Monday, May 2, 2016


Posted April 27, 2016in Center Stage

The thrill of the silence

For Improvised Shakespeare Company, according to Joey Bland, part of the thrill of opening in a new town is the silence. “In a city where we haven’t played much, for the first five minutes the audience isn’t sure what they’re watching,” he says. The tension feels scrumptious for Bland and

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Posted April 20, 2016in Center Stage

Double-barreled bard

  Rest in peace, William Shakespeare? Not with this ruckus. April 23 marks the 400th anniversary of the playwright’s death, and theaters around the world are celebrating the occasion, including two here in Des Moines. Downtown, a classic has been put across with youth and edge. Both the title characters

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Posted April 13, 2016in Center Stage

Orphans singing anthems

  Daddy Warbucks has thought a lot lately about Donald Trump. Our day-glo presidential wannabe, after all, can seem something like Warbucks, the tycoon who adopted Lil’ Orphan Annie. In both the old comic strip and the later musical, Warbucks, too, lives high above Manhattan, atop piles of cash. “But

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Posted April 06, 2016in Center Stage, Featured Story

Silence and song

  Few community theaters would take the risk Tallgrass has in “Children of a Lesser God.” The 1986 movie made a star of Marlee Matlin, the first deaf actor to achieve such success, but Hollywood made a Hallmark card of her romance with her speech pathologist. In its original form

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Posted April 01, 2016in Center Stage

Who ya gonna call?

When Wanda Sykes came to Hoyt Sherman recently, she wound up in a horror show.  A bat swooped down on her onstage. Sykes kept up the patter, but she got out of town that night. Now the bat turns out to be just the beginning. Lately, strange visitors have been

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Posted March 23, 2016in Center Stage

Jeans, a work shirt and a sense of wonder

When you ask Nate Staniforth what inspired his stripped-down brand of magic — doing the impossible right under our noses — he says it was his first Bob Dylan concert. “It set off an electrical transmission between us,” claims Staniforth. “Dylan laid down a challenge, showing how little you need,

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Posted March 16, 2016in Center Stage

Shadows on a seesaw

Tennessee Williams finds strange ways to break your heart. Toward the end of “The Glass Menagerie,” his first masterwork, there is a crushing moment when the hapless Laura hands Jim, her “gentleman caller,” a strange parting gift of a broken toy. She calls it a “souvenir.” But a souvenir of

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Posted March 09, 2016in Center Stage

A rock goddess and her ghosts

Now and then, before a performance, Mary Bridget Davies will sense someone behind her but turn to find nothing there.  At that, she’ll smile. “All right, Janis,” Davies will say. “I’ll do right by you tonight.” She means Janis Joplin. If anyone can contact the 1960s rock goddess, now dead

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Posted March 02, 2016in Center Stage

From confrontation to communication

During the past six months, the best performance in a Des Moines production may have come from an African-American. Aaron Smith, in “A Soldier’s Play,” drew audiences into a howling private torment.  Yet he was working under a death threat. “Before opening night, we got a terrifying phone call. The

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Posted February 24, 2016in Center Stage

Grunge rather than glitz

Broadway tends to bloat, going for overkill as in “Phantom of the Opera.” “Cabaret,” though, recently scored the opposite kind of success. The 1967 original gave us the movie — winning Liza Minelli an Oscar — but a reboot in the ’90s went for grunge rather than glitz. The Emcee,

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