Olabisi Kovabel has in droves.

Planning to double major in performing arts and visual arts in college, she’s getting her start as the lead character for a special production of “Medea,” based on the epic tale by Euripides that was first staged in 431 B.C.

“I liked having to put myself into Medea’s shoes and expressing her anger and sadness,” she said.

The production she’s starring in is not the classic play - it’s a unique version of the story adapted and written by the student cast members. No togas here - but there is dance, music by Beyonce and Rihanna and even some lines in Swahili.

The nine students in the play are all minorities; most were recruited to audition by their teachers.

City High guest director Patrick DuLaney said the idea for the production came about because there was a discrepancy between the school’s demographics and which students participated in drama.

“Iowa City has a large population of minority students, and they weren’t being represented onstage,” DuLaney said. “I didn’t see a Black or Latino voice here.”

The students said they feel they’ve gotten a chance to shine, without fear of judgement.

“It shows we have different talents that not a lot of people would see,” Kovabel said.

Sophomore Kaila Khanthaphengxay said she credits participating in “Medea” with her inclusion in the cast of the school’s upcoming production of “Oliver.”

“This show boosted my confidence,” she said. “It gave me a chance to be myself.”

Three Congolese students are part of the show - they brought the lines in Swahili to the performance. Freshman Chance Museme said performing is hard, but she thinks it is worth it.

“Onstage, I feel like I’m going to fall down. I’m so scared,” she said. “But I’m doing it to take out the shyness inside of me. It’s great. I love it.”


  • Where: Opstad Auditorium, Iowa City High School, 1900 Morningside Drive, Iowa City
  • When: 7:30 p.m., Feb. 14 and 15
  • There is no charge for admission, though free will donations are encouraged.

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