by Mary Swander
A DVD of Map of My Kingdom is now available!
Physical DVD ($30 + $3 Shipping)
Digital Download ($15)
“These stories are moving and engaging and remind us that we all share responsibility for the health of the land while we are here. Easy to mount, accessible and timely, Swander’s play is a catalyst to help audience members address issues of land transfer productively. This is art serving its purpose in a meaningful way.”
— Susan Wolverton ,Professor of Theatre, Coe College
“It’s easier to talk to your children about sex than farmland transition.”
— An Iowa farmer
Who’s going to get the farm? And what are they going to do with it? Will your future plans for your land create harmony or strife for your family? Or have you even started to think that far ahead? Map of My Kingdom, a play commissioned by Practical Farmers of Iowa and written by Iowa’s Poet Laureate Mary Swander, tackles the critical issue of land transition. In the drama, Angela Martin, a lawyer and mediator in land transition disputes, shares stories of how farmers and landowners she has worked with over the years approached their land successions. “Some people literally killed each other over this issue,” Martin says. Others almost came to blows, struggling to resolve the sale or transfer of their land, dissolving relationships. Others found peacefully rational solutions that focused not only on the viability of the family, but also of the land.
Land is the thread that binds all of the stories together. “For most farmers I know, owning land means everything,” Angela Martin says. Map of My Kingdom will resonate with those who have been through or are working through challenging land transfer issues that include division of the land among siblings, to selling out to a neighbor, to attempts to preserve the land’s integrity against urban sprawl. The drama will inspire the hesitant and the fearful to start the conversation that cannot wait.
Today, a vast amount of land in the United States is owned by those over 65 years old. Some have made their wishes clear for the future of their property. Others are courting family upheaval by not planning in concrete ways. An age old problem, evident in literature from the Bible to King Lear to Willa Cather, land transition asks hard questions: Who really owns the land? And what is the role of the steward of a property? Can “fair” become “unfair” to one’s children?
Map of My Kingdom is directed by Matt Foss, Acting and Theatre history professor the University of Idaho, and performed by professional actor Madeleine Russell or Elizabeth Thommpson.
Performance Information and Needs:
The production will need at least a 10×12 space. There are no detailed technical needs–no power, no lights, no sound. This show is designed nimbly to be able to travel to small venues for families and farms. The show will need a general wash of light. The lighting doesn’t have to be fancy—we have worked with large lighting grids and in church basements with just a few wall switches. There are no lighting cues. We just need to be able to adjust lights at a minimum.
We’d like to be able to arrive and set up one hour before the audience begins to arrive. So if the show is at 7:30, we would like to arrive, unload and begin set up at 6:00pm. That gives us enough time to adapt our performance to your space and then have everything cleaned up and ready to go at curtain time.
Mary Swander is the Poet Laureate of the State of Iowa. She has published over thirteen books of poetry and non-fiction, in addition to plays, radio and television scripts and magazine articles. She has appeared in such places as The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, National Public Radio, and Poetry Magazine. Swander’s plays Driving the Body Back and Farmscape have toured the U.S. and 2013 Farmscape was performed for Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and his staff at the U.S.D.A.
Texts cited in Map of my Kingdom:
- The Bible
- The Quran
- Cather, Willa, My Antonia.
- Cather, Willa, O Pioneers.
- Shakespeare, William, King Lear.
- Smiley, Jane, A Thousand Acres.
Other Suggested Readings:
- Bair, Julene, The Ogallala Road.
- Iowa Mediation Service, 4015 Glass Road NE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52402, 319.398.4042, www.iowamediationservice.com; Michael Thompson is the director.
- ISU Extension has several specialists who offer mediation assistance; persons can approach their local office to ask for assistance finding a nearby mediator.
- The Iowa Concern Hotline can offer telephone counseling with troubling matters, for they have a cadre of students in the Drake University Ag Law program, along with John Baker, who can provide some assistance to callers; the hotline number is 1.800.447.1985.