Wednesday, May 5, 2021

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Center Stage

Elves and aerial artists



Performance around Des Moines keeps trying out new ventures. Just this spring, the city offers both experimental theater and “King Lear.” Two wilder options in the coming days showcase a budding community.

Iowa Fly Girl and Acro Bash Photo by aleicht

“LARP! An Improvised Adventure.” Last Laugh Comedy Club, Thursday, May 26, 7:30 p.m. “Aerial Expo: Flying Colors.” Kum & Go Theater, Tuesday, May 31, 6:30 p.m.

One has a name both baffling and laughable: “LARP!” The initials stand for “Live Action Role Playing,” and the “action” is at Last Laugh Comedy Club. There, Andrew Pierson and three others will be pulling pranks on the fantasy worlds of Dungeons & Dragons.

“We start with basic fantasy tropes like elves and warriors, and then we take it to comedy,” he explains.

Prep Iowa

Pierson and his players — Last Laugh regulars, with plenty of practice at improvisation — have a table set up down front of the stage. There they huddle between acts, working out what characters they’ll portray, like elves or warriors, and what goals everyone will pursue.  Then the cast hops up onstage and takes off into its own zany “Kingdom of Last-Laughia.”

The only tech help the show requires is a blackout every once in a while. “For costumes, we’ll go with maybe a robe or a hat,” Pierson adds.

The rest is spur of the moment, “twisting clichés around, that kind of thing.” Pierson and his players (like Kim Scarfe, who he calls “incredible”) have developed a new audience and a fresh, rich source of laughs.

They also know better than to waste time with fight scenes. “Improv combat is lame to watch and worse to do,” says Pierson.

For physical feats that look anything but lame, try instead “Flying Colors.” The event at the Social Club features the aerial talents of the Iowa Fly Girl, Felicia Coe. With her, she’ll have partner Acro Bash, as well as other performers, all defying gravity on trapeze, hoops and silk sashes.

A dinnertime show, this will be more family-friendly than most Fly Girl productions. Her Misfit Cabaret, for instance, always includes some bawdy burlesque. “Flying Colors,” however, will be a fundraiser for the annual “Aerial Expo,” which brings together performers from across the country.

“Kids are welcome,” Coe explains. “We’ve got activities lined up for them.”

Coe has also worked out a unique item for auction at show’s end. Everyone swooping over the stage will work with paint, somehow. A few will actually flick the stuff off their fingers, leaving streaks and spatters across cardstock on the floor. The results — like fresh work from Jackson Pollock — will go up for bid afterward.

Of course, in order not to stick the audience with a terrible cleaning bill, the aerial artists all have to work behind clear plastic screens.

“It’ll be a very ‘Dexter’ set,” jokes Coe. “But that’s part of the fun, isn’t it?”

She’s especially excited about the children coming.

“It’s so great to bring new people to what we do,” she says. “To build up our community. Circus acts like ours used to be trade secrets, but now, right here in downtown, anyone can learn to fly.”  CV


John Domini is a published local author who has lived on both coasts and abroad and enjoyed theater everywhere. See



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