IOWA CITY — “Hancher is for everybody,” Executive Director Chuck Swanson told more than 1,000 eager audience members attending the ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday afternoonfor the shining new star on the University of Iowa arts campus.
And the festivities included a little something for everybody, beginning with jugglers and stylish performers strolling on stilts or posing in avant-garde garb — all in dazzling white. These members of the exotic Quixotic Cirque Nouveau from Kansas City created a chic carnival atmosphere beckoning the public into the $176 million building up the hill from where the original 1972 Hancher sat before floodwaters destroyed it in 2008.
“We’re absolutely thrilled. This is our first time here, my husband and I,” said Barbara Kutzko, who has lived in Iowa City since 1987 and attended shows in the former facility. “We just think it’s a gorgeous building. We’re looking forward to many performances this upcoming year. It looks great.”
That sentiment echoed through the oohs and aahs as throngs wandered the halls, sat at window-side tables, stopped to hear the barbershop harmonies of the Old Capitol Chorus, posed for photos on the stage, browsed the gift shop and explored the building’s nooks and crannies.
The 90-minute formal ceremony inside the auditorium showcased speeches from dignitaries, including Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, UI President Bruce Harreld and Beth Freeman, regional director for the Federal Emergency Management Agency — which played a major role in flood recovery on the campus and beyond — as well as Swanson and key Hancher partners and supporters.
But for all the warmth and well-wishes, nothing spoke more eloquently than when Iowa City natives Rinde Eckert and pianist Conor Hanick finished their solo sets and joined forces on “The Impossible Dream.” A quest eight years in the making has finally come to fruition, and at the end of their performance, the audience rose for the second standing ovation of the day