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Release: Nov. 1, 2002

(NOTE TO EDITORS: You can reach James Hatch and Camille Billops at 319-688-9836, and Suzanne Noguere at 319-358-0257. Director Tisch Jones can be reached at


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The University Theatres Mainstage will present the world premiere of the musical fantasy “Klub Ka, the Blues Legend,” this season’s Partnership in the Arts Project in the University of Iowa Department of Theatre Arts, Nov. 14-24 in the David Thayer Theatre of the UI Theatre Building. Performances will be at 8 p.m. Nov. 14-16 and 20-23, and at 3 p.m. Sundays, Nov. 17 and 24.

Following the Nov. 17 matinee performance of “Klub Ka,” the audience is invited to stay for a discussion of the play.

Partnership in the Arts brings prominent theater professionals to the UI to create new stage works in collaboration with UI faculty, staff and students. This year’s team is led by UI alumnus James V. Hatch -- also an alumnus of the University of Northern Iowa -- an emeritus professor at City University in New York and one of the most prominent scholars of African-American theater.

The team of collaborators includes his wife, visual artist/film-maker Camille Billops; poet Suzanne Noguere; musical director and composer Christa Victoria, who is Billops’ daughter; director Tisch Jones of the UI theatre arts faculty; and local blues artist Kevin B.F. Burt, who is both composing blues music for the production and appearing in one of the starring roles.

Billops and Hatch direct the Hatch-Billops Collection in New York, an important archive of recordings and documents of historical African-American culture.

The production will be video-documented by their son Dion Hatch, supervisor for Digiscope in Hollywood, who has been instrumental in the film magic of “Star War” and numerous other films.

He will present a lecture for the department of film and communication studies at 3:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 11, in Room 216 of the UI Becker Communications Studies Building

Hatch describes “Klub Ka” as “the story of a sexually abused teen age girl who flees her father and undertakes a fantasy journey to become a blues poet, in order to recapture her own personality sufficiently to be able to sing her story.”

A fantasy for adults that falls somewhere between “The Wizard of Oz” and mythical journeys to the underworld, the production follows the girl’s odyssey into the Egyptian underworld in search of her muse. There she discovers Klub Ka, the home of all blues poets from Homer to the present. (“Ka” means soul in Egyptian.) As she converses with poets from Keats to Papa Gee, she discovers how to confront the pain of her childhood and express her joy in the powerful poetry and music of the blues.

“‘Klub Ka, the Blues Legend’ may be the first theater play to present child sexual abuse as a musical fantasy,” Hatch said. “The work is breaking new ground. Sexual abuse, as we all know, is a palpable source of the blues. People who have been abused are victims of something that invades and takes over the subconscious. Victims have a hard time defining themselves are often self-destructive. We felt it was important to put this story on stage, and also felt it was best treated in a fairy-tale format.”

Hatch is delighted to be breaking this new ground as his alma mater. “To be invited to return to the Department of Theatre Arts at Iowa as a Partnership in the Arts member is the fulfillment of a dream, because it was here I was given the foundation for a career in theater.,” he said.

“Tisch Jones is the most imaginative, creative director I have ever worked with. She is a fine musician and perfect for directing the fantasy of ‘Klub Ka, the Blues Legend’.”

His writing collaborator, Suzanne Noguere, is the author of the poetry collection “Whirling Around the Sun,” and she was recently honored as Poet of the Month on the PoetryNet website. She has also written two children’s books. She will give a reading of her poetry at 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16, in the UI Museum of Art.

“Becoming who you think you can be is a major theme of the story,” Noguere explained. “Becoming is inseparable from overcoming things that hold you back or hurt you. Seeing ‘Klub Ka’ come to life at the University of Iowa is certainly one of the most remarkable experiences of my life. So many deeply talented people have dedicated themselves to it.”

The musical is based on the book “The Stone House: A Blues Legend,” written by Hatch and Noguere, and illustrated by Billops. The story begins with a location from Hatch’s childhood -- the stone house that his father built in Oelwein, Ia., and which still stands on City Park Road.

Christa Victoria is a vocalist, songwriter and pianist who has performed in the United States, Europe and Asia, and starred in an M.C. Hammer music video. She has appeared in a number of films, including co-starring with Danny Glover, and being the star and subject of Camille Billops’ film, “Finding Christa,” which won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.

She says her role is to “allow the music to come forth”: “This particular story is one of navigating through a world of pain, and arriving at the other side to a place of healing. I believe pain ultimately serves as a blessing, a gift to help form one’s life.”

Kevin Burt leads B.F. Burt and the Blues Instigators, an Iowa-based band that is in demand throughout the region and is a regular at clubs and festivals on the Midwest blues circuit.

Other artistic contributions to “Klub Ka, the Blues Legend” include sets by emeritus faculty member David Thayer and costumes by Jenny Nutting, inspired by Billops’ drawings.

Tickets for “Klub Ka” are $16 ($8 for UI students, senior citizens and youth), and are available in advance from the Hancher Auditorium box office. Any remaining tickets for each performance will be available at the Theatre Building box office one hour before curtain time.

Hancher Auditorium box office business hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays. From the local calling area, dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to (319) 353-2284. People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial (319) 335-1158, which is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

Tickets may be ordered on-line 24 hours a day, seven days a week through Hancher’s website:< >.

Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction. Information and brochures may be requested by e-mail: <>.

Tickets may also be purchased at a substantial discount as part of University Theatres three-play season package. A brochure detailing the entire University Theatres Mainstage season is now available from the Division of Performing Arts marketing office, 319-335-3213 or < >.

For UI arts information, visit on the World Wide Web. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, contact <>.