Sunday, October 4, 2015

Posted September 30, 2015in Center Stage

Bent logic on the fly

“Improv-nesia” is the word for it, according to the members of Comedy Xperiment. The Des Moines troupe has been doing its special brand of improv for years now, and yet the players find it hard to recall individual shows. Even the bits that rocked the Stoner Theater soon drop out

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Posted September 23, 2015in Center Stage, Featured Story

Humdinger of a problem

John Viars, director of “Into the Woods,” gets the crowd scenes. In big numbers like “First Midnight,” he shuttles his glittery troupe in all directions. The comings and goings create a sense of urgency, which can seem lacking in Stephen Sondheim’s fairytale pastiche. Its storylines can seem scattered, never isolating

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Posted September 16, 2015in Center Stage, Featured Story

Comedy, dramedy, dream

As you bask in Repertory Theater of Iowa’s luminous production of “Broadway Bound,” by Neil Simon, at times nothing on stage shines so brightly as Kerry Skram. Always a local standout, here she plays Kate Jerome, mother to Stan and Eugene. The boys hope to write funny stuff for this

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Posted September 09, 2015in Center Stage, Featured Story

Classic moves made new and deeper

You might think Alex Scolari is too young to appreciate “Dirty Dancing” and too much of a California girl to care about Iowa. The movie made a sex symbol of Patrick Swayze back in 1987, years before Scolari was born. Yet in conversation, she upends your expectations. “I’ve always been

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Posted September 02, 2015in Center Stage, Featured Story

Surprises — serious and otherwise

Up in Ames, they’ve joined the new millennium. Over at the Playhouse, the audience creates a Beatles set, while Des Moines Young Artists participate in a high school shooting. Tallgrass, meantime, offers a reading of an all-new homegrown script. The Temple Theater will bring back Dixie in drag, and the

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Posted August 26, 2015in Center Stage

Critical mass and the Cloris Awards

The best homegrown American theater might be here in the Midwest. Few companies have the impact of Chicago’s Steppenwolf, the birthplace of stars like John Malkovich. Yet when Steppenwolf first won recognition, it was local. It began with the city’s “Jeff Awards.” The Jeffs (named for a 19th century actor)

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Posted August 19, 2015in Center Stage

Heroes erupting in the dark

Among African-Americans, for decades, it was an honor to be called a “race man.” The term referred to those blacks who strove hardest for equality, from Jackie Robinson to Malcolm X. So, too, Charles Fuller, author of “A Soldier’s Play,” turned to writing when he discovered his high school library

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Posted August 12, 2015in Center Stage

Fresh talent across town

The goodwill in the room practically spills out the windows. Upstairs in West Des Moines Public Library, laughter punctuates the run-through of “Masha,” the latest project for the Tallgrass Iowa Playwrights Workshop, one of two new local programs for developing fresh talent. At this rehearsal, the script has reached “version

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Posted August 05, 2015in Center Stage

Hurly-burly in black and white

Anyone stuck in traffic on Oralabor Road can tell you: Ankeny is booming. Last year the population jumped again, and the town lured up city hotspots like Jethro’s. Yet one institution goes back to the days of the cornfields. Ankeny Community Theatre (even the spelling is old-school) is finishing its

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Posted July 29, 2015in Center Stage

Dirty angels kicking ass

For “Rent” the staging is in-the-round. Inside the entrance, designer Tim Wisgherof set up a riser for the guitar, keyboard, drums and bass. The musicians riff and tootle, pumping up the energy even as you find your seat. So, too, at show’s end, while the heroine Mimi languishes near death,

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