I think this is my favorite part of this blog - the year in review. I get to reflect and recall the amazing theater we've experienced over the past twelve months. And I absolutely love hearing the thoughts of my friends and colleagues. Some of those thoughts are below. Thank you, Chris, Mike, Rob, Brian, and Kevin, for sharing your thoughts. Later on today, I'll post my final wrap up article.
Mike Moran, Goatsinger
The development of [Megan] Gogerty's piece (Feet First in the Water with a Baby in my Teeth) was a delight for me to watch. Her initial monologue performed at Riverside's Walking the Wire last Spring was fun, but the entire show in the Fall -- from the drive with future-husband out to Carhenge to the embarrassment of squatting beside the Depends at HyVee -- was funny, head-shaking, and inspired. She's a gem.
Another, I have to say -- and this is personal -- was the image of Brad Quinn playing Eros being chased by Elizabeth Breed playing Psyche over the ridge of a field in Dreamwell's outdoor production of Soldier's Daughter. Fun fun funny.
And finally, Kelly Garrett as Mary Warren, in the rather uneven Dreamwell production of The Crucible, was brilliant, bringing power and pathos to her performance that was, in the end, absolutely chilling.
Rob Merritt, Communications Director, Theatre Cedar Rapids
Henry V, Dreamwell – it was stunning that director Angie Toomsen could take a play of such sprawling size and depth and make it work in a small space like Dreamwell’s. Aside from the compelling performances – and there were many – the clever production choices often gave the Shakespearean classic all-new dimension. A PowerPoint presentation that explained exactly why Harry should attack France was both a modern touch, and a clever way to get the audience to understand what’s going to happen next. And the choice to stage the play in the round was inspired. Definitely one of my favorite shows this past season.
Rabbit Hole, Urban Theater Project – Brilliant and honest portrayal of a tragedy that happens far too often: The loss of a child. Staged in the living room of a house in Cedar Rapids – and with the audience seated just a few feet from the actors – the setting couldn’t have been any more real. And that reality was complemented by spot-on performances by the ensemble, particularly Leslie Charipar and Jason Alberty as grieving parents who are trying to move on with their lives. Once word got around, the show sold out quickly. It isn’t hard to see why.
TCR Underground New Play Festival, Theatre Cedar Rapids – In the interest of full disclosure, I was a playwright in TCR’s Festival. However, my own play aside, one of the things that excited me the most was seeing the overall reaction to a festival of this nature across the board – from actors, writers and directors all the way to audience members. From the huge amount of submissions, to the large turnout of auditioners, to the popular audience response, it seemed clear that this was an event the Corridor was hungry for. It was incredibly encouraging for the future. And that, for me, was what made this one of the most exciting and memorable theatre experiences I had all year.
Kevin Moore, President, Dreamwell Theatre
I thought this was a fantastic year for local theatre! City Circle's Hairspray leaps to mind - the energy, enthusiasm, and excitement of that production carried through to the audience in ways very rare in community theatre. Dreamwell's Henry V brought the power of Shakespeare back to the Iowa City downtown arena. Of course, the opening of the CCPA in Coralville is a landmark of local performance of all sorts.
Brian Tanner, playwright, actor, director
I think one of the great things about this year were all of the original works that were presented. We had the City Circle "New Play Fest 5", Riverside's "Walking the Wire", Dreamwell and City Circle's "All in a Day Play Festival 4", Dreamwell's Soldier's Daughter, and TCR's "Underground Festival". We have so much talent right here in the area and it's great that theatres across the area will take the chance to feature it. I was honored and privileged to have my own work included in many of these events.
I thought TCR's Sweeney Todd and Crimes of the Heart were an amazing example of how large Broadway style theatre and intimate, heartfelt drama can be done right here at home. At the same time, Dreamwell, can make use of a smaller venue to bring to us the larger than life stories of Stuff Happens and Henry V. The logistics of the space are unable to hold back live theatre's ability to take us out of a church basement and into the inner circle of the Oval Office and the halls of Agincourt.
One other standout for me was ICCT's The Drowsy Chaperone. So well done, perfectly cast, hilarious, and the dance routines were wild!
Chris Okiishi, Past President, City Circle
Cripple of Inishmaan--if for nothing more than Kristy Hartsgrove's revelatory performance, a master class in how to be a team player and still steal every scene.
Feet First in the Water with a Baby in My Teeth--the titular story sticks with me, the jokes still make me smile, and the veritable Megan Gogerty-ness of it all makes it specific in the way that makes it universal.
Soldier's Daughter--which I didn't see--but admire everything about it. Biggest loss of the year for me not seeing this.
Ah! Wilderness--shame, shame on the small, narrow-minded segment of the community that got up in arms when Riverside dared to program a summer show not written by the Bard. (Taking a small google-look-around proves that most Shakespeare festivals go waaaaay further afield--they do frigging Oklahoma or even Music Man, for heck's sake!) The purists missed out on a truly wondrous production with Jim Van Valen breaking hearts and the single most thrilling theater moment of the year: Ron Clark and Jody Hovland standing on stage, in character but not acting, reflecting on a life of love and devotion. Two Gents wasn't bad either (especially the bit with the sadly now-deceased dog), but Ah! Wilderness was pure and golden.
Hairspray--yes, I'm biased. Truth be told, I'm biased about every show above, written, directed, performed by friends. But I'm really proud of Hairspray--a show that we were told couldn't be cast, would never be ready, would not find an audience and would not be able open on time. Phooey. A dream team of collaborators found an ideal cast at the perfect time and through careful, constant work, willed it to life.
So, there you go. I'm also grateful to have worked on the Riverside Shakespeare Cabaret, West Side Story, Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Rocky Horror Show, Christmas Carol and our Holiday Cabaret, each of which had some "best of" moments: John Watkins singing Mumford and Son's "Sigh No More" with Tara Dutcher on Violin and Carrie Houchins-Witt and Patrick DuLaney on back ups, Ryan Shellady and Victoria Vaughn's Broadway Carols, Rod McCrea's entrance in "There's a Light (Over at the Frankenstein Place)", the Dance at the Gym, Josh Sazon as a very unique, almost-Buddhist Ghost of Christmas Past.
I also was very fond of Creamery's Art and TCR's Horatio's Purgatory.
It was a remarkably varied year, especially given our "culturally-challenged"* status.
*And let's hope that's the last Stephen Bloom reference ever.