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Center Stage

Live performing arts blossom in May


From enigmatic title to straight forward Broadway belt.

Karen Schaeffer (Catherine), Etta Berkowitz (Alice), James Serpento (Don), Maia Craddock (Avery) and Alissa Tschetter-Siedschlaw (Gwen) star in “Rapture, Blister, Burn.” Photo by to Shawn Wilson.

The live performance scene in central Iowa has evolved over the last few decades. It has become stronger through this journey. Especially over the last few years, producers are diligent in finding strong material to present, and a strong, diverse pool of talent is ready to answer a director’s call. Production design is reaching new levels of quality, and audiences are exploring these options with an increasingly voracious appetite for the fine performing fare being presented.

Two anchors in this scene entice with differing shows. Iowa Stage Theatre Company will present Gina Gionfriddo’s “Rapture, Blister, Burn” beginning May 10. This is a compelling play, a Pulitzer finalist, with twisting threads of comedy woven through its story. Noce proves that it provides some great performances during its weekly Noce Cabaret Karaoke, with the uber-talented Clyde Evans serving as host on Saturday, May 19.

Both of these offerings will make those attending the shows glad they did.

Bringing today’s Broadway sass to the Heartland — “Rapture, Blister, Burn” at Iowa Stage

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“…intensely smart, immensely funny…RAPTURE more largely illuminates how hard it can be to forge both a satisfying career and a fulfilling personal life in an era that seems to demand superhuman achievement from everyone.” That’s a quote from the New York Times about this comedy-drama. The five players involved are a married couple and college friend, all three with history, and two college women. These dynamics provide explosive elements in creating a compelling story line.

Director Kristina Larson explains the title of her show. The title “Rapture, Blister, Burn” comes from a Hole song called “Use Once and Destroy,” and it is indeed a unique entrance into this story. The characters in this play make some reckless and rather desperate decisions that indeed, metaphorically, cause them to feel the blister and burn of the title.

“I am always excited when I have the lucky opportunity to contribute, artistically, in the Des Moines theatre community,” Larson explains, as this directing role reaches beyond her regular duties as head of Grand View University’s Theatre Department. “I always bring my students from Grand View out to see shows in the community, because I want them to know what a hearty and exciting theatre we have here in Des Moines.”

And all that Jazz…

Noce, known as central Iowa’s key bastion for exceptional jazz, pulls from that key word in the song, “All That Jazz,” from the musical “Chicago.” Every Saturday night, lock up the pop songs and old standards. Beginning at 10:30 p.m. each week, the Noce stage transforms into a Broadway cabaret, giving anyone with the desire a chance to stand up and belt out their favorite Broadway show tune. On May 19, one of central Iowa’s favorite musical theatre stars serves as host for Broadway Karaoke. Blake Clyde, fresh from his stellar role as Coalhouse Walker in the Des Moines Playhouse’s masterful musical, “Ragtime,” takes a turn at encouraging friends and audience members to choose a song and take the microphone.

“The host just tries to make sure the mood is light” shares Clyde. “Even though karaoke is just for fun, it can still be a nerve-wracking experience if you’re new, so I think the host’s job is just to make sure that people are remembering to have fun, first and foremost.”

Two of this region’s best musical theatre keyboard players, Francine Griffith and Ben Hagen, alternate as accompanists for singers. Between them, they have a vast collection of show music, or those wishing to sing a certain song can bring their own sheet music.

Clyde enthusiastically adds, “…audience members will experience a lot of new theatre probably” as regulars tend to present the newest from Broadway. He continues, “everyone who comes is friendly, so you can expect to make new friends.”

That sounds like something to sing about.

Overheard in the lobby:

Plan your live theatre strategy for the next season. The Des Moines Community Playhouse (, Iowa Stage Theatre Company (, Des Moines Young Artists’ Theatre (, Tallgrass Theatre Company ( and Ankeny Community Theatre ( have their 2018-19 seasons posted on their websites. Gateway Dance Theatre presents a devised play with dance and music, “Embrace,” May 4-6. ♦

John Busbee is a creative project developer, critic, playwright, author, producer and media professional. He has produced his weekly show, The Culture Buzz, on KFMG since 2007.

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