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.


The Ultimate Drop In!

1313cc1b 6527 4004 aa72 f9c0a1a02a1e“Friday Night’s Party is entitled The Ultimate Cast Party,” says Kilpatrick, “in that we expect the largest cast party possible. Generally, cast sizes are from 12 – 40, with technicians and band members, it can be as large as 50. Our hope is to have over 300 people drop in from 5:30 – 10:00 pm.  We are calling it a cast party, as it is considered to be after the work of doing a show. Thus the emphasis is on fun, relaxation and swapping stories, which is what happens at every cast party, regardless of size of cast of location of the theatre – they are universally fun, relaxing and talking about past experiences at the theatre.”


“We are hoping that people will drop in, have a drink or two, visit with some older cast mates, or perhaps meet some new people, definitely swap a story or two and ultimately enjoy themselves. There will be a cash bar with beer, soda, wine and select mixed drinks. The food is typical cast finger food. There will be opportunity for Karaoke for those who are inclined.”


07f62a1c b24e 448c b0cf 7dce5c383746“Activities will include an open mic for those who want to give a toast, or say something about [recently retired Executive Director] John Viars. We are have a large retirement card for everyone to sign. We will also include a time line so that individuals can mark their first experience with the Playhouse. Finally, we will have available our 100 year history book, think a High School Year Book. It will be for sale, or for those who have already paid for them, they can pick one up.”


“So everyone is welcome, in that everyone has a theatre story they can share, or meet an actor that they have seen and would like to know in person, say good things to John or about John if so desired. Come and go as they please.”


Putting It Together

That’s only the first night of the festivities! While the Ultimate Cast Party is a casual, free ‘drop-in’ event, Saturday’s Celebration of the Century is a more traditional ticketed showcase... bigger, better, brighter. But that also means there has been a tremendous amount of planning to do to get ready for such a huge happening.


54faad0d 01fa 4ffa b8f8 d845bbe08260“The Celebration of the Century is meant to celebrate what the Playhouse has done for 100 years. With 100 years of history and hundreds of ideas, programs, stories, pictures, people that could be highlighted, it was about editing, time and energy. Some things we just don’t know enough about to give them appropriate attention. Other activities were impactful but on such a small scale, that we couldn’t include them. To not make it a long boring history recitation event, we opted to highlight/showcase certain shows, incorporating youth where possible and making it entertaining.”


“The other exploration we had was where to do the show. We looked at a number of locations, event centers, etc, and realized that the best place was our home. We have the equipment, we had the technicians who knew what to do and we had the audience that knew where to go. We did say that we wanted the show to showcase our capabilities, so we are working hard to make sure the lighting, the sound, the stage and costumes reflect our best. Thus extra time is being spent on technical rehearsals to insure that we look good!


687f5248 7f4a 4387 bf6b 1869f43d043c“The biggest challenge was the scale, we can’t be everything to everyone. We know that some will be disappointed that we didn’t have ‘this’ song or ‘that’ actor in the show. But that is the nature of live events and being a community theatre. We have to have limitations somewhere. Ultimately, we are using our 100th Anniversary book to highlight all that we have done in the past 100 years.”


The Best of the Best

155608a0 f7c9 4c7e 8e2a 6b1db7e71fe1“We knew that a show was going to be part of the celebration. Actually we have been working on shows since 2015, with our Countdown to 100, thus this was meant to be the culminating event. Having done a few of the Countdowns, we thought this one would be like those with a select handful of singers, just bigger orchestra and a little more organization. However, we soon began to realize that the Playhouse belongs to the community and the community should be part of the celebration, thus we reached out to several and spread the word to opening up the performance to virtually anyone who wanted to be part of the show.”


4920faa7 3f0f 4bd2 9114 d92a82c74c2d“It will include lots of slides in support of the productions, joining with the 88+/- singers that have agreed to be a part of the show. Playhouse Artistic Director Katy Merriman, with a committee, picked the music and set the order with some guidance from the staff. She has staged the numbers, using some choreography from Alison Shafer (with permission of course). Brenton Brown serves as the music director, leading the 19 piece orchestra and the singers and soloists through weeks of rehearsals (with 88 performers and lots of conflicts, no one is able to be at all of them).  Yes, musicals were not part of the Playhouse history until the mid 50’s.  But this is meant to be a homage to the Playhouse, not a chronological lesson.”


Of course, for over a third of that time, John Viars has been both Executive Director and Artistic Director of the Playhouse. The Celebration of the Century is also an occasion to honor him and his legacy.


6fadfa9e ec97 489d a819 a7fb460a21dd“One of the aspects of the Celebration that is just as important is the celebration of John’s service to the community. As part of the event, we will recognizing John with significant announcements and gifts. (No, it will not be a watch!) We also want to give John a chance to say thank you to the community. John as been a part of the Playhouse for 37 years. We are here today because he wouldn’t accept no for an answer. We want to honor him as a leader, as an artist and as a person, a member of our community and this community since 1982.”


If you want to experience the festivities and celebrate with the Playhouse, it’s easy to join in. As mentioned, the Friday evening Ultimate Cast Party is a free event, with no particular schedule. It starts at 5:30 and runs until 10, and you can come and go as you wish. On Saturday is the Celebration of the Century gala, and there are still a few tickets for the 7pm show available for $20 each through the DM Playhouse box office, by calling 277-6261, or purchasing from the Playhouse website. And we’ll see you there!!!


John Viars Katy Merriman David Kilpatrick Des Moines Playhouse