Inside the Production

Here you will find articles, interviews, and information about the people and shows coming up in central Iowa.

  • The Manic Monologues

    B5effa33 248b 4646 a15a e9ceedcca601Open Door Rep returns with a topical pop-up show that’s being performed for only the second time ever. The Manic Monologues is a series of scenes (developed at Stanford University in California) about the pervasive and often misunderstood topic of mental illness, and how it affects both specific individuals and the people around them. Open Door Rep is proud to be only the second group in the country to present this brand new show. A large and diverse cast has been assembled to tell these stories, and to share with the audience the many variations in mental illness (often unseen) that exist.

    Mental illness (and those who suffer from the various ways it manifests itself) is often spoken about in whispers, with uncertainty and suspicion. After all, most of us would like to consider ourselves “normal” people, and since the symptoms can represent many other things, the actual process of identifying mental illness, let alone going through any process to deal with it, is fraught with uncertainty and stigma. That’s why The Manic Monologues was created.

     

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  • DM Playhouse 100th Birthday Bash

    0a4a687f 35b3 40c3 998f 9ce3164bb108It’s a party! (Actually, two of them!!) The Des Moines Playhouse is delighted to invite everyone to help celebrate their 100th Birthday Bash, with a two-evening event. Next Friday, November 8th, is The Ultimate Cast Party, while on Saturday the 9th will be their blowout Celebration of the Century. Executive Director of the Playhouse David Kilpatrick and his staff have been working towards these evenings for quite a while, to honor and to remember their past and look forward to their future.

     

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  • The Little Mermaid Jr.

    35626ba1 1377 45ae b7b4 7b963b405321Thirty years ago, there was a renaissance at the movies. The Walt Disney Corporation released its beloved musical The Little Mermaid, based on the classic Hans Christian Andersen tale. In addition to jump-starting the Disney animation division, The Little Mermaid brought a whole new generation to the wonder of a certain brand of family-friendly storytelling. The movie also spawned a Broadway adaptation, which has been revamped into a young-people’s version of the tune-filled stage spectacular. In honor of the movie anniversary, Class Act Productions in Altoona is staging The Little Mermaid Jr. starting next Friday, November 1.

     

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  • Wait Until Dark

    D3091b16 93be 4d11 9ff5 c3a8d04a8418Next week, Tallgrass Theatre Company opens their season with a classic drama of suspense. Wait Until Dark is the story of a woman under siege, with con men trying to steal a specific item from her either by deception or force. Not only is she outnumbered, she has a definite disadvantage in that she’s blind... but when no one can see, she’s ahead of the fight.

     

    Originally written over fifty years ago, Wait Until Dark Broadway lead actress Lee Remick was nominated for a Tony, and a movie adaptation was filmed almost immediately. It starred Audrey Hepburn, who was nominated for an Oscar for the role of Susy Hendrix, the blind woman at the center of the show. This time around local favorite Maggie Harris portrays Susy, working with the amazing artists who make up the cast and crew of Tallgrass Theatre Company.

     

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  • Freaky Friday

    F829b6dd 9b49 4c06 8163 808b17e549afThe grass is always greener… or is it? That’s what a mother and daughter learn in Disney’s Freaky Friday, the next production coming up at the Des Moines Playhouse starting (appropriately) next Friday, October 18. This magical musical about being forced to live someone else’s life is even switching places with its location, moving from the Kate Goldman Children’s Theatre to the Mainstage at the Playhouse (due to the upcoming Century Celebration utilizing the Goldman space).

     

    Mother Katherine and daughter Ellie are played by Chelsea Haaland and Anastasia Deace (at least, to start!) In Freaky Friday, the characters spend a crazy day and night when they magically exchange bodies and lives, with Mom now in Ellie’s body having to deal with high school problems and social terrors, and daughter now in grown-up Katherine’s body trying to work through everything from parenting to planning a wedding. Directed by Megan Helmers, Freaky Friday is a classic “switching places” show, with fun tunes and production numbers gleefully added to the mix.

     

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  • A Midnight Dreary

    44bcd761 043c 4651 833b 2afc47106095We’re getting closer to Halloween, so it’s time for a few more nightmares. Specifically, those of Edgar Allan Poe. His life and work is portrayed in A Midnight Dreary, opening Friday October 11 from DMACC Ankeny. It’s a special project for Program Chair Carl Lindberg, and a show with an interesting and personal history.

     

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  • A Night of Lovecraft

    8c5b3326 4401 4c09 a96e bf87c7dbfb15For those who have discovered them, the fear-filled works of author H.P. Lovecraft are in a class by themselves. Known as one of the masters of literary horror, his worlds are full of unearthly monsters and primal scares. A new group up in Ames is putting on A Night of Lovecraft, 4 unique one-act tales featuring mystery, thrills, and terror on stage.

     

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  • A Doll’s House Parts 1 and 2

    857a1d8f a3ac 454d a600 86a38a1cfd4dWe’ve got a nice long article this week, because Iowa Stage is about to do something very special. The seminal play A Doll’s House was written in 1879, and is one of the most celebrated plays ever created. The sequel, A Doll’s House Part 2, was penned in 2017, earning a Tony award and 8 nominations. Iowa Stage is presenting both plays, in repertory, beginning Friday September 27 at the Stoner Studio Theatre inside the Civic Center.

     

    Iowa Stage is only the second theatre ever to present these shows this way. And honestly, they were the first one to announce they were doing so. Denver’s Center for Performing Arts then scheduled their performances for two weeks earlier, stealing a bit of Des Moines’ thunder! But that doesn’t diminish the impact of these productions, both the original show and the groundbreaking sequel.

     
     

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  • Lost Girl

    E717c828 e1ec 45af ac60 f7defcd9b0ccDes Moines Young Artists’ Theatre presents Lost Girl, opening next Friday September 20 at the Franklin Jr. High building. Their first show of the season, Lost Girl is essentially a sequel to the classic Peter Pan story, set six years after Wendy returns to the nursery and her home. But the setting, and the story told, are very different from J.M. Barrie’s original tale. Written by Kimberly Belflower, this new work is all about moving on, growing up, and becoming more than just a part of someone else’s story.

    (And stick around until the end of this article, there’s a special surprise from DMYAT and the Guide!)

     

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  • Kitten Bomb: Off Script - Scenic Route

    Scenic Route posterI don’t typically cover improv shows here at the Gentle Guide, but because of the direct link to theatre I wanted to put up an article about Kitten Bomb. This improv group has been around for a few years, but more recently they’ve begun to experiment with a longer-form show. Essentially, they’re creating an entire two-act comedy in the moment, with light cues, music, and a continuing storyline with emotional climaxes. Their next show is Saturday September 14 at the Stoner Studio at the Civic Center, with the subtitle of Off Script—Scenic Route.

     

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  • A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder

    832a6784 3b41 4c0e a8b5 34645cdee912In the delightfully comic A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder (opening September 6 at the DM Playhouse), we meet Monty Navarro, played by Zachary Smith. Born into poverty, Monty discovers after his mother dies that he’s actually a member of royalty, albeit distantly. He’s the ninth in line for an Earldom and the wealth it would provide. If only he didn’t have to wait for eight other people to die before he could become rich....

    If only.

     

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  • Fall Dozen for 2019

    Yes, I know it’s a little early for my fall list of what’s coming up in DM area theatre. But looking at what my upcoming schedule is for writing articles and such, I want to get the information out there. Plus, there are a couple of things happening THIS COMING WEEKEND that I want to make certain people know about, so I’m going to start the list right off with those... so here’s some of the great stuff coming up in this fall!!!

     

    #12 - The LAST Broadway Karaoke

    Noce is ending their monthly regularly scheduled Late-Nite Broadway Karaoke evenings, so this Saturday August 24 is your LAST chance to come be a part of what has been my favorite night of every month. Bring music, or choose from the many songbooks on hand, and then let the amazing Francine Griffith play the piano while you belt out a showtune! No cover, cash bar, and some of the most fun you’ll have, whether you sing or not. PLUS, the Gentle Guide is sponsoring THE CAST PARTY, right before the Late-Nite Karaoke at The Walnut bar/restaurant just west of Noce. Cast Party at 8, Karaoke at 10:30, time to celebrate, reminisce, and just have fun.

     

    #11 - The CLORIS AWARDS

    And the next day, on Sunday August 25, is the annual CLORIS Awards ceremony at Hoyt Sherman Place. Social hour starts at 5:30 and the show begins at 6:30. Hosted by Tiffany Johnson and Katy Merriman, it’s a celebration of area theatre, with many awards and musical  performances. (And, just as aside, I’m proud and humbled to be receiving an award this year for the Gentle Guide. So happy to be a part of this, and of the wonderful theatre community here in Des Moines.)

     

    #10 - A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder

    Come September is the opener of the DM Playhouse season, a wickedly funny musical about murdering your way to the top. Winner of the Tony award for Best Musical a few years ago, this show has some great musical numbers, inventive performances, and a story to die for... literally. (It’s also one of the reasons this website is called “A Gentle Guide”, as the touring production of it was one of the shows that led me to developing the calendar!) And the cast for this production is amazing, I highly recommend this one!!

     

    #9 - Lost Girl

    One of the first productions of this script anywhere comes from DM Young Artists’ Theatre, this time at the auditorium at Franklin Jr. High. Lost Girl is the story of Wendy Darling after her adventures with Peter Pan, and her search to move on after the time spent in Neverland. This time, it’s her story, and an important one for children of all ages. Lost Girl opens September 20 and flies for two weekends.

     

    #8 - A Doll’s House 1 & 2

    Produced in repertory by Iowa Stage, A Doll’s House brings to life the original play by Henrik Ibsen, as well as the modern sequel by award-winning playwright Lucas Hnath. The story of Nora and her life changing decisions in the original play are then turned on their head in the sequel, making the two shows a beautiful and haunting counterpoint to one another. Performances are at the Stoner Theatre (Iowa Stage’s new home this season) starting September 27th.

     

    #7 - A Night of Lovecraft

    Journey up to Ames if you dare, for an evening of otherworldly horror. Vagrant Fear Productions presents four one-act plays from the master of unspeakable dread, author H.P Lovecraft. Shows are at the Reliable Street building in northeast Ames for two nights only, October 4 and 5.

     

    #6 - The Rocky Horror Show

    Kata Klysmic does it again! In what has become a Halloween tradition, The Rocky Horror Show comes back to the stage at The Garden, this time for THREE weekends of shows. Join Brad, Janet, Frank, and all the rest for a truly stimulating time over at the Frankenstein place. Warm up your dancing shoes, prepare your lines and your props, and come join in the fun. It’s just a jump to the left....

     

    #5 - Wait Until Dark

    The spooky mood continues, although this is more about suspense than scares. Tallgrass Theatre opens their season with this classic drama about a blind woman and her struggles to foil a robbery of her home. With a taut, atmospheric script and clever presentation, this is a great show that consistently surprises. Shows begin at the Rex Mathes Auditorium in West Des Moines on October 25.

     

    #4 - Souvenir 

    Noce remounts their successful production from two years ago, again with Gina Gedler and Max Wellman. Gedler recreates her role as the “tonally challenged” Florence Foster Jenkins and Wellman as her accompanist Cosme. Based on a true story, this production will likely sell out again, so get your tickets to one of the six performances ASAP. It begins Saturday October 12.

     

    #3 - ‘night Mother

    Ankeny Community Theatre presents this two-hander as part of their Studio Series. Running for only one weekend and beginning October 31, it portrays a complicated relationship between a mother who’s trying to connect with the daughter she’s never understood, and the daughter who is tired of fighting. It’s a heavy drama, but carries a powerful message.

     

    #2 - I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change

    This is one of my favorite musicals, and I’m so glad that ACTORS up in Ames put it on their schedule this season. A cast of four play multiple parts in this look at the many stages of love, from first meeting and dating pitfalls, through marriage, family life, and love in the more mature years. With book and music from Tony winner Joe DiPietro, everyone will recognize a part of their own life in this show. Performances start November 14.

     

    #1 - Pippin

    Drake University’s fall musical is Pippin. Ostensibly the story of King Charlemagne’s son, it’s really an allegory about searching for meaning in life, and all the many ways we try (and fail) to achieve it. The Stephen Schwartz score is as bright and wonderful as it was when the show premiered fifty years ago, and the message is just as timeless. Add in the youthful exuberance of the talented Drake theatre squad, and you’ve got Magic to Do!!

     

    Bonus - My own CLORIS additions:

    I know we’re going to celebrate the Cloris Awards this weekend, but I wanted to give nods to a few more people whose performances I personally really enjoyed this past season. You can find this year’s nominees at the CLORIS Awards site here. Unfortunately, only so many can get nominated, but that doesn’t mean I can’t recognize some of the others. And I’m not constrained by a certain number. So, in addition to the terrific performances of the nominees, here’s some more people that impressed me with their work in the last year:

    Shows:

    Closer, Open Door Rep

    Proof, Ankeny Community Theatre

    Too Heavy for Your Pocket, Pyramid Theatre

    The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Carousel Theatre of Indianola

     

    Individual Performers:

    Brett Spahr, The Foreigner, Tallgrass Theatre

    Riley Devick, Passing Notes, Ankeny Community Theatre

    Lauren Malcomson, Elf-the Musical, DM Playhouse

    Sydney Allen, Ordinary Days, Tallgrass Theatre

    Noah Hackbart, Dog Sees God, DM Young Artists’ Theatre

    Deb Hade, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Carousel Theatre of Indianola

    Connor Ripperger, Catch Me If You Can, DM Playhouse

    Jess Richter, Catch Me If You Can, DM Playhouse

    Alison Buechler, Kiss Me Kate, Ankeny Community Theatre

    Heidi Mason, Disgraced, Iowa Stage Theatre

    Shelby Jensen, Silent Sky, DM Playhouse

    John Audlehelm, The Diary of Anne Frank, Ankeny Community Theatre

    Heidi Bibler, Private Passage, Iowa Stage Theatre

     

    And a special shout-out to the wonderful Stage Managers we have working in our theatre community, especially Lauren Dursky and Korey Williams who run so many of the great shows in the area!!

     

    Lastly, I’d love to thank everyone in DM Theatre Community and their appreciation of all the work I do here on the Gentle Guide. As the recipient of a special CLORIS Award this year, I’m grateful to be a part of this wonderful group of people, and I can honestly say that the last three years I’ve been creating this website have been the absolute best of my life. I love and appreciate you all.

     

  • 13 - the Musical

    F321a44f b59b 436a 80df 19491db6662eI am constantly amazed at how well our next generation of young performers have learned and developed in the theatre world. Growing up is hard enough, and being a creative person isn’t always as rewarded as those who are good at sports or other endeavors. And yet, thanks to groups out there like Des Moines Young Artists’ Theatre, there is opportunity and a welcome home for many. DMYAT’s newest production of 13 - the Musical in the Stoner Studio Theatre opens this weekend, and shows off a new crop of great performers.

     

    787f2699 ea4c 47e2 bef7 324649f628bbThis isn’t the first time that DMYAT has done a production of 13 - the Musical. They first mounted the show in 2013, and one of the cast back then was Glori Dei Filippone... and her younger sister Frankie Filippone is part of the current version. I’m happy to say that 2013 version of 13 - the Musical was the first show I ever saw at DMYAT, and I’m constantly amazed at the superb talent and opportunity afforded so many through this organization.

     

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  • Annie

    03fd744f 5dfc 446a 9082 19035f509311Based on the comic strip version of Little Orphan Annie, the musical theatre version of Annie has been around for more than 40 years now, with revivals and tours galore. The original Broadway show won seven Tony awards, and you can’t really go anywhere and not find the show and its music referenced in pop culture somehow. Starting this weekend, Urbandale Community Theatre (UCT) gets to present it in a brand new venue for shows, Franklin Jr. High in Des Moines. 

    The director for the Urbandale version of Annie is Kelsey Rae Moran. She’s definitely dedicated to this particular production considering she actually lives an hour away, where she’s a Vocal Music teacher as well as the head Speech and Drama Director at Adair-Casey/Guthrie Center Schools. So why is she so involved with a show that takes her so far from home?

     

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  • Disney’s Newsies!

    8b180a38 c288 4e98 bba3 919bfc4aa3caDid you hear the news? The Des Moines Playhouse opens their production of Disney’s Newsies! beginning this Friday, July 12. With a huge cast and some show-stopping dance numbers, Newsies is sure to be a treat for everyone! It’s been a world-wide whirlwind to put this all together, so read all about it!

     

    Disney’s Newsies! is based on the 1992 movie of the same name, and was turned into a stage musical in 2011. Originally only supposed to run for a limited time, the show became a huge hit on Broadway, ran for more than 1,000 performances, and spawned a filmed stage production/video release and beloved cast album. Many of the current members of the Playhouse cast are very familiar with the show through this exposure, and it even led one to audition from half a world away.

     

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  • A Summer in Iowa

    Lauridsen AmpitheatreIt’s time again for another seasonal list of shows that are coming up in the Central Iowa area. Summer is a great time for huge family musicals, Shakespeare, and the yearly offerings of the DM Metro Opera, not to mention our own annual celebration of theatre with the Cloris Awards. So here’s what to be on the lookout for in the next few months locally.

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  • Des Moines Metro Opera

    DMMO LogoThe summer season for the Des Moines Metro Opera starts this coming weekend. Known for world-class performances and an amazing outreach, the DMMO has been going strong for almost half a century, and this season is no exception. With three different shows running in repertory, there’s a variety for every opera fan, and for everyone who’s just curious and never had the experience.

    As has become practice for the DM Metro Opera season, the three shows each show off the form in different ways. Their first, La Bohème, would be considered the most “classical” production this year. For the more musical theatre oriented, they offer Leonard Bernstein’s Candide (featuring the showtune favorite Glitter and Be Gay. And lastly, they offer the modern Polish opera Wozzeck, a dreamlike emotional story very unlike what most think of when they hear the word “opera”.

     

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  • Love’s Labor’s Lost

    Labors dancingThe annual Summer Shortened Shakespeare presentation from DMACC Ankeny starts next weekend. Opening on Saturday June 22, Love’s Labor’s Lost will be staged at the Library building (Building 6) on the DMACC Ankeny campus. But this is no ordinary presentation of Shakespeare, as is evidenced right from the start. I mean, look at the boy band that just came to town!!!

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  • Macbeth

    Macbeth folioArguably the greatest play in the history of English literature, Shakespeare’s Macbeth is challenging and rewarding, both for the audience and the performers. Iowa Stage presents Macbeth for five evenings only staring this Wednesday June 12 and running through Sunday June 16. Part of their yearly Shakespeare on the Lawn series, it will be performed outdoors at the beautiful Salisbury House and Gardens.

    The story of Macbeth is one of ambition, alliance, doubt, and despair, all essential parts of the human condition. And although the play was written 400 years ago, it still speaks to the seductive nature of power, and the price paid by those in its proximity. Modern narratives use these building blocks to create their own expansive tapestries, and yet few have done it as effectively as Shakespeare.

     

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  • Silent Sky

    Silent Sky universeThe year 1900 was a time of discovery. There were still parts of the world that had yet to be seen with human eyes. But other eyes were looking to the vastness of space, and the multitude of stars above. Silent Sky presents young Henrietta Leavitt as she joins a team of women working on cataloging the observations of scientist Charles Pickering at the Harvard College Observatory. As he scanned the skies, the women would record the magnitude and positions of the stars from photographic plates taken from the telescope. After all, in those days, women weren’t even allowed to touch the telescope, let alone actually see the stars!

    But Leavitt and her friends didn’t just do copywork. As she managed the figures, she was able to note differences in stars as they moved through the sky, and discover patterns. With her math and science skills, she discovered a way to determine the actual distance from one star to another, and therefore from Earth to the stars. As she says in the play, “We can skip star to star across deepest space until we know... exactly where we are!”

     

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