Left, the Oster Regent Theatre in Cedar Falls, Iowa. The Oster Regent is home to the Cedar Falls Community Theatre.
The following sentence might appear to be earth shattering to some people. Iowa has a very vibrant theater scene.
Hold the phone. Iowa? Little po-dunk Iowa? The state known for corn, the caucus, meth, immigration raids and legalizing gay marriage before New York and Illinois?
Yes, that’s the state.
While many Iowa theaters are community theaters, those with volunteer actors, those theaters can produce thought provoking shows and high-quality entertainments.
In the Waterloo-Cedar Falls area, where I live, there are four known theater companies, not counting Theatre UNI at the University of Northern Iowa. None of them are professional theaters and one of them is a “desert theater,” which I think is like dinner theater, but with desert.
In the Cedar Rapids area, there are four theater companies, again, they’re all community theaters. Amana has two Equity theaters, The Old Creamery Theatre and Iowa Theatre Artists. There’s the Mount Vernorn-Lisbon Community Theatre. In Iowa City there are a whopping eight theater companies, one of which is an Equity theater, two of which are specifically for children’s shows.
There are also companies in Dubuque, Ames, Marshalltown, Des Moines and Council Bluffs, just to name a few cities.
But of course, community theater tends to get a bad wrap, so I would imagine that community theater in Iowa would get an even worse wrap. Well, let me say that most of the community theater I’ve seen in Iowa goes against the grain of this absurd stereotype. A stage adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Books” set in the inner city that moves me to tears doesn’t seem very stereotypical.
Here’s a list of some good productions I’ve seen at community theaters: “Kiss Me, Kate,” “Hello, Dolly!”, “Fences,” “The Velveteen Rabbit,” “Anne of Green Gables,” “The Rocky Horror Show,” “Enchanted April,” “Gypsy,” “Into the Woods,” “Jungalbook,” “Oleanna,” “Art.” I don’t think that sounds really shabby and shallow. (Say what you will about the children’s shows, they had depth and emotion.)
Some theater companies also are a starting block for playwrights that want to premiere their shows. I don’t know how many of them go on after their premiere in Iowa, but you have the opportunity to potentially see a very thought provoking play or at least a very entertaining, well written show.
Iowa is crawling with good shows that I hope that a visitor to Iowa, none the less a native, will take an opportunity to see.