The Foundry Forge brings a new theater vision to Cedar Rapids

Foundry Forge Presents: Men of Tortuga

Shores Event Center — opens Thursday, Aug. 10 at 7:30 p.m.

This week, a new arts organization in Cedar Rapids will stage its first production. The Foundry Performance Laboratory presents Jason Wells’ Men of Tortuga under the banner of the organization’s performance division, the Foundry Forge.

The play opens on Thursday, Aug. 10 and runs through Aug. 19 at the Shores Event Center (700 16th Street NE). Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday shows are at 7:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday shows begin at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10.

Area theater stalwart Jason Alberty is the Foundry’s founder. He answered questions via email about where he sees the Foundry Performance Laboratory fitting into the area’s cultural scene and about the members of the community he hopes to best serve.

Director Jason Alberty (far R) leads Larry Hansen, Tad Paulson and Kerry Patrick (L-R) in a rehearsal of ‘Men of Tortuga.’ — photo courtesy of Jason Alberty

The Cedar Rapids/Iowa City area is awash in theater companies. An embarrassment of riches, really. What sparked your interest in starting another?

Well, it’s really more than a theater company. The theater company is just the first and, perhaps, most visible aspect of the Foundry. And, really, can there be too much art? Most other countries don’t think so. Why do we? According to a 2014 report, the German government spent the equivalent of $183 per person in national arts funding. The United States spent $3.06. We need more theater. Not less.

What niche are you carving out for this company?

Our theater niche? We are working hard to become a fully paying professional company. Our niche is small, actor-driven, thought-provoking shows. But our mission is to offer theater at a price that makes it difficult to choose between theater or a movie. Now, it’s a no-brainer for most people in this area. A movie costs, what, nine bucks? A theater ticket is $20. But when we get down to $10, I think the choice is more difficult. I want to people to come see a show for $10 and get hooked. I want them to understand that, maybe, that big show down the street, the one with singing and dancing, the one that seats five-hundred people — that may actually be worth saving another ten dollars to see. I want us to be a stepping stone to more theater.

How does the company support and advance your bigger goals?

My hope is that the theater company aspect is both a beginning and an end. I hope people come to see the show and learn more about the Foundry’s greater role in the community. But I also want people to come here to act and create knowing that the time is tighter, the stress may be a bit greater and the payoff will be decidedly different.

Your website talks about creating a network of creative folks — both professional and amateur. Is that something you think is missing in the area at the moment?

Absolutely. I, as many of the creatives I hang out with, feel that there are bubbles within the Corridor. I’ve heard people from both north and south say things like, “I don’t go there because the plays aren’t very good.” And I’ll ask if they’ve gone. Of course, they haven’t. I want to create a bridge, not just between communities, but also between business/industry and artists. I want people to connect. I think it’s important for the writer to realize that the engineer works within a creative world, just as much as I want the engineer to know that writer must work with a framework.

How will your organization address these ideas?

We are planning on have four Gatherings per year that will each bring together 20 professionals from across different businesses and industries to chat and network, to hangout and create together, just for one evening. I’m wanting that to spark more connection, more collaboration between various groups. Then I want us to find ways of marketing the Corridor as the creative hub that we’ve become.

What does success look like when it comes to this goal?

I want to run into someone who just moved here for Cargill or Rockwell or whoever. And I want them to say, “You know, we heard about some of the really cool things people were doing in this area. And we are from (somewhere else).”

What can you tell me about the funding model?

We are a for-profit, but we are still reaching out for help funding our projects, specifically the Veterans and the Healing Projects. I am particularly interested in working with veteran-owned businesses, trading promotion for their sponsorship.

Tell me about the outreach goals you have and your focus on veterans and those with cancer. In addition to reaching out to them as audience members, will you also be seeking to engage them as performers and technical folk?

This is really the thing that I’m most jazzed about: bringing veterans in and reaching out for cancer patients. We will do one show a year for veterans: a veteran issues show. For that show, we will have one night that is veterans-only and free for them. We are also hoping to find funding for veterans-only creative classes in acting, writing, directing, visual arts. My ultimate hope is that we can, over time, create performance pieces and visual art shows that are created by and performed by veterans.

Our cancer outreach is about creating trunk shows that will travel to hospice centers, patient’s homes and hopefully even patient’s hospital rooms. Our shows will be time sensitive, small cast. When I was performing hospice for my parents, I thought how much my mother would have loved someone to come in and perform a short show for her. And it’s not just for the patients. It’s also for the families. I can’t wait to get this one going.

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