Coralville – Most theaters have announced their seasons for next year. We decided to do a bit of a deep dive into those seasons by talking to the artistic directors of the various theaters. In this post, Patrick Du Laney, Artistic Core of City Circle, gives us some insight into the 2015-16 season.
Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions about your season, Patrick.
Thank you for doing this! We are so pleased you thought of us!
So ‘British Invasion’ is the theme of your season – do you plan to continue with theme seasons?
As of now, yes, we are planning to continue with the theme season idea. A big hope for us is that the theme season will generate a greater interest in season subscriptions. It’s our hope that our audience will find “the golden thread” between the show next season, both in terms of theme and quality. We won’t know if our idea worked until a good part of the upcoming season has passed, so yes! Let’s see what happens!
The theme idea was my idea, and I was so pleased to see our committee take the idea and run with it! I believe audiences like to feel they’re in the hands of artists who have a specific vision in mind, to be taken on a journey. I think the theme season feels like a ship with a rudder and a destination!
One thing I noticed is this a boy-heavy season. Land of the Dead and Sweeney Todd are mostly men, Oliver‘s best characters are male, and then there’s 1776… this was before your time, but the last time City Circle did 1776 in 2002, they were begging men to be in it so they could get a full cast. So I guess I have two questions – was it your intention to make this a men-heavy season and if so, why? And what is your strategy to get enough men to audition for the shows?
It is a testosterone-fest, no doubt! We certainly didn’t plan it that way, but when we looked at the season we had put together, we all said “Oh. Yes. That.” I would argue, however, that the best roles of the season all belong to the Women. Oliver! has a number of plum roles, Sweeney Todd has one of the greatest female roles EVER, and 1776 gives us Abigail Adams and Martha Jefferson, the beating heart of show. We’ve lost quantity, but the quality of the roles is not to be denied!
Your first show is the only one I’ve never heard of – William Shakespeare’s Land of the Dead – and it sounds really cool. What drew you to do this show?
I am so excited about this show! I had the pleasure of performing it at Creede Repertory Theatre in 2013, and I know how well the show plays. One of our challenges at City Circle is to choose plays that fill the space of that theatre; the scope and intensity of WSLOTD does that quite well. We’re hoping to turn this marvelous new play into quite an event – you should come audition!
Well, that’s certainly tempting… Oliver! is your holiday musical. First of all, thanks for choosing a non-traditional Christmas show!
I saw Oliver! at City High in 2014… it’ll be good to see it with age appropriate actors. Can you tell us a little bit about why this show was chosen and what plans you have for the production?
I agree, age-appropriate is useful! I think many of us felt the same way you do, in that we wanted to find, well, something that wasn’t A Christmas Carol – I love Christmas Carol, but it becomes more of a special event when it isn’t revived perpetually. This show has it all, great music, a huge cast of mostly character roles (which we have an abundance of in the corridor), and the sure hand of Liz Tracey. I think Liz has real knack for the large-scale musical, judging from her work with Jesus Christ, Superstar, and I can’t wait to see what she brings to Oliver!
I really enjoyed Liz’s version of JCS. So Sweeney Todd is your, um, Valentine’s Day show… you do know what it’s about, right? Demon Barber? Is this sort of an anti-valentine’s day strategy? Tell us more about this show.
Wait, what? We never actually read the show, we just recognized the name – is that wrong?
You’re killing me here.
Yes, we are THRILLED with our counter-programming! As it happens, the date itself was a happy coincidence, just how the cards fell with the Coralville Center’s availability. We are planning quite a wonderful, scary evening of theatre. I am happy to inform you that we’re bringing in a guest director for this project, Mark Christopher Baer. I think it’s important to continually pump new blood into any theatre, and Mark’s vision for the show is razor sharp, pun intended.
1776 follows and Pauline Tyer is directing! I’ve always been a big fan of Pauline’s work. Can you tell us what it is about this show that made you excited to bring it to stage?
Well, first off, we were tickled with idea of taking “British Invasion” literally! Plus, with the election year coming up, we felt it was too good an opportunity to pass up. We were delighted that we could bring back Pauline, as her last venture with 1776 is still being talked about today – her passion for this new production is invigorating. And yes, the challenge of finding ALL those guys is daunting but, judging from the Into The Woods audition turnout, there is some FANTASTIC male talent in this area!
And then you end the season with Kiss Me, Kate as your teen musical. Why did you choose that show for the teens?
After two years of contemporary teen musicals (Drood, The Addams Family), we thought a return to a classic was in order. City Circle is quite devoted to educational opportunities, and a well-rounded repertoire is a must!
I can’t tell you how much I agree with that! I just had a teenage friend tell me the other day that she thought Death of a Salesman was a comedy… she says me to, It’s an ironic title, right? … Oh youth. As a more general question, what is your artistic vision for City Circle moving forward?
I think community theatre can be the most important theatre in the country. It isn’t always or even often the case, but community theatre has that power. There is something wonderful about going to a theatre and seeing your next door neighbor get up to sing a song, or act in a play, but most importantly to TELL THE STORIES THAT NEED TO BE TOLD. The first actors were community theatre actors – civil servants, actually, and to create a theatre for, of and by that community is an incredible opportunity and responsibility. I hope City Circle can be a leader in that dialogue with the community, by dedicating ourselves to an ever-higher standard of quality, a clarity of purpose, and collaboration with dedicated artists and even other theatre in the area.
How do balance artistic vision with the need to get people in the seats and keep the theatre going?
I solidly believe that if you build it, they will come. I think the answer is to do plays and musicals that we are passionate about, period. I’ve worked in theaters all over the country, and I’ve seen this to be true. This will take a good deal of time, but I think as City Circle builds a reputation for quality, what will eventually happen is that audiences will start to take chances on plays and musicals they may not have heard of, trusting City Circle to do right by them. It will be an ongoing process, but the right course, in my opinion.
Where do you see City Circle fitting into the IC-Coralville theatre scene – what is your niche?
I think our niche is the large play and mid-sized musical. The Coralville Center for the Performing Arts is a real gift to us, such a beautiful facility, but it comes with the challenge of finding the right shows to fill its space, as I said earlier. I think we’re starting to find a real consistency of show choice and performance quality, figuring out how to use the space to its greatest potential.
Bonus question: What was your favorite City Circle moment last year?
I know I’m not supposed to name my own work, but I was pretty thrilled with how The Mystery of Edwin Drood turned out. I was crushed more people didn’t get to see the phenomenal work done by that cast. If I had to pick a single moment, it was watching the entire cast perform “Both Sides of the Coin” as the curtain call. Thrilling, precise, specific.
Thanks so much, Patrick. Can’t wait to experience City Circle’s season!