University of Iowa Theatre
New Play Festival
Though the University of Iowa presents excellent theatre throughout the school year, its reputation in playwriting comes to full flower in the University’s annual New Play Festival. During the last week of spring semester classes, the department stages five full productions of plays by MFA playwriting students, daily readings of scripts by MFA and undergraduate students and roundtable discussions of the works presented. Guest artists, which this year include Emmy-winning writer and producer Rick Cleveland and Sarah Lunnie of the Actors Theatre of Louisville, attend each full production and provide feedback to the playwrights during the roundtable discussions. The theatre department cancels classes during the festival so that students may attend as many events as possible.
Consider attending a show or reading—you never know which play will become the next modern classic. The festival runs from May 5-12. For more information on individual plays, guest artist biographies and a complete schedule events, visit the Theatre Department website.
The Children’s Hour
May 10, 11, 17, 18
Dreamwell Theatre continues their season’s focus on female playwrights with The Children’s Hour, directed by Elizabeth Tracey. Based on a true story, the play focuses on a troubled student at a girl’s boarding school who begins a rumor that two of the school’s female teachers are lesbians. Focused on the subjects of LGBT issues and harassment, the play feels ahead of its time. Indeed, when it premiered on Broadway in 1934, the very mention of homosexuality in a play was a crime in New York. The play runs at the Unitarian Universalist Society in Iowa City on May 10, 11, 17 and 18. For more information on purchasing tickets, visit dreamwell.com.
City Circle Acting Company of Coralville
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
May 10-12, 17-19
Are you in the mood for something familiar? Something peculiar? How about something for everyone? Check out City Circle’s production of the Tony Award-winning musical, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, directed by Patrick Du Laney. With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, the plot is a wild and witty farce based on Miles Gloriosus and other Ancient Roman comedies by Plautus, but with a vaudevillian flair. The play runs May 10-12 and 17-19 at the Coralville Center for Performing Arts. For more information on show times and tickets, visit citycircle.org.
Fourth Room Theatre
May 24-26, May 30-June 1
Can’t wait until the middle of summer for your outdoor Shakespeare fix? Fourth Room Theatre, the newest independent theatre company in Iowa City, will stage an ambitious production of William Shakespeare’s Cymbeline. Based on ancient Celtic legends, the play straddles an uneasy line between tragedy, comedy, romance and fantasy—making it one of Shakespeare’s least-performed works. Critics have found the play so problematic that even playwright George Bernard Shaw wrote his own ending!
Director Angie Toomsen hopes to bring a sense of enchantment to the audience, including an outdoor performance space, bird motifs and ghostly spirits. The core members of Fourth Room Theatre want the play to be as accessible as it is entertaining, and have been working on a fundraising campaign to make the production free to the public. The play will be staged May 24-26 and May 30-June 1 in an outdoor space near Kinnick Stadium. For updates, follow Fourth Room Theatre on Facebook. (Disclosure: The writer of this column has a role in this production.)
Theatre Cedar Rapids
The Wizard of Oz
April 26-May 18
A family show is one that can be enjoyed by family members of all ages, but for different reasons. The stage musical version of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a show for the entire family. Adults can read into the play’s populist symbolism. Teenagers can find parallels to Pink Floyd music. Children, and even jaded older members of the family, delight in the songs and fanciful setting as Dorothy Gale travels on her journey to achieve her goals. The play runs at Theatre Cedar Rapids from April 26 through May 18. For more information, visit theatrecr.org.
Jorie Slodki earned her MA in Theatre Research from University of Wisconsin, Madison, and has past experience in acting, directing and playwriting.