Sunday, November 29, 2020

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Center Stage

Adapting to deliver to theatrical audiences

7/1/2020

As with many theatre producers, the Des Moines Community Playhouse is finding creative ways to keep connections with their patrons. They launched this drive-in theatre concept in June.

The COVID-19 pandemic changed all aspects of our lives as it insidiously swept into every corner the world. The world of live performing arts was immediately plunged into a foggy realm of uncertainty. Shows were canceled, then seasons. Audience participation evaporated. This was a catastrophic blow to live theater.

Central Iowa was forced into cultural hibernation. How long this creative winter would last was unknown. Regrouping of staff and futures quickly happened.

Creativity survives. The companies and their core teams and boards hunkered down to respond to the situation. Contingencies would be created. They were pioneering uncharted territory.

A chance to meet the producers

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While we await a return to sharing a live performance with other kindred spirits, many companies are introducing Iowans to the creative leaders who drive the theatrical efforts. Iowa Stage Theatre Company, which provides a stipend for its performers and key production personnel, continues to develop a series of “ISTC YouTube” interviews with Greater Des Moines theater leaders. Des Moines Community Playhouse produced a YouTube presentation about what they are doing.

The ones patiently awaiting a chance to return

Carousel Theatre of Indianola, Class Act Productions, Des Moines Young Artists’ Theatre, Iowa Shakespeare Experience, Pyramid Theatre Company, Tallgrass Theatre Company, and Urbandale Community Theatre all have either postponed and/or canceled planned shows with no definitive future performances slated. One company caught in about the worst possible scenario is Tallgrass Theatre Company. Their performing venue’s landlord, West Des Moines Public Schools, decided to terminate all long-term contracts with those renting their facilities. The home that Tallgrass had so carefully developed into a unique, inviting and intimate performing space would be gone at the end of this current season. Then, the pandemic hit, a week from their opening of their season finale. While they had been searching for a new space. With the quarantine, all of the company’s equipment, set and other materials were locked away where they could not access them. The board, supporters and their artistic director, Tom Perrine, are an intrepid group and will find a way to evolve, but feel free to connect to see if you can help.

Engaging, even if from afar

Des Moines Performing Arts will be presenting their popular summer camps… virtually. The Playhouse will present virtual Funday Fridays for young audiences. DMPA is sharing its virtual showcase for the stellar Iowa High School Musical Theatre Awards impacted by the pandemic.
Virtual and socially distanced performances are being offered by Ankeny Community Theatre and the Playhouse. Ankeny is presenting a series of Four Readers Virtual Theaters live streamed on July 12, July 26, Aug. 9, and Aug. 23, at 7:30 p.m. The twin bill will include “Less-Fear Shakespeare Part II” and “God of Carnage.” Advance registration is required; no ticket fee but donations appreciated.

The Playhouse has launched its trending sensation, Drive-In Theatre. Limited spots have been snapped up by patrons longing for performances. Two more shows through August will be presented: July features “Rounding Third” and August “The Roommate.” Those who experienced “Love Letters” praised the experience.

OVERHEARD IN THE LOBBY

Check for updates with each company regarding future plans and how to support.

Ankeny Community Theatre – www.ankenycommunitytheatre.com
Carousel Theatre of Indianola – www.carouseltheatre.org
Class Act Productions – www.captheatre.org
Des Moines Community Playhouse/Kate Goldman Theatre – www.dmplayhouse.com
Des Moines Performing Arts – For rescheduled, canceled, postponed events and FAQ https://desmoinesperformingarts.org/covid-19-update/
Des Moines Young Artists’ Theatre – www.dmyat.org
Iowa Shakespeare Experience – www.iowashakespeare.org
Iowa Stage Theatre Company – www.iowastage.org
Pyramid Theatre Company – www.pyramidtheatre.org
Tallgrass Theatre Company – www.tallgrasstheatre.org
Urbandale Community Theatre – www.urbandaletheatre.com ♦

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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