Sunday, May 26, 2024

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Center Stage

Murder in Ankeny


A summer camp prepares for a culminating performance from its class. Photo credit: Des Moines Community Playhouse

Oh, those wicked thespians up north. Ankeny Community Theatre embarks on a classic lethal, suspense-laden romp with “Dial M for Murder.” It’s no secret that influences from “across the pond” have saturated America’s fascination with murder mysteries. Blame Britain’s 19th-century Industrial Revolution, which stimulated its passion to read about murder. Why? 18th-century Englishpersons often lived in small villages, where their primal fears were of war, pestilence or famine, and not being offed by their neighbor. The country’s Industrial Revolution spurred a migration into cities, where new jobs awaited. Also, the unknowns of your neighbors, where you lived, and other specters of foreboding fueled fears. Writers and journalists of the day leveraged this anxiety and paranoia, feeding their readers with stimulating stories, triggering an obsession for nefarious death.

A master of the macabre, Alfred Hitchcock, even gave one immortality in film (“Dial M for Murder”), while Terrance Young gave another unforgettable cinematic longevity (“Wait Until Dark”). “Write Me a Murder,” “Wait Until Dark” and “Dial M for Murder” have a resilient appeal that beckons theatre-goers. After beginning its season with three family shows, Ankeny Community Theatre begins an intense trio of plays with this show. 

“Murder aside, this is a character study about relationships,” Director Dan Chase shares. “What better use of an intimate space than exploring the consequences of deceit and the lengths to which one will go in the pursuit of the perfect crime.” 


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Building future generations through theatrical creativity

Summertime delivers a wealth of captivating camps and performance opportunities for students and their families. These special immersions give students invaluable infusions of self-confidence, teamwork, creative expression, physical engagement and more. Such early life experiences are beneficial regardless of where the participants’ future aspirations carry them. Performing and visual arts groups and individuals offer a variety of experiences. Here are a variety of options to consider.

Des Moines Community Playhouse – nationally acclaimed theatre with offerings from youth to adults is the hallmark of this organization’s educational programming. Their 2024 schedule offers 39 different camps and classes.

Tallgrass Theatre Company – With their critically praised Seedlings programming in West Des Moines, Tallgrass Theatre Company partners with West Des Moines Parks and Recreation and expand their offerings to 17 classes covering an enticing range of subjects as well as development and participation opportunities.

CAP Theatre – Youth and young adults entering grades 1-12 are invited to join their three weeks of Summer CAmP in 2024. Take center stage and find your light with Class Act Productions.

Des Moines Performing Arts (DMPA) – A new slate of programs for 2024 fill their very popular Free Outdoor Programming. “Bringing artists directly into communities and neighborhood parks breaks down barriers and allows everyone to enjoy professional performing arts in their community,” shares Brooke Bridenstine, programming manager/event booking. This year DMPA is bringing seven programs to audiences for free. They include:

  • The Secret Agency
  • ANTS
  • El Circo
  • Squonk Brouhaha
  • Storytime Under the Green Umbrella
  • Yoga on Cowles Commons
  • Dancing on Cowles Commons

DMPA is also excited to present Spanish language performances of El Circo. Visit

Mainframe Studios – Consider visiting on the grandest monthly cultural open house in the Midwest when Mainframe presents its First Friday (yes, the first Friday of each month, 5-8 p.m., free admission). This can be your exploratory visit for a wealth of workshops to consider by this nationally recognized enclave of artists and organizations.

Varsity Theatre – Presents its first summer camps from Des Moines Film at the historic Varsity Cinema, “Around the World in Movies.” All films will be PG or G rated or considered equivalent. The instructors are Zach Kellen (master’s degree in educational administration) who has taught first through third grade for nine years. He is currently teaching middle school at Cowles Montessori. Darci Kellen (MFA in creative writing and environment) has been an instructional coach at Central Academy for 10 years as well as an adjunct English instructor for DMACC.

Film selection will be done in collaboration with Des Moines Film Executive Director and Varsity Programmer Ben Godar. Ben has an MFA in screenwriting. In addition to teaching film studies and screenwriting at the college level, he has experience teaching reading and animation to elementary students.

Weeklong camps begin June 17, 24, July 8 and 15. ♦

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.

Overheard in the Lobby 

Des Moines Community Playhouse

  • Through April 14. “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical”

Union Street Players (Pella)

  • April 5-14. “Frost/Nixon” 

Ankeny Community Theatre

  • April 12-21. “Dial M for Murder”

Tallgrass Theatre Company

  • April 14. “Broadway Karaoke”

Des Moines Young Artists’ Theatre. 

  • April 26 – May 5. “Marvel Spotlight – Squirrel Girl Goes to College” and “Hammered: A Thor & Loki Play.”

Tallgrass Theatre Company

  • April 26 – May 5. “The Good Doctor”

Broadway Cabaret – Java Joes Coffeehouse, Ankeny.

  • April 26. “Leading Men Cabaret”

Des Moines Symphony

  • April 27. “An Evening with Renée Elise Goldsberry.” Renée Elise Goldsberry, who took the Broadway world by storm when she originated the role of Angelica in the blockbuster musical “Hamilton,” returns to Des Moines!

Des Moines Performing Arts

  • April 30 – May 5. “MJ – The Musical”

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Summer Stir - June 2024