ISU Theatre presents “Perform the Protest”

CATEGORIES: News, Students

Collage with illustrated megaphone, raised fists, soapbox and protest signs

In a world where so much has happened in a short period of time, how do people give voice to issues they care about? ISU Theatre’s “Perform the Protest: A Theatre Action for Our Time” will explore how the universal language of art can help people better hear and understand one another. The production will perform daily Sept. 23-26 with a multi-dimensional series of live outdoor and virtual performances.

ISU Theatre’s ensemble will share protests created through an intensive workshopping process and performed through public speaking, acting, singing, performance and design.

“Perform the Protest” is facilitated by Tiffany Johnson, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAS) Dean’s Artist-in-Residence and artistic director of the Des Moines-based Pyramid Theatre Company, which is Iowa’s only Black theatre organization.

“Sometimes it becomes difficult to give voice to issues in real time and space because of the impact one faces in the sharing of that voice,” Johnson said. “We become paralyzed at times because we don’t know what to do, or we may feel that if we do utilize that voice then the penalty may be greater than the effect. This theatre action is designed to give life to a person’s voice and utilize art as the vehicle to deliver it. This is an opportunity to exemplify how art becomes a universal language, allowing us to better hear and understand each other.”

The cast began workshopping their protests via Zoom collaborations in early September, looking at topics ranging from voting rights to immigration. The protests will be performed as solos or physically distanced small groups. Part of their process and challenge, Johnson said, is figuring out how to convey human emotion in virtual space.

“One meaning of protest is that it’s a way for people to speak out about an established norm that has set itself in society,” said Scyler Torrey, performing arts senior. “I really like using my voice, performative experience and storytelling to uplift voices that either get drowned out or don’t have the support systematically to be heard.”

“Perform the Protest” is part of ISU Theatre’s 2020-21 “Season of Invitation,” a season uniquely designed to meet the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Though productions will not be performed live inside Fisher Theater, ISU Theatre sees opportunities for new innovation, imagination and invention.

“The pandemic presents a challenge for live theatre, and yet while Fisher Theater goes dark, the show goes on,” Brad Dell, director of ISU Theatre, said. “We are planning to light up new pathways for performance this fall. This is a time to imagine new ways of being – as artists, as audiences and as humanity.”

ISU Theatre is also emphasizing an anti-racism curriculum and production season this year.

“We are thrilled Tiffany Johnson is joining us for this exciting season and contributing to these critical and urgent conversations,” Dell said. “Our program is committed to fostering greater representation, equity and justice in our program at all levels. Tiffany is a dynamic and inspiring artist, educator and advocate who has dedicated her life to making central Iowa a more safe, just and welcoming place for all. We are excited for our students to be mentored by an award-winning artist who is deeply respected in the Iowa arts community.”

Along with “Perform the Protest,” Johnson will be leading a multi-disciplinary lecture series throughout the Iowa State academic year, focusing on the history of Black theatre in the U.S. and her experiences as a Black leader in Iowa.

Participant and performance details

“Perform the Protest” performances are Wednesday, Sept. 23 and Friday, Sept. 25 at 6:30 p.m. on the south lawn of the Campanile, Thursday, Sept. 24 at 6:30 p.m. outside Fisher Theater and Saturday, Sept. 26 at 4:30 p.m. outside Fisher Theater.

Each performance will run approximately 30-40 minutes. Attendees should practice the Cyclones Care behaviors, including face coverings and physical distancing

The cast includes Heaven Booker, Marilyn Gonzalez, Sam Huhn, Matthew Millard, Alexis Murdock, Monica Toro and Scyler Torrey. The creative team includes facilitator Tiffany Johnson and stage manager Alex Brown.

“Perform the Protest: A Theatre Action for Our Time” will also be available Sept. 26-Oct. 2 via video on demand. All performances are “pay what you will” admission.

For more information, visit, email or call 515-294-2624. ISU Theatre is funded by ISU Student Government and supported by the Transforming Liberal Arts and Sciences Endowment.

About ISU Theatre

As a part of the Iowa State University Department of Music and Theatre,

ISU Theatre seeks to empower citizen artistry by engaging students and the community in transformative theatre and performing arts experiences which examine the human condition, encourage lifelong learning, teach artistic skills, prepare professionals, inspire empathy, explore creativity, build relationships, and embrace diversity. ISU Theatre administers a major and minor in performing arts and produces multiple theatre and performing arts productions throughout the year featuring performers, designers, and technicians from throughout the university.

The ISU Theatre CoLab Initiative seeks to foster collaboration and engagement between ISU Theatre and other groups both within ISU’s campus and throughout the broader community to create citizen artistry, inspire and be inspired by meaningful public discourse and expand opportunities for ISU students, faculty and staff.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to participate in ISU Theatre events. If you require a reasonable accommodation to do so, please contact ISU Theatre at least one week prior to the event at or 515.294.2624.

For more information, visit