New varieties of performance arts arise from the pandemic2/3/2021
One truth always seems to emerge from cultural chaos: creativity will find a way to adapt, overcome and continue to engage the public. Central Iowa is showing its mettle during these challenging times, and some wonderful offerings are arising, phoenix-like, from the pandemic fires.
The end of COVID-19 is not known, but the promise of vaccines helps. The economy is fighting back, including the creative economy. Many theatre companies remain publicly dormant, yet behind the scenes, each continues to pencil in plans for their future. When the time is right, they will emerge to again share their special brands of performances. Until then, each encourages their patrons and the public to stay in touch to be updated about progress toward that day when the curtains rise again.
The Des Moines Community Playhouse prepares another pair of shows for live repertory presentation in February. The Mainstage show “Leaving Iowa” and the Kate Goldman Children’s Theatre show “Stuart Little” begin mid-February in the main performing hall. This space gives the Playhouse the capacity to create socially distanced seating coupled with mask usage, a formula that worked well for their fall productions. In addition to these live theatre experiences, they will offer limited virtual viewing of each show.
TheatreMidwest had the added challenge of being a relative newcomer to the Central Iowa theatre scene, just beginning to establish its brand in 2018. The pandemic hit in the middle of their first full season, causing the postponement of their last two shows. A driving question Artistic Director Tom Woldt and the rest of the production team kept asking was, “…is there a way to keep doing theatre when gathering is unsafe?” Their focus initially was internal, restructuring and developing from within, including pursuing grant funding for new approaches to present performances. Their new series, Fresh Produce, brought cutting edge scripts to concert reading formats, giving audiences the chance to culturally dine on excellently vetted creative fare. They continue the virtual presentations route, while hoping to solidify plans to present a public performance of “Atlas of Mud” this spring.
Pyramid Theatre Company has focused on developing a new regional initiative, Creative Collab Lab (CCL), shares Tiffany Johnson, Artistic Director. Perhaps one of America’s boldest theatre companies dedicated to the Black creative voice, they have forged partnership projects throughout Iowa, including in Iowa City and Ames, bringing leading national emerging Black artists to support their efforts. According to Johnson, CCL is “an organic group of artists that got together to connect our community of artists and begin realizing how we can work together within our disciplines to create things that speak to, entertain and market to and FOR our community.
“We are working to release an artistic offering to the community that we are hoping will spark robust conversations within our communities,” Johnson continues. She believes CCL “will inspire growth and utilize art like it has historically been used as a catalyst for social understanding and change.” Considering Pyramid’s success record, CCL promises to be a national beacon emanating from Greater Des Moines.
Find ways to support your central Iowa theatre scene. All are looking forward to a return to the shared, live performance 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.