Behind the Curtain

Bce684c2 ecd5 44c2 a271 e5d9afb14bd9Lots of things going on in the local theatre scene lately, but many of them may not be apparent to the typical patron in the fifth row seat. Most of what is happening is behind the scenes, but it affects what kind of shows you’ll be seeing and where they will happen. So here’s a bunch of different news items that you might want to be aware of.

Iowa Stage

C6e41821 b983 4cad 9208 0d2340cb64acIowa Stage is in the midst of their first actual season of shows after their creation from the former StageWest and Repertory Theatre of Iowa groups. Their evolution is continuing, with the announcement of Dr. Kurt Rachwitz as their new executive director. With a significant background in fundraising for organizations all over the country and experience with many non-profit groups and education outlets, Kurt brings his passion for theatre together with his extensive experience to help advance Iowa Stage and their overall vision.


Central to that is an event happening on Thursday, February 8. #MeToo: Time’s Up Des Moines will be held at the Kum&Go Theatre at the Des Moines Social Club. The night will feature a reading of "The Hashtag Me, Too," a one-act play written by Iowa Stage company member Kerry Skram, followed by a discussion of the play and the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. The event is free to attend, and donations will be accepted to support the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements here in Central Iowa.


ONE Returns

4c74d167 adc6 4e9d ad3a bf3c67c20997One of my favorite events of the theatre season returns to the Stoner Studio Theatre at the Civic Center on Monday, March 5. One Actor, One Writer, One Week will be presenting its sixth showcase of local creative talent, and is a singular opportunity for those actors and writers who may not have the time to devote to a full-length theatre event here in town. Writers and actors are paired up at random, and given only one week to create, prepare, and then perform a 3 to 7 minute monologue. 


I had the chance to perform (for the first time in a decade) last year in this event, and it was a wonderful experience. But whether you’re performing, creating, or just enjoying the show from the audience, it’s well worth your time. Tickets are now available at the Civic Center website (and they’re only five bucks, and you can’t ask for a much cheaper theatre experience than that!)


Speech It!!

Cafa36d6 b2b5 4c06 95ad 6c4d079e56c8This is one that doesn’t show up on the Gentle Guide calendar, because it’s more of a school contest than a pure theatre performance. But that’s a very blurry line when it comes to Large Group Speech Contest for the Iowa High School Speech Association, and their District, State, and All-State events. While the District event was held last weekend (locally, at Roosevelt High School amongst various other venues around the state), the performers rating a “I” now advance to the State competition, which will be held at the Waukee High School on Saturday, February 3. The best of the best will advance to the All-State Competition, to be held at the Iowa State Center in Ames on February 17.


While there are numerous categories involved in the IHSAA contests, theatre lovers will be happy to experience events in Musical Theatre, One-Act play, Ensemble Acting, and Group Improvisation. I was lucky enough to be a volunteer at the District competition, and saw many outstanding performances. The events are open to the public, with a suggested $3 donation for attendees, which is a small price to pay to see some amazing performances. And it’s nice to know the future of local theatre seems to be in good hands.


A New Story

D2ee1195 c72e 4242 92f4 1054f9945b37Story Theatre Company up in Ames is a great organization for young people, presenting challenging and inventive shows for various ages. They’ve done everything from Shakespeare’s As You Like It to Antigone to The Pirates of Penzance in the past couple of years. But they’ve also outgrown their rehearsal and technical space. So beginning with their upcoming production of Twelve Angry Jurors (February 22-25), Story Theatre will be moving down the block just a bit to a larger performance space (still at 615 Dayton Avenue, just west a few spaces from their previous location). 


In addition to the quality possibilities provided here in the metro by both Des Moines Young Artists’ Theatre (whose next production will be profiled by the Guide next week!) and CAP Theatre in Altoona, Story Theatre offers a tremendous chance for young people to become part of the theatre tradition that we all love.


Big Time Bass

4170d242 e34f 4ac0 ba30 542c4e91e4b5You don’t often hear “International Opera Singer” and “Broadway Actor” in the same sentence, but that’s how to describe Zachary James. He created the role of “Lurch” for the original Broadway production of The Addams Family. He also has a local connection here in the area, having appeared with the Des Moines Metro Opera Company in their production of Billy Budd last fall, and will be in their performances of both Rusalka and Flight later this summer.


But for now you can hear him perform, for free, in the intimate confines of Noce as he is the featured artist at their Late-Nite Cabaret coming up on Saturday February 3. While Des Moines has its share of world-renowned artists perform here, seldom do we get the chance to experience their talent in such an up-close and intimate way. Go check this one out!


Summer Changes

The Des Moines Playhouse will be closing down for a short period of time this summer, as the final stage of their remodeling takes place. The Mainstage area and portions of their lobby and access areas are going through major improvements, with new lighting, seats, and ramp/walkways all in preparation for their Centennial Season next year. But that doesn’t mean that they’re not going to put on a show!!


99cceb6d c7e4 4088 a480 604f80e02a81Mamma Mia! has been announced as their summer musical, with performances at the state-of-the-art Staplin Performing Arts Center at Valley High School. David Kilpatrick, Executive Director of the Playhouse, will be stepping into the role of Director for this beloved show. The performance schedule is slightly different due to the altered venue, but be ready to start singing those wonderful ABBA tunes when this plays at Valley from July 13-28.


Season Announcement

Ankeny Community Theatre has recently announced their slate of shows for next season (even though there are still five shows left in THIS season!). For those who love to plan ahead, there are productions on this list going out as far as August of 2019! ACT is becoming much more adventurous in their selection of shows, and it’s a welcome addition to the local theatre scene. Their level of talent and choices means they want to give their local audiences more and more of quality theatre, and their sold-out performances for many of their recent productions is just icing on the cake.


For their 2018-2019 season, highlights include a version of Frankenstein (just prior to Halloween, naturally!), The Diary of Anne Frank, the Cole Porter classic musical Kiss Me, Kate, and the updated version of audience favorite You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. ACT is also continuing their successful Studio Series with the Pulitzer- and Tony-award winning play Proof. One of the local Cloris Award judges told me how impressed he was with the depth and ability shown recently by ACT, and we can only see even brighter things in their future with this schedule.


The Flood of 2018

D8f45d24 8153 4018 842c 3b55a953cbbfOne of the great things in the past theatre history of Des Moines was our very own Fringe Festival, with a weekend or two of adventurous theatre scattered over various venues downtown and in the East Village. While it has been over a decade since such a thing existed, it is hoped that the event will rise again. Theatre Iowa, Incorporated (the parent company of the 7-11 Theatre Festival, among other things) is planning the Two Rivers Fringe Festival, to be held in July 2018.


Right now, they’re gathering donations, exploring possible venues, and working to make the event a reality. If you want to help, or are just interested and wish to get more information on the Two Rivers Fringe Festival, go to the 7-11 Theatre Project website (their temporary home for now) to become part of the process. Let them know that this would be a wonderful event to have back in the area, and that there’s an audience out there for it.


There’s a bit of catch-up for theatre lovers about all the things going on around the area. And there’s likely plenty more coming soon. The Gentle Guide will keep you up to date on all the theatre happenings in Central Iowa, and if you have any information we might be able to share, let us know at It is most appreciated. In the meantime, go enjoy our wonderful world of Central Iowa theatre!!!


Next week: the Guide features I Never Saw Another Butterfly by Des Moines Young Artists’ Theatre.


Noce Ankeny Community Theatre Des Moines Playhouse One Actor One Writer One Week Iowa Stage Dr. Kurt Rachwitz #MeToo IHSSA Speech Contest Story Theatre Company Twelve Angry Jurors Zachary James Mamma Mia! David Kilpatrick Two Rivers Fringe Festival Theatre Iowa Incorporated 7-11 Theatre Festival