Thursday, January 20, 2022

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Center Stage

New Social Club unveiled


The BASH, New Year’s Eve at Des Moines Social Club, starts at 8 p.m. on Dec. 31.

The BASH, New Year’s Eve at Des Moines Social Club, starts at 8 p.m. on Dec. 31.

A strong contender for Weirdest Theater Ever would be “Jerry Springer: The Opera,” which sets Springer’s sleaze to song. Now, where did I catch the show? Why, at the Des Moines Social Club. A few years back, the DMSC staged a choice selection, featuring cross-gender adultery. That was only one of the night’s performances — and this coming year, the Social Club will have a lot more room to play.

DSMC remains Zachary Mannheimer’s brainchild, a gifted child, devoted to “community engagement through the arts.” Last year it won city council approval for a permanent home in the former downtown Firehouse. The three-story space, however, required extensive renovation over the last several months. This New Year’s Eve Bash will be the new Club’s inauguration.

The Bash, to be sure, has been an annual event since 2009. This time around, though, Mannheimer claims he “can’t wait” to reopen, and he intends to deliver “an amazing night” of theater and more.

The Firehouse will have its own performance space, and Program Manager Mickey Davis says The BASH “will showcase a lot of different media; a wide, wide range.”


At one point this will mean Felicia Cole and Laura Ernst rolling around inside a kind of giant hamster wheel. The thing was a hit at the Big Hair Ball, and come midnight, the same buff duo will provide a “human ball drop.” Still, those two may not provide the most gymnastic stuff of the night, not with DMI Breakaz busting some serious moves, both on the floor and onstage.

Meantime, flat-screens throughout the facility will show stills and information from DMSC’s resident troupe, Repertory Theater of Iowa. Its first in-house performance, “Our Town,” begins in February. Should anyone get the itch to put on a New Year’s show, however, there will the interactive art of Alex Braidwood, combining found objects in a nightlong installation project. Also, painter Van Holmgren will be working live and may invite bystanders to pitch in. But that’s old-school. On the cutting edge is the “wiggle stereoscopy,” a 3-D photo booth. If you’ve ever wondered what you’d look like as a Cubist painting…

“The idea is that there’s no down time. Never,” Davis said.

So a temporary firehouse auditorium will screen, non-stop, short features by Iowa filmmakers. So, too, a VIP ticket will buy some perks, but no exclusive seating, that way everyone has to mingle. Between each set of music (in a variety of genres, with the hip-hop headliner) will come brief turns from local slam poets. Another room will offer electronic dance, but again, when DJ Tone Zone steps down, a poet will step up. The most remarkable amalgam of music and performance, though, may come from Opera Eight, the Des Moines opera “salon.” The Eight promise an aria or two. Wonder if they’ll do Jerry Springer? CV

John Domini is Cityview’s “Play Mate” theater critic who pens our weekly Center Stage column. He is a published local author who has lived on both coasts and abroad and enjoyed theater everywhere. See

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