- By gentleguide
- On Wed 13 Sep 2017
The brand new Iowa Stage Theatre Company makes its debut with a stellar production of Stephen Sondheim’s Company, opening September 22 at the Kum & Go Theatre. There’s a lot of hard work that goes into a show like this, and even more when it’s the opening show for a brand new organization. Iowa Stage is making sure their first steps are the right ones.
The former StageWest organization and the Repertory Theatre of Iowa agreed last spring to essentially join forces to better utilize their resources, and while you can see definite traces of that lineage, Iowa Stage very much wants to become a unique entity. They announced a season of seven shows, many that could easily be found within the niche of one of the former groups. But to open their season, and to show a bit of what they could become, Iowa Stage chose Company.
Iowa Stage Executive Director Daniel Haymes is well aware of the challenges ahead for a new theatre organization. And leading off with Company was no accident. “The decision to do a musical was absolutely deliberate,” says Dan. “more specifically, doing the musical Company. As you can probably guess from the title, the show revolved around Bobby and his company of friends. All different walks of life, all at different stages of life. But they all fit somehow.”
“Iowa Stage Theatre Company mirrors just that. We now have an organization with a multitude of talents and experience. A show like Company requires actors, musicians, dancers, smart and creative designers, and direction. Sondheim is not easy to perform. Having performed in Company myself nearly 10 years ago, the music is challenging. This show truly requires all of the talents in our ‘company’”.
“Des Moines has some truly wonderful musical theatre performers and musicians. Not to mention Rebecca Hunt, our musical director, who is a Carnegie Mellon graduate. She has done a wonderful job with the music for this show. This show is requiring us to pull out all the stops! And what better way to do that with our first show!”
The Company You Keep
Some of the best musical theatre talents in the Des Moines area are involved in Sondheim’s challenging and rewarding showcase, with multiple Cloris award winners involved both onstage and behind the scenes. Taylor Anne Weaver (who was music director for School of Rock this past summer, and will be performing a Late-Nite Cabaret at Noce in November) is playing the part of Jenny in Company. She’s very excited for this show, and for this new addition to the area theatre community.
“I think there is a great energy surrounding the inaugural season of Iowa Stage, and everyone wants this first production to be a smashing success. I’m just thrilled to be a part of it all, and have been focusing on doing my part to make sure we put on a good show.”
“The show itself is different from many other shows because it doesn’t have a linear plot line with conflict or villains like most stories do. Talking through questions like ‘What story are we trying to tell?’ and ‘what is this show really about?’ has been a rewarding challenge as our cast and production team have been working towards the vision of a finished product. It’s really a story about searching and about the human condition of needing to feel connected to another person.”
In Company, Bobby (played by Charlie Reese) has reached a point in his life where he’s wondering exactly what form that connection should take. Iowa Stage is just starting out as well, and they’re also trying to best determine how to make their own connections to the community, and to the area theatre scene as a whole. While theatre in Des Moines is thriving (with Pyramid Theatre Company, Noce, and Open Door Rep also starting up in the last couple of seasons), the challenge to both new and established groups is one that Iowa Stage wants to meet head-on. And they’re hoping to have others join in the battle.
“How can the individual help continue the growth of theatre in Des Moines?” asks Haymes. “I really think that starts with actually seeing the shows. There are too many instances where we fail to see amazing shows that are produced in the area. It is absolutely critical for audience numbers to increase. Though theatre companies don’t make any money from ticket sales, what having butts in the seats will do is show support.”
“And that support is a large contributing factor to my second level, which is corporate sponsorship. Just to clarify, corporate sponsorship doesn’t just mean big dollars. It is anything from a business, in my mind. You cannot sustain a theatre company and growth in the area just on the individual alone. We need to get more local businesses involved, interested, and invested.”
“If the theatre community in Des Moines can show a business the real economic impact of having a fantastic cultural arts community, we can be sustainable. We can also give the local businesses a little more skin in the game too. When that happens, we then literally have an entire community doing what they can to ensure the sustainability of theatre in Des Moines.”
Another Hundred People
All that is for the organization at large, and for all the groups here in Des Moines. When it comes to a specific season or a specific show, it’s all in the details. Haymes continues, “You have to fully understand what is within your means to produce any show, doesn’t matter what it is. There is a lot of careful planning and thought put into just picking the shows. There are also countless numbers of phone calls for donations or show sponsorships. Not to mention when a show does begin its own specific process, there are a number of meetings to be held by the artistic and design team. Plus the entire rehearsal and marketing process. The list just goes on and on.”
“One of the biggest challenges I face as the Executive Director, with that person in the aisle seat that I may not be aware of, is the big question ‘Will they come back?’ Theatre is, by all means, an experience. That is from the moment the audience member enters, until the moment they leave. I need them to come back. I need that audience member’s support.”
“The Des Moines theatre community has my heart. I am absolutely devoted to the success of theatre in Des Moines. I see Des Moines full potential and what it can be. We need to continue to support and support and support. That does mean seeing shows, volunteering, and yes, donating money. Let’s be frank, I think in the past too many people have been afraid to mention that word ‘money’. It needs to be at the forefront of the conversation. We need to be open about it and transparent. If people know what we need, I think we will all be surprised by the overwhelming welcome Des Moines households and local businesses will give.”
“As mentioned before, we need to see the shows that are going on. We need to be in attendance. I believe it also starts with the Des Moines theatre community first. To survive in Des Moines, we have to make it a priority. No more excuses. We need to see shows in Ankeny, Ames, at Drake, Grand View, Tallgrass, Pyramid, Open Door Rep, Carousel in Indianola, and the list goes on. We need to keep this going!”
For now, “keeping it going” means this initial production of Company, and another connection. This time, going back to Taylor Anne Weaver. For her it was the realization of theatre as a place of belonging. “It felt like coming home to a world I didn’t even know I had been missing. I enjoy being involved with every facet of live theatre, both on the performance side and the production side. Theatre people are just wonderful, accepting people and it’s so uplifting and satisfying to be part of a collaborative process that leads up to the creation of something beautiful.”
“I have felt so welcomed by Iowa Stage and all the people who are involved in the show. It’s both intimidating and an honor to be working with such a ridiculously talented group of people. Brad Dell is so smart, and I am learning so much from him as our director. Rebecca Hadley (music director) and Megan Helmers (choreographer) are both so amazing to work with. Auditioning for Company is the best decision I’ve made in a long time.”
And probably the best decision YOU can make is to go see Company yourself. Performances start September 22 and run through October 8 at the Kum & Go Theatre and the Des Moines Social Club. Tickets are available through IowaStage.org.