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Center Stage

Rising from the pandemic ashes


Editor’s note: “The Gospel at Colonus” presented by Pyramid Theatre Company and Des Moines Performing Arts scheduled for Sept. 17-19 is being postponed until spring of 2022. The engagement is being produced in Des Moines with local talent and artists from around the country.  With the current conditions of COVID-19 and the Delta variant it was determined that gathering these artists in Des Moines to rehearse and perform would not be in the best interest of the artists or the community.  Both organizations are committed to presenting this community performance and celebration next year. This story was written and published prior to this announcement.  

Shout hallelujah for a glorious hybrid creative phoenix.

A first-time collaboration between Pyramid Theatre Company and Des Moines Performing Arts will be Sept. 17, 18 and 19 from 7:30-9 p.m. at the Prairie Meadows Riviera Amphitheatre in Riverview Park, Des Moines. Admission is free. Photo Credit – Pyramid Theatre Company

Des Moines Performing Arts (DMPA) and Pyramid Theatre Company join forces to present what should be a memorable public presentation Sept. 17, 18 and 19, from 7:30-9 p.m. at the Prairie Meadows Riviera Amphitheatre in Riverview Park, Des Moines. 

For DMPA, their mission “has always been about connecting. We connect artists with people who love performing arts. We connect audiences to each other in shared experiences.” Their recent series of free public performance experiences throughout the metro area drew vast, appreciative crowds. DMPA now helps Pyramid demonstrate its mission through a new performance experience for Central Iowa audiences. 

Pyramid’s mission is to provide a gateway to the arts for the Des Moines community by illuminating the presence of Black artists in the theatre canon and providing a means of artistic expression to emerging Black voices. They are committed to four core principles that build upon each other: Artistic Excellence, Community Engagement, Artist Education, and Black Community Collaboration.

Both organizations have histories of stellar artistic accomplishments. 

Overheard in the Lobby 

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

• Ankeny Community Theatre –

• Carousel Theatre of Indianola –

• Class Act Productions –

• Des Moines Community Playhouse/Kate Goldman Theatre –

• Des Moines Performing Arts – For rescheduled, canceled, postponed events and   


• Des Moines Young Artists’ Theatre –

• Iowa Shakespeare Experience –

• Iowa Stage Theatre Company –

• Pyramid Theatre Company –

• Tallgrass Theatre Company –

• Urbandale Community Theatre –

From the moment Pyramid Theatre Company said it would be presenting “The Gospel at Colonus,” excitement mounted. A long time had passed since Pyramid had presented a live stage performance. This union between Pyramid and DMPA was a powerful panacea to the pandemic blues.

“In 2018, I had the great fortune of working with the surviving original company of this great show when I joined the cast at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park,” reflects Ken-Matt Martin of Des Moines. “I’m so excited to bring this great work to Des Moines, returning to my artistic home, Pyramid. I hope people will enjoy this beautiful story of redemption and grace told through great music. We can all use a little joy at the moment.”

“The Gospel at Colonus” is an African-American version of Sophocles’ tragedy, “Oedipus at Colonus.” Avant-garde theatre director and pioneer Lee Breuer created this seminal masterpiece in 1983, from the second part of Sophocles’ three Theban plays. Through celebrated Mabou Mines theatre company, he produced “The Gospel at Colonus” with composer Bob Telson. The musical was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Its 1988 Broadway run garnered a Tony Award nomination for Breuer’s book. The Broadway cast featured Morgan Freeman (Messenger) and The Five Blind Boys of Alabama.

“Pyramid is extremely excited to be partnering with Des Moines Performing Arts and welcoming home our founding executive director Ken-Matt Martin,” says Tiffany Johnson, Pyramid’s producing artistic director. “Also, a beloved colleague, Des Moines native, incredible producer and artist, Napoleon Douglas (returns home as ‘Messenger’). I co-direct ‘The Gospel at Colonus’ with Ken-Matt. This production is unique, as it highlights Black joy, pain and redemption and creates an experience that we as an entire community can immerse ourselves in.”

“The Gospel at Colonus” embodies the kinds of bold, powerful shows that have become the trademark of Pyramid’s works. This production has a dynamic cast and chorus and is filled with lively musical performances and dance to the gospel and blues score.

“I’m glad Des Moines audiences can come spend some time in Colonus,” Ken-Matt Martin shares, with a mix of pride, anticipation and knowing that this production will be an opportunity for a community to bond. 

Thanks to DMPA and Pyramid, the bonding is priceless, as there is no admission to attend these three performances.

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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