A two-man play is about to go on the road in Iowa depicting the historic meeting here five decades ago between an Iowa farmer and an imposing Russian leader. Coon Rapids farmer and seed corn executive Roswell Garst and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev developed an unlikely friendship after their face-to-face in 1959.
Their meeting is documented in the play “Peace Through Corn,” which producer Robert Ford says carries a message for today’s audiences. Ford says, “It says something, especially at this time, about just the idea of two people sitting down and hashing out their differences over a conversation that is not hostile or name-calling or anything like that.” Ford says it was a highly unusual alliance that formed between the brash Iowa farmer and the powerful Communist dictator.
“These two men had very different opinions but they were able to become friends and recognize the strengths and the weaknesses in one another and in themselves,” Ford says. “It really says a lot about how the world today needs to address certain problems and differences.”
The play is set in the depths of the Cold War, a fearful time when America and the Soviet Union were poised at the brink of mutual nuclear destruction. Still, Garst and Khrushchev forged a unique bond based on their mutual fascination with agricultural innovation and a shared love of a good laugh and ferocious debate. Ford says the play was commissioned in 2009 by the Coon Rapids-based non-profit group, Creating Great Places.
“The playwright, Cynthia Mercati, did a lot of research as far as looking at various memoirs and books and letters that were sent back and forth between the two men,” Ford says. “She based quite a bit of the dialogue and the stories on those actual, factual, historical documents.” Chad Elliott, a singer/songwriter from Coon Rapids, created the song, also called “Peace Through Corn,” that will open each performance of the play.
The play is scheduled to go on-stage in eight Iowa cities over the coming weeks, starting with Ottumwa on January 26th. Other shows are planned for: January 27th in Waukee, February 20th in Guttenberg, February 21st in West Union, February 24th in Indianola, February 27th in Coon Rapids, February 27th in Perry, and February 28th in Council Bluffs.
For more information, visit the website: www.creatinggreatplaces.org.