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Center Stage

Wicked queens abound in November

11/1/2023

In Altoona, reports of The Scarecrow strolling the streets come in advance of his appearance on stage. (Sophia Towns as Hunk/Scarecrow in CAP Theatre’s “The Wizard of Oz: Youth Edition.” Photo credit: CAP Theatre producers

When it comes to storytelling on stage, great antagonists provide the tension and counterpoints for each story’s righteous path. Tallgrass Theatre Company’s inaugural mainstage Seedlings production, “Wicked Queen,” and CAP (Class Acts Productions) Theatre’s “The Wizard of Oz: Youth Edition,” are two gems sure to delight young audiences — and the adults who accompany them. 

Tallgrass adds a new dimension to its programming, taking its interactive Seedlings program from its origins as theatre classes for students to mounting its first full-length stage production. Participation in the Seedlings program, founded during the 2005-2006 season, was soon put on hold to allow Tallgrass to focus on its core mission — mainstage shows. The program renewed in 2018 and exploded when Tallgrass moved into its new performing space at 2019 Grand Ave. in West Des Moines. Already a staple of their partnership with West Des Moines Parks and Recreation, this program was ready for a next-level offering. The Seedlings had presented a holiday series of short plays last year, and “Wicked Queen” became this much-awaited expansion of Tallgrass programming.

“Starting an all-volunteer company from scratch is often an all-hands-on-deck situation, so Seedlings remained a part of the long-term planning and DNA of TTC,” says Maranda Turner, director of education/director of Seedlings Children’s Theatre. When the program started back up, the focus was mostly to provide a week of summer day camp under the direction of Naima Love-Joy and Maranda Turner, with support from TTC founder Jessie Phillips.

“Bringing theatre and community to people that aren’t generally given these opportunities has long been a goal for TTC, and our demographic falls into those that have limited exposure,” shares Turner. “Nurturing talent, building self-confidence and tolerance, and helping the love for the arts grow are just a few of the reason that Seedlings Children’s theatre remains an important part of the TTC family.”

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The development of its Seedlings program exemplifies the thoughtful progress that Tallgrass continues to demonstrate, giving central Iowa audiences exceptional theatrical experiences. “Wicked Queen” launches a welcome addition to young persons’ theatre in the region. 

Turner explained how Tallgrass chose this show. 

“Our script selection group read about 12 scripts. We debated…fairytales…a classic like ‘The Secret Garden,’ or go for a trendy show that everyone knows. In the end, we decided that we needed to choose a show with a smaller cast size, one that would engage young designers and run crew but, most of all, a show that would be a challenge.”

“Wicked Queen” by Rinne Groff “fit our needs…a smart funny show that would appeal to multi-generational audiences. The unique tech aspects make the show a fun challenge as well. We wanted to pull all the stops out and be sure that our first official mainstage show is not only memorable but also the standards audiences have come to expect from TTC.”

On the east side of Greater Des Moines, CAP continues its trademark of producing well-known and appealing family programming with “Wizard of Oz: Youth Edition.” Many appealing aspects of CAP programming have built this into a stellar development program, as many young performers and their families can attest. The cornerstone is CAP’s selection of well-known stories, giving audiences a strong sense of familiarity when they experience the performances. 

Erin Murphy, this show’s director, says, “It has been an absolute joy working to bring such an iconic production to our stage and to help our young actors tell this legendary story. Our show will feel very familiar to the adults who have grown up with this all-time classic and will be a blast for young people who may be experiencing it for the first time.” 

Central Iowa is fortunate to have these two companies join the well-established tradition of the Kate Goldman Children’s Theatre at the Des Moines Community Playhouse to provide exceptionally produced children’s and family theatre. Each of these three companies offers theatre classes, a beneficial learning experience that will help young ones better prepare themselves in today’s world. 

 

Des Moines Performing Arts delivers

Two more shows to consider come from DMPA, as the national touring production of “Girl from North Country” graces its Civic Center mainstage, and “Yippie Ki Yay” reverberates in the Temple Theatre. The first is a Tony Award-winning Broadway show that reimagines 20 legendary songs of Bob Dylan as they’ve never been heard before. The second promises an uplifting action romp affectionately paying tribute to the iconic 1980s film “Die Hard.” “Yippie Ki Yay” premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival last year to boisterous critical acclaim. ♦

 

Overheard in the lobby

CAP (Class Act Productions) Theatre Nov. 3-19. “The Wizard of Oz: Youth Edition”

Des Moines Community Playhouse – Kate Goldman Children’s Theatre Through Nov. 5. “Seussical the Musical TYA”

Tallgrass Theatre Company Nov. 10-19. “Wicked Queen” & Nov. 12, Broadway Karaoke

Des Moines Performing Arts – Temple Theatre Nov. 14-22. “Yippie Ki Yay” Touring production, the unauthorized parody of the iconic 1980s film, “Die Hard”

Des Moines Performing Arts Nov. 28 – Dec. 3. “Girl from the North Country” National Tour 

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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