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Theatre Cedar Rapids kicks off its 6th annual Underground New Play Festival


Underground New Play Festival

Theatre Cedar Rapids — Opens Friday, Jan. 22

Joseph Anderson's 'Feeding' in the Theatre Cedar Rapids Underground New Play Festival
Joseph Anderson’s ‘Feeding,’ directed by Ken Van Egdon. L-R: Lindsay Vincent, Justin Heins, Jeremiah Barnhart, Denise Allamand — photo by Michael M. Huang

Continuing a six-year tradition, Theatre Cedar Rapids is inviting audiences “Underground” to see a selection of 14 original productions by over 70 volunteers both onstage and behind the scenes. The festival begins Jan. 22 and runs through Feb. 7; tickets are $13 each night.

We often say “underground” when we mean “independent and underappreciated,” which through this festival’s history has certainly rung true, but in this case the moniker “underground” is actually quite literal. Following the flood of 2008, TCR took advantage of its need to reconstruct and built an intimate black box in what was formerly a makeup room. The Grandon Studio has flexible seating (currently 95 in an alley configuration) and is suitable to hosting everything from improv night to Neil Simon (full disclosure: this writer is a teacher in TCR’s “Improv and Beer” program, and after a few beers will probably admit listing Jake’s Women as a guilty pleasure).

Having an extra space allows TCR to host some very intense shows in a small but flexible space that feels more like a poetry jam than a big community theatre. More importantly, it allows them to invite local artists to write, direct and act in three-week adventure called the Underground New Play Festival. This year’s offerings run the gamut from comedy to drama, from fantasy to dark satire. Each night features 2–4 short pieces and the selection rotates every night (7:30 p.m. on Thursday through Sunday, with an additional matinee on Saturday and Sunday afternoons). It’s a huge undertaking with a lot of moving parts, and what’s most exciting about it is seeing which pieces will pop off the page when they’re performed publicly for the first time.

Past iterations of the Underground New Play Festival has given us such treats as Horatio’s Purgatory, which won awards at the state community theatre competition and went on to compete regionally, and The Ethical Dilemma of a Sandwich Down the Pants. Without attending any rehearsals, it’s difficult to predict what a festival of plays featuring such a broad range of performers and creators will entail, but the list of plays and playwrights reads like a who’s who of the Corridor’s theatre talent. The Iowa Goatsinger himself, Mike Moran, kicks off the first weekend with his self-directed piece Before Ever After, which, quite appropriately, tells us a story about beginnings. The funny and insightful Duane Larson (whose work has featured in many local short play festivals) pokes fun at our relationship with our cable companies in Cutting the Cord. Joseph Anderson and Jen Rouse promise us quite different takes on the question of dealing with the mentally ill in Feeding and For the Care and Control of the Insane, and Claire Dieter plays with magic and mystery in Good-Bye Glinda and I Put a Spell on You. The thing about a new play festival is that you never know what you’re going to get — indeed, that’s part of the fun — but looking at these titles I see a lot of skilled artists with intriguing ideas.

What will be your favorite new play? I guess we’ll find out.

Festival Schedule

Before Ever After

Friday, Jan. 22 at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 24 at 2:30 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 30 at 2:30 p.m.

Written by: Mike Moran
Directed by: Mike Moran

Cutting the Cord

Thursday, Jan. 28 at 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Feb. 5 at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 6 at 7:30 p.m.

Written by: Duane Larson
Directed by: Taylor James Foster

The Dictator’s Daughter

Saturday, Jan. 30 at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 6 at 2:30 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 7 at 7:30 p.m.

Written by: Erica Jo Lloyd
Directed by: Nathan Shepard

The Eleventh Chapter

Friday, Jan. 29 at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 31 at 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Feb. 4 at 7:30 p.m.

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Written by: Laura Schmidt
Directed by: David Schneider

Feeding

Saturday, Jan. 23 at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 24 at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 31 at 2:30 p.m.

Written by: Joseph Anderson
Directed by: Ken Van Egdon

The Five-Fifteen

Saturday, Jan. 30 at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 6 at 2:30 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 7 at 2:30 p.m.

Written by: Erica Jo Lloyd
Directed by: Erica Jo Lloyd

For the Care and the Control of the Insane

Saturday, Jan. 30 at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 6 at 2:30 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 7 at 2:30 p.m.

Written by: Jen Rouse
Directed by: Aaron Canterbury

Good-Bye Glinda

Friday, Jan. 29 at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 31 at 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Feb. 4 at 7:30 p.m.

Written by: Clare Dieter
Directed by: Jaime Hein

Home is Where the Heart Is

Friday, Jan. 22 at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 24 at 2:30 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 30 at 2:30 p.m.

Written by: Taylor James Foster
Directed by: Taylor James Foster

I Put a Spell on You

Saturday, Jan. 30 at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 6 at 2:30 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 7 at 2:30 p.m.

Written by: Clare Dieter
Directed by: Rachel Potthoff

The Last Rodeo

Friday, Jan. 22 at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 24 at 2:30 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 30 at 2:30 p.m.

Written by: Ben Lafayette
Directed by: K. Michael Moore

Looking for America

Thursday, Jan. 28 at 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Feb. 5 at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 6 at 7:30 p.m.

Written by: Per Wiger
Directed by: Janeve West

Toilet Note

Saturday, Jan. 23 at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 24 at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 31 at 2:30 p.m.

Written by: Erica Jo Lloyd
Directed by: Luke Brooks

World of Lovelies

Friday, Jan. 22 at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 24 at 2:30 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 30 at 2:30 p.m.

Written by: Taylor James Foster
Directed by: Brian Tanner


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