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�Peace through Corn� brings Garst-Khrushchev dialogue alive

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From news reports

Date Modified: 02/18/2011 3:52 PM

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GUTTENBERG, Iowa —An original two-man play based on the amazing historic relationship between Iowa farmer Roswell Garst and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, "Peace through Corn," will be offered over the coming weeks to audiences across Iowa.

Two performances will be in northeast Iowa.

"Peace through Corn" brings alive the personal friendship between an Iowa farmer and a powerful communist leader. The production is based in part onl historic dialogue as reflected in the two men's letters, memoirs, and speeches.

During a fearful time when the world was poised on the brink of nuclear disaster, Garst and Khrushchev forged a bond based on their mutual fascination with agricultural progress and their shared love of a good laugh and a ferocious debate.

Garst's personal outreach to political leaders across the Iron Curtain also represented one of the first instances of private citizen diplomacy during the post-war era.

With support of the Humanities Iowa and the National Endowment for the Humanities, as well as the Iowa Community Cultural Grant Program of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, eight performances of Peace through Corn are being hosted by cultural organizations throughout the state.

Guttenberg Development and Tourism will present the play in a dinner theater format at 5 p.m. Feb. 20 at the Municipal Auditorium in Guttenberg. Dinner will be provided by Clayton Ridge Catering. Meal tickets are $12. For more information see http://www.guttenbergiowa.net/.

Main Street West Union will present the play at 7 p.m. Feb. 21 at the North Fayette Fine Arts Auditorium at 600 North Pine St. in West Union. For More information see http://www.westunion.com.

The play was written by Iowa playwright Cynthia Mercati and produced by Robert John Ford.

The part of Khrushchev is played by John Earl Robinson. Garst is played by Michael Cornelison. Each performance will be introduced with an original song produced by Coon Rapids' song writer Chad Elliot, and followed by a discussion session led by Liz or Rachel Garst, Roswell's granddaughters.

"I think the play has a lot of relevance to modern times," said Rachel Garst, Roswell's granddaughter. "It shows a citizen diplomat reaching out using agriculture as common ground with people with different political views. They used dialogue and person-to-person contact to draw them together. My grandfather was very concerned about world hunger and also the possibility of nuclear war. He tried to share agricultural technology with his most feared enemy. He did that as private citizen as his contribution to peace."

Rachel Garst said that using agriculture to relate to people and finding common humanity with people seen as the enemy are as applicable today as they were when her grandfather invited the Soviet leader to his farm.

There has been a lot of interest in the play by the Russian news media, Garst said. A Russian television news crew will attend the play when it is performed in Coon Rapids on Feb. 27.

Creating Great Places, a non-profit based in Coon Rapids, Iowa, supports rural vitality through initiatives in the areas of environmental protection, rural arts, historic preservation, recreation, and diversity. See www.creatinggreatplaces.org for additional information on "Peace through Corn," as well as numerous photos, film, historical documents, and citizen memories related to "Khrushchev in Iowa."