Riverside Theatre shakes things up with a new reading series

Riverside Theatre
The first Dollar Dog Reading takes place on November 10. — photo courtesy of Riverside Theatre

Riverside Theatre is a professional theatre that has been producing high quality, groundbreaking productions in Iowa City for the last 32 years — but that does not mean that the artists involved don’t like to loosen up once in a while.

It is in this spirit of having a casual, fun night out that Riverside is presenting Dollar Dog Readings, a new staged reading series. Audiences can come to Riverside see a one-night-only performance of a script that is still a work in progress. Actors will read their scripts, often from music stands, and perform without costumes or props. Audience members pay $1 or $2 for tickets, depending on the result of a coin flip.

Riverside is collaborating on the new series with Working Group Theatre, which has been in residence at Riverside for four years.

Riverside Artistic Director Jody Hovland said, “Both of our companies have a passion for new work, and collaborating on a new play series seemed both logical and fun.” Working Group Theatre focuses on creating original productions, while Riverside Theatre is a member of the National New Play Network, an organization of nonprofit theatres that supports and promotes the development of new plays.

Neither theatre had to look far to find the first Dollar Dog play. The performance on November 10 will feature a play by Sean Christopher Lewis, the Artistic Director for Working Group Theatre. The play, SIS, is a comedy about two sisters, one a “staunch conservative” and the other a “zealous feminist.” As Lewis describes it, “From feminazis to family values, everything is fair game, as old hostilities bubble to the surface in this hilarious battle of the sisters.”

Lewis says that the play is close to a final version. It has already been performed as a staged reading at a new play festival in Michigan, and several theatres are interested in producing it. For playwrights, staged readings are a useful tool. “You get to see the piece with an audience and gauge their reactions,” said Lewis. “For a comedy, especially, this is very important.”

Hovland hopes that the series will grow over time. “It’s another way to share with the community what’s new in the field and invite them into the development process,” she said. Most importantly, she hopes that the audience will have a great time. “Flip a coin, lay down your dollar or two, grab a beverage and come on in!”

Dollar Dog Readings are at Riverside Theatre’s Gilbert Street space on November 10 and February 2 at 6:30pm. For more information, visit

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