For our second installment of the 2010 Wrap Up, we thought we’d offer you the perspective of one of our most active theatre artists. Brian Tanner has been involved in theatre in the area for many years. He is a past president of Dreamwell Theatre and currently serves as an at large board member. He has worked with nearly every theatre in the area. He’s an actor, director, and stage manager. A member of the Black Doggers, he is also a playwright. He even performs with Comics in Action, a local improv comedy group. There are very few hats he hasn’t worn!
My Year in Review
by Brian Tanner
I get so involved with theatre that it can be pretty hard to see things that I’m not involved in. Not because I’m not interested but because of other conflicts. For instance, I was on hand for each of the Dreamwell shows this season. Not an easy task when one is a cast of two and the other is entirely female.
Still, I have to say that co-directing Poona the F*ckdog with Meg Dobbs was one of the high points of my theatrical life. I was very pleased with the end result even with the insanity that took us there. The end result was something that I always felt hit above and below the belt and there were many nuanced performances. They were such a great cast to work with!
On the heels of that I was able to assist with Blackbird, directed by Angie Toomsen and starring Rip Russell and Erin Mills. The opposite of Poona in many ways, Angie brought out tender and emotional performances from her actors. Even watching the action from behind the curtain, I could feel the tension and honest humanity from the actors bringing their characters to life. Still, I think my performance as the “voice from behind the door” may have out shined even these great talents. Yes, I’m humble.
Then, right on the heels of that one came Neil Simon’s Chapter Two that I directed for ICCT. Another highlight for me. The actors were wonderful to work with and I am looking forward to seeing Caroline Sheerin return to theater after her new arrival! Rich Riggleman did a terrific job creating two different apartment sets on one stage, even if we did disagree about how high that painting should be hung.
During this time, I had an original short play I wrote called 21st Century Espionage produced by the Mount Vernon/Lisbon Community Theatre as a part of their “Slices of Life” production. Robin Burke directed Mike Welhelm and Nick Ostrem in a comedy piece about a secret agent who is a little too attached to his social media. I think they did a great job with it!
I got to perform my own monologue that previously appeared in the Holiday edition of Riverside Theatre’s “Walking the Wire” at Dreamwell Theatre’s “Dreamhome” fundraising event. I think that went well, though I’m still not sold on performing my own work. Also about that time was the Third Annual All in a Day Play Festival. I got to take part in the infamous slapstick show written by Andrew Juhl, and directed by K. Kluseman. If you weren’t there or didn’t hear about it, you can check the video on YouTube for its notoriety. Suffice it to say, we probably won’t include slapstick as a genre choice again. Or at least allow cream pies.
One of the thrills of stage managing 9 Parts of Desire was watching these great performers rehearse their parts and how the director Rachel Howell was able to bring these stories together while keeping the characters as individuals. I was happy to be a fly on the wall, as it were. During this time, a play I co-wrote with Annette Rohlk called June’s Winter was read by Red Door Ensemble at The Java House in east Iowa City. It can be a rush to hear your words.
Right on the heels of that, I was part of the ensemble of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead directed by James Trainor. One of the things I love about community theater is getting to work with a variety of people I haven’t worked with before. I got to meet a lot of new faces with this show and 9 Parts and hope to work with everyone again. Both R&G and 9 Parts were performed at the festival stage in City Park. I might have to reconsider being out there in August and September, or at least buy stock in bug spray!
2010 also marked the first time I got to perform at TCR, albeit on their Grandon stage, but still, it was TCR! This was a part of the TCR Underground, where nine plays were performed over three nights. This was a great weekend of theatre and I got to step outside of my “usual” role and play an unrepentant serial killer. Fun!
To continue that trend, I also appeared in Innocence, by Tom Deiker and the winner of the Writer’s Joust, directed by Pauline Tyer. It’s such a great thrill to see great directors work and notable that each of the shows Dreamwell did this year featured female directors. Meg, Angie, Rachel, Krista and Pauline raised the bar for directors of any gender. I was proud to have been involved with each of their productions in one way or another.
As far as what I got to see:
Wonderful Town was a production by ICCT at the Englert that compared with anything that TCR can do. Ben Bentler is quickly establishing himself as a grand artiste capable of presenting large scale productions to the stage. All in the Timing, ICCT’s presentation of a series of David Ives plays was a thoroughly entertaining evening with many intelligent laughs.
Proof was, well, proof, that TCR can also present intimate shows, even on a larger stage. Eyepiece at the University as well Killadelphia and Atlas of Mud by Working Group showed off the avant garde talents of their creators. Cinderella closed out the year for me with another Bentler produced musical that did not disappoint.
Whew! It was certainly a busy year. I’m looking forward to what 2011 will bring. There’s already a number of projects on the horizon that should be interesting to be involved with.
Looking forward to seeing you at the theatre!
Check back tomorrow for the final installment of the year in review. Awards are coming… Eeep!