Sunday, May 22, 2022

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Center Stage

All the world’s a stage?


A poignant abandoned umbrella signifies the untimely close of the Des Moines Community Playhouse’s “Singin’ in the Rain” after only two performances due to COVID-19. Photo credit: The Des Moines Community Playhouse

This month’s column was going to cover the opening of three metro stage shows — “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” (DMYAT); “Pippi Longstocking” (DMP-Kate Goldman); and “That Golden Girl Show” (DMPA-Temple). COVID-19 changed those plans, along with the plans of countless businesses, cultural events and personal lives.

David Kilpatrick, the Des Moines Community Playhouse executive director, shared his observations and the sobering repercussions of these times and how they affected their operation. The Playhouse made the conscientious choice to close “Singin’ in the Rain” after only two performances. His perspective is a micro-view of a bigger picture and shows how swiftly this situation changed. By the time you read this, everyone hopes that the initial actions to halt the spread of this virus will be lessening, the infection curve flattening, and us on the path to societal recovery.

“What can be done now?” Kilpatrick posed. “Stay safe and keep distance so we can get to the other side faster. Once restrictions are lifted, support your local artists as much as you’re able. Volunteer, donate, purchase tickets, rally and let them know you know it is important. Even something as simple as don’t ask for a refund and just let the arts organization keep your ticket will be so helpful.”

Kilpatrick echoes a growing sentiment among the arts community, as creatives are rallying together during this unprecedented event. This one filters right down to the personal level. This is not some health crisis on the other side of the world. This crisis swiftly circumnavigated the globe, while intruding into all 50 U.S. states and into our community.

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Rather than being overwhelmed by the global scope, consider what can be done in your community. For the Playhouse, they are confronted with the initial loss of income from ticket sales, projected at more than $100,000. Add the volunteer time investment of more than 6,000 hours to create this production, the very foundation of any community theater operation.

Supportive patrons who had tickets for “Singin’ in the Rain” are considering the cancelled show ticket cost as a donation. A flood of such cultural generosity will have a strong impact for this venerable organization and for all cancelled local shows.

The Playhouse situation is amplified by the other producing companies in Greater Des Moines, which proportionally are coping with similar challenges. While their budgets, numbers of performances and total ticket sales may be smaller, the impact is nonetheless sharp. Iowa Stage Theatre Company is considering how and when to postpone “The Cake,” scheduled to open March 27. “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” Des Moines Young Artists’ Theatre’s next show, scheduled to open April 10, is weighing its options, as rehearsals cannot happen. Tallgrass has an incomplete set, and all of their equipment is locked in a West Des Moines Schools building, their home, until that quarantine is lifted, leaving “Wonder of the World” a missed theatrical journey.

For Des Moines Performing Arts, it will assess its full schedule of shows for the Civic Center and Temple Theater stages with regular updates on their website. With its leading role in bringing Broadway’s best national tours to central Iowa, this industry leader will find its path to share the experiences of great stage productions as soon as possible.

The overriding factor is when it will be safe to resume producing live theater for our community. When that time comes, be ready to respond not only to support our excellent live theater scene, but also because we all will be ready to enjoy the marvels of live performing arts again.

All the world’s a stage? Dark times hit performing arts, but it’s not the final curtain.


Although the lobby chatter has gone silent for now, continue supporting our local theater scene when the situation allows all to begin performances again. Check for specifics with each company regarding auditions, shows and how to support them.

• Ankeny Community Theatre —
• Carousel Theatre of Indianola —
• Class Act Productions —
• Des Moines Community Playhouse/Kate Goldman Theatre —
• Des Moines Performing Arts/Temple Theater —
• Des Moines Young Artists’ Theatre —
• Iowa Shakespeare Experience —
• Iowa Stage Theatre Company —
• Pyramid Theatre Company —
• Tallgrass Theatre Company —
• Urbandale Community Theatre — ♦

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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