Cedar Rapids – As a playwright in Iowa, it’s hard to get a play produced. Theatre Cedar Rapids is looking to make it a little easier.
Beginning this week, TCR will kick off the TCR Underground New Play Festival, performing Nov. 3-13 in TCR’s new Grandon Studio. The two-week festival will showcase 11 original shows, all by Iowa playwrights. The plays range in length from 10 minutes to full-length productions, as well as a full day of staged readings.
“I’m really excited about it,” said TCR Artistic Director Leslie Charipar of Cedar Rapids. “I love the idea that there are playwrights right here in the area or with connections to the area, that could be the next big thing in playwriting, and TCR would have been one of the first to give their script a chance. I’m also excited about giving local playwrights an opportunity to workshop their scripts and see them on their feet and spoken by actors. It’s hard to get a script from on paper to on its feet.”
The 11 scripts chosen for the Festival were narrowed down from more than 30 submissions. There was also a large turnout of actors at auditions, with more than 50 performers vying for a chance to be involved. Those two factors showed that the demand for a New Play Festival is high indeed, Charipar said.
“I had no idea there were so many playwrights in this area, and I was encouraged to know that,” she said. “And it excites me to know that there are actors in the area who are adventurous enough to want to be a part of a new script. It’s a different experience to work on a script that’s original because as an actor, you're part of the actual shaping and developing of that script.”
Shows to be featured in the Festival include a comedy based on the Greek myth of the Underworld; political satire; a romantic comedy that explores the laws of time and space; a play exploring the ethics of prolonging life artificially; and even a comedy about what happens when a thief shoves a sandwich down his pants.
“I think audiences should walk in expecting anything,” Charipar says. “Some of the material is dark, some of it is light, some is dense and requires some work on the part of the audience, some is easy and can wash right over you.
“Attending a Festival like this is really more about being a part of the process,” Charipar added. “Writing a play is really, really hard, and I think the fun of something like this is supporting someone who had the courage to give their scripts over to a group of strangers – and then getting to see that script being born.”
The Festival opens with The Ethical Dilemma of a Sandwich Down The Pants and Truth Or Consequences at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, November 3 and 4. Saturday, November 5 features a full day of staged readings, including These Days, Failing Evolution and The Almighty Dollar.
The one-act plays Nirvana and Broken Branches will be performed back-to-back on both Sunday, November 6 and Thursday, November 10. The End of the Affair will be performed alongside the full-length play The Summerland Project November 11 and 12. The Festival then concludes with Symmetry and the full-length Escape From The Underworld November 12 and 13.
For tickets, schedules and cast lists, visit TCR's website. Tickets are $15 and $12.50 ($10 for students) and are available at the box office, by calling (319) 366-8591 or by purchasing online. Be aware that seating is limited, and that advance tickets are strongly encouraged.
Shows in the Festival include:
The Almighty Dollar by David Patterson (full-length staged reading)
A dark comedy about the crash of the American dollar. Two roommates decide to become opportunists during the crisis and learn much about themselves and the American way of life.
Failing Evolution by Sarah M. Jarmon (full-length staged reading)
Rich, pretty Fiona is a little afraid of Shaun, the hard-edged teenager she was hired to tutor. But the girls soon find they have more in common than they could have imagined. And Shaun needs help with a lot more than her homework.
These Days by Erica Jo Hoye (full-length staged reading)
Kelly is the student and Nathan is the professor. These Days looks at how that difference in power and age can affect a relationship and those in and around it.
The Ethical Dilemma of a Sandwich Down the Pants by Kelly Shriver Kolln (10 minute play)
At a convenience store, an exhausted Teaching Assistant witnesses a man attempting to steal a sandwich by hiding it in his shorts. The cashier recovers it, then throws it back into the cooler. An ethical dilemma ensues.
Symetry by Mike Wilhelm (10-minute play)
In seventeen short scenes, a mother’s role evolves from caretaker, to independent adult, to helplessness, to death. This mirrors her son’s evolution from unborn, to helplessness, to independent adult, to caretaker.
Broken Branches by Brian Tanner (one-act play)
A romantic comedy – with a splash of science fiction – that explores a larger question. Are we free to make the choices that we make, or are other forces pulling the strings?
The End of the Affair by James Grob (one-act play)
Shelly believes that Hank wants to have an affair with her. When the two co-workers find themselves alone on a business trip, a spirited discussion about forbidden inter-office romance follows.
Nirvana by Lin Kemp (one-act play)
In a deceitful move to quiet a man who’s uncovered their secrets, the government offers him the Presidency itself – but is told that he must first pass “The Test.” Can he pass? And what will happen if he does?
Escape from the Underworld by Erica Jo Hoye (full-length play)
Jocelyn came to the Underworld eight years ago and hasn’t had it too bad – until her annoying younger sister arrives, a hippie befriends her, and she’s in trouble with the rulers of the Underworld.
The Summerland Project by Rob Merritt (full-length play)
Desperate to save his dying wife, Carter Summerland signs her over to a revolutionary procedure that replaces her entire body. But is the result really his wife? Or is she something else entirely?
Truth or Consequences by Ryan Rausch (full-length play)
On the eve of Charlotte’s marriage to her fourth husband, a storm confines this unconventional family for the night. The secrets exposed will force this New Mexican clan to question their morals, beliefs, and allegiances to each other.