Saturday, December 31, 2011

Goodbye to 2011, Part 1

by Matthew Falduto (and friends)

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.


Bonegrrl said...

And now, the envelope, please...

The winner in the Iowa Theatre 2011 year-end round-up? *drum roll*

EASTERN IOWA!!! SOOOO many amazing shows that have boundlessly enriched the year. We are so very fortunate to have such talent, verve and creativity in our midst! (Suck it, Stephen Bloom.)

Angie T said...

Great wrap-up, all! And I agree that the performances James selected were standouts. I love all of those people!!

Some of my favorites things this past year were the Tempest (Brucemore, directed by Leslie Charipar), the Syringa Tree (Working Group Theatre, directed by Sean Christopher Lewis), Sweeney Todd (Theatre Cedar Rapids, directed by Leslie Charipar) and Megan Gogerty's Feet First With a Baby in my Teeth at Riverside. I enjoyed the fun character work in Superior Donuts (TCR, Leslie again) and I was very excited about the opening of the CCPA with Hairspray, which was great fun. As always, there was a lot of other wonderful stuff I am kicking myself for not seeing.

Another addition: Matthew James and "The Summerland Project." Matthew makes you care. Simple as that. He's one of the smartest, most committed, humble and sensitive actors I know. Rob Merrit's "The Summerland Project" was a great triumph in area theatre this year and the staging/production was done with incredible care and detail. Matthew, along with many other talented castmates - including the delightful Katy Slaven (also lovely as Miranda in the Tempest) - gave Rob's ambitious piece of new writing even greater immediacy and poetry. This isn't the last we've heard of this play.

Continued below...

Angie T said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Angie T said...

While I'm on the subject of performances, I am going to get terribly biased (like I wasn't already, right?) and take a moment to celebrate the fine actors I was privileged to direct this year. Getting to work with really good actors always makes a director's job easier and more gratifying. (That is to say, "they made me look good!")

Horatio's Purgatory, by Rachel Korach Howell - representing Theatre Cedar Rapids at AACTFest. Matthew James and Kehry Anson Lane broke hearts in Iowa and on the road, where they outshone the competition. These are two of the most generous and committed actors I have worked with. They brought great passion and precision to this piece and left audiences "wowed."

Henry V - For Dreamwell. I loved getting to work with vets like Mark McCusker, Ottavia DeLuca and Rip Russell and others, alongside young people like Madeline Quint, Logan Natvig and Jacob Hulmne (Rip's nephew!). And I delighted in flashes of bizarre creativity from performers like K. Lindsay Eaves, James Trainor and Steve Polchert, among many others. Truly an ensemble piece, with so many creative and exciting contributions - and incredible patience and dedication - from every single person. But, it goes without saying, the play was anchored and carried by an outstanding performance from K. Michael Moore. Kevin played all the key notes with fire and sensitivity, showing us a relatable, complex Hal. The rousing heroism, the charisma, the heart, the balance of primal impulses and reasoned arguments, the moments of confusion and weakness - all were there. This is one of the great roles, and he exceeded my expectations. (Which were high, having just seen his magnetic work as Colin Powell in Stuff Happens.)

Rabbit Hole - for Urban Theatre Project. Leslie Charipar and Jason Alberty gave shattering and honest performances. I was privileged to collaborate with and observe these masterful artists in process. And the very seasoned and talented Cherryl Moon Thomason and Sarah Jarmon turned in hilarious and heartbreaking performances, rounding out what was a little dream team - in a fancy mansion, no less.

Closer - for Fourth Room Theatre. Just snuck this one in at the end of the year and I was incredibly proud to be associated with this crew of actors. Ottavia DeLuca is one of the most real and engaging actresses in the area, and this role allowed her to explore new dimensions. Rachel Howell made her debut back on the acting scene with beauty, grace, honesty and charm. And I've already lauded Matthew James and K. Michael Moore, who, with Closer, closed out the year with courageous and detailed performances in very challenging roles. Yet another dream team.

Look at all of these great artists in our area. We are thriving. (And, yeah, what Bonegrrl said about Steve Bloom's article.)

Angie T said...

Forgot to include Nick Ostrem in the RH team. Wonderful young actor!

Angie T said...

Ah, correction! While Syringa Tree involved Working Group talent, it was a Riverside production! Sorry, all!