Theatre Cedar Rapids to do “Superior Donuts,” New Play Festival, As Part of 2011-12 Season

Back in March, Theatre Cedar Rapids announced their 2011-12 season, but listed one of the plays as “TBA.” Judging from the press release, they have announced the play that was previously listed as “TBA” and it will be Superior Donuts by Tracy Letts, which will be performed in the Grandon Studio this September.

The other 11 productions—yes, 11—are 13, which will kick off the season on August 4; Damn Yankees, which will run from October 7-29; The TCR Underground Theatre Festival, which will feature new original works by Iowa playwrights this November; A Christmas Carol, which opens on November 25 and runs until December 17. In 2011, Theatre Cedar Rapids will produce The Importance of Being Earnest, which will run from January 27-February 18; Gross Indecency, which will run from February 10-March 3; The Wedding Singer, which will open on March 9 and run until the 31st of that month; Five Women Wearing the Same Dress, which will run from April 13-May 5; Alice in Wonderland, which opens on April 27 and runs until May 19; On Golden Pond, which will run from June 22-July 1; and Hairspray, which will open on July 6. 13, Damn Yankees, A Christmas Carol, The Importance of Being Earnest, The Wedding Singer, Alice in Wonderland, and Hairspray will be performed in the auditorium, while Superior Donuts, the festival, Gross Indecency, Five Women Wearing the Same Dress, and On Golden Pond will occur in the Grandon Studio.

Theatre Cedar Rapids has two productions remaining in their 2010-11 season: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, which opens next Friday, and Guys and Dolls, which opens on July 8. Earlier this season, their production of White Christmas had a sold-out run and their production of Sweeney Todd was met with universal acclaim.

(A disclosure before I continue: I stage managed Still Life With Iris for Theatre Cedar Rapids last year.)

The incredible thing about this season announcement is that Theatre Cedar Rapids will be doing 12 productions next year. No other non-professional theater company in Eastern Iowa is producing 11 plays and a festival of new works as part of an upcoming season. Additionally, they’re doing a festival of new plays by playwrights that are Iowans. Judging from what I’ve read, theater companies are currently trying to figure out how to promote the development of new plays and produce those plays while reducing the amount of time spent in development. Theatre Cedar Rapids is doing something remarkable by not only doing a festival focusing on all kinds of new works, but new works by playwrights that are specifically in Iowa. While it seems as though some theaters are still sitting around trying to figure out how to produce more new works, Theatre Cedar Rapids is actually doing something.

Another interesting aspect is the decision to have the runs of The Importance of Being Earnest and Gross Indecency overlap, although briefly. Gross Indecency is a play about the trials of Oscar Wilde, which is who wrote The Importance of Being Earnest. The decision to schedule those plays to overlap is really clever because it’s as if they’re giving the audience an enticement to find out more about the playwright.

As for the final play that was announced, which prompted me to write this post, Theatre Cedar Rapids isn’t doing what is Tracy Letts’ most famous play, August: Osage County, which is what he won the Pulitzer and Tony Award for. They’re doing his most recent play, Superior Donuts, which wasn’t even nominated for the Tony Award for Best Play. Superior Donuts was dismissed by critics in Chicago and didn’t receive any awards in Chicago—although I find it to be a very lovely portrait of life in Uptown. It’s probably Letts’ least terrifying play, but it still feels like a bold programming choice because it’s a very Chicago-centric play that didn’t receive any awards.

According to the press release, season memberships will be available to the general public this summer, and individual tickets will go on sale at the beginning of the 2011-12 season.

For more information, please visit Theatre Cedar Rapids website.

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Plug: “Still Life With Iris” at Theatre Cedar Rapids


Time to plug the play I’m currently involved with. Theatre Cedar Rapids’ upcoming production is Steven Dietz’s Still Life With Iris, which is the first family show to be performed in the newly remodeled Iowa Theatre Building. It still smells like a new theater and they’ve had two shows run in that theater.

Dietz’s play is very beautiful and intelligently written; it is not the typical family show that decides to dumb things down for the kids. This manages to cleverly be accessible for children while being an enjoyable show for adults. The play is about a girl named Iris who lives with her mother in the land of Nocturno, but is taken away to live on the Great Island with the Greater Goods. Iris’ loses her memory, save for a memory that she gets when holding a button from her coat. The play follows her journey to remember who she is, her family and to try to get home.

This production, which is directed by Theatre Cedar Rapids artistic director Leslie Charipar, also has a great cast and a terrific set designed by Bret Goethe. I am stage managing the production and it is the first time that I’ve stage managed in as large of a space as the Iowa Theatre Building’s auditorium.

Come see this show, especially if you haven’t been to the renovated building. To get tickets, call (319) 366-8591 or visit theatrecr.org

Theatre Cedar Rapids Actually Announces Their 2010-11 Season

Whenever it is discussed that Theatre Cedar Rapids is back and better than ever, no one is joking. Their 2010-11 season only proves that. Their upcoming season has such a great line-up that I would consider flying from O’Hare to see some of these plays. Even though they’re not doing August: Osage County, which I had predicted they would do because they have the space, the budget and the chutzpah to do that show.

Anyway, time to stop with the hyperbole and be serious.

Their first play is the musical 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, music and lyrics by William Finn (Falsettos, A New Brain, Elegies) and book by Rachel Sheinkin. The musical focuses on six contestants vying for the championship of the bee. The musical will run from Sept. 10-Oct. 2.

The second play is Six Characters in Search of an Author by Luigi Pirandello, adapted by Jason Alberty. The play focuses on a rehearsal that is interrupted by six fictional characters that demand for their story to be finished. Alberty will also be directing the play and it will run from Oct. 15-30.

Their holiday show will be White Christmas, more commonly known as Irving Berlin’s White Christmas to distinguish it from, you know, Martin McDonagh’s White Christmas. Based off of the classic film, it follows Bob Wallace and Phil Davis, who have a successful song-and-dance act, that follow two singing sisters to their Christmas show at a Vermont lodge. White Christmas will be performed from Nov. 26-Dec. 18.

Beth Henley’s Crimes of the Heart will be the next show in the season. The play focuses on the Magrath sisters that have gathered Hazlehurst, Miss. to await news of their dying grandfather while looking at their failures. Crimes of the Heart will run from Jan. 28-Feb. 12, 2011.

In March, Theatre Cedar Rapids will be performing Sweeney Todd by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler. The musical tells the tale of the murderous, vengeful barber Sweeney Todd who teams up with Mrs. Lovett, the owner of a meat pies shop, while on his quest to avenge the death of his wife. The musical will run from March 4-26. (It is also listed as being rated PG-13 for “excessive meat pies”)

The next play will be Sarah Ruhl’s play Eurydice. This play retells the myth of Orpheus through the eyes of Eurydice, who journeys to Hades to reunite with her father. Please note that there will be no giant fish on stage and that Eurydice will run from April 8-23.

In May, Theatre Cedar Rapids will be performing The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, as dramatized by Joseph Robinette. The classic C.S. Lewis story focuses on four children that walk through a wardrobe to discover the land of Narnia, currently being ruled by the evil White Witch. It will run from May 13-28.

The final play of the season will be the classic musical Guys and Dolls, with music and lyrics by Frank Losser and a book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows. During the prohibition, Nathan Detroit tries to find a place to hold his game while his persistently ill fiancee Adelaide suffers and Sky Masterson tries to woo the uptight Sarah Brown. Guys and Dolls will run from July 8-30.

All productions will be performed at Theatre Cedar Rapids’ home, the Iowa Theatre Building, at 102 Third St SE, Cedar Rapids. For more information, visit their website at TheatreCR.org.

Update: You can read the complete press release here.

Theatre Cedar Rapids Announces 2009-2010 Season

Theatre Cedar Rapids has announced their 2009-2010 season, which I will unfortunately not be able to see most of.
“Altar Boyz” will be done September 11-23 at TCR Lindale. This is pending, but October 16-25 they will be doing “Rock n’ Roll” by Tom Stoppard. Yes, you read that last sentance correctly. This makes me very happy because I was once asked by an employee at one of the theaters in Eastern Iowa what show I would love for them to do. I said anything by Tom Stoppard, which was greeted with a moan. (This was not at Theatre Cedar Rapids.)

November 20-December 6 they will be performing “Annie”, which I can’t stand, but it’s the quintessential family show. Also, I think TCR could do a pleasant production.

January 15-24 they will be performing “The Laramie Project” by Moisés Kaufman. That will be their last show in TCR Lindale.

February 26-March 14 the inagural show at the renovated Iowa Theater Building will be “The Producers.” This is probably the show I’m the most distraught about missing because I’ve loved that show for so long. And, yes, I saw it on Broadway.

April 9-18 they will be performing David Auburn’s Pulitzer Prize winning drama “Proof”. I saw a production of it at the Waterloo Community Playhouse a few years ago and I’m amazed that this will be the first time TCR does it. Normally, TCR does a show and then WCP does it.

May 14-23 they will be performing “Still Life With Iris”, whis is about a girl who is separated from her family and loses her memory.

And the season finishes July 9-25 with “Hairspray”, which is also pending. After reading some of the reviews of the original Broadway production, I’m much warmer to this than I was before.

Let’s Get Excited About Theater!

The following shows open this week:
A Number at the Paul Engle Center (1600 4th Ave SE) in Cedar Rapids. Stage Left Productions is doing it and tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for students.

The Velveteen Rabbit at the Hope Martin Theater in the Waterloo Center for the Arts. Black Hawk Children’s Theatre is doing it and tickets are $10.

Other theatre related things we can get excited about:
Desire Under the Elms transferring to Broadway. There was an ad in today’s New York Times. I’m very excited about that and it has nothing to do with the concierge at my hotel telling me that I looked like I would enjoy it.

-Theatre Cedar Rapids will begin flood renovations on the Iowa Theater Building this spring. (This also is home to the Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre, Cedar Rapids Harmony Hawks and many other events and performances.) This sadly means that they will not be back in that space when their 2009-2010 season begins. But they plan that the first show to be performed in the renovated Iowa Theater Building will be The Producers.

There are three positive things about this.

1). They will begin renovations and they’re expected to take less than a year.

2). TCR is doing The Producers, which I have adored since I purchased the soundtrack shortly after it came out. This also means that Theatre Cedar Rapids is doing a show that I will come back to Iowa for.

3). They’re going to have larger bathrooms. Hopefully this eases the traffic during intermissions.

You can find out information on giving money to the Next Act Campaign (which is for the renovations) by visiting this webpage on Theatre Cedar Rapids website.

You can also find the press release that I got all of this from here.