We’re going to try something new. One thing we’d like to do with this website is foster more community and make this site a little more interactive. We have a rich theatre history in our area, but it’s not written down anywhere. So we decided to see if we could use this site to start recording some of our theatre history. Over the course of the next week, theatre people from all over the area are going to give us the TOP FIVE shows they’ve been a part of and, most importantly, why. It could be in any capacity – acting, directing, tech work, producing, whatever. What’s the criteria for getting into a TOP FIVE? That’s up to the individual theatre artist. Maybe a show got in because it broke new ground. Or maybe the artist chose that show because the role she played was so memorable. Or maybe the show brought the community together in some way. Maybe the artist learned something new about himself through the process. The criteria is up to the artist. We can’t wait to see what responses we get. To start it all off, we’ve asked Iowa Theatre Blog founder Matt Falduto to share his TOP FIVE. If you’d like to submit your Top Five, send us an email (ictheatreblog AT gmail.com). And feel free to use the comment section to let us know what you think of Matt’s TOP FIVE.
Hi everyone! It was so hard to narrow it down to just five shows, but that’s the name of the game, so here goes!
5) Noises Off by Michael Frayn. City Circle, 2012. I love this play. It’s one of my favorite comedies. I realize it’s a bit of inside baseball for non-theater people, but the slapstick, the witty repartee and the double entendres ring true no matter what your background is. I was fortunate enough to play Gary, the man who can never finish a sentence. I got to fall down stairs and hop across the stage with my shoes tied together. The cast was simply phenomenal – Robyn Calhoun, Eddie Skaggs, Bryant Duffy, Ramya Hipp, Kaitlyn Skaggs, Shannon Bonney, Brett Borden and Kevin Burford. And the set! What an amazing achievement to create a two story rotating set. I had a blast in this show and so it’s part of my Top Five.
4) Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me by Frank McGuinness. Dreamwell Theatre, 2005. This one is personal for me. I played Edward, one of three hostages held in an unnamed country in the middle east. You never see the captors – the focus is on the three hostages. I was fortunate enough to share the stage with Matt Brewbaker and Thomas Williams and be directed by the incomparable Gerry Roe. Edward breaks down at one point and playing that scene was challenging and incredibly fulfilling. I really haven’t had too many chances to dip a bucket into that deep emotional well. In fact, my next opportunity was probably the just closed Death of a Salesman when I played Biff. Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me will always be in my top five.
3) The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. Young Footliters, 2014. I knew I had to include one of the children’s theatre shows I’ve been involved in on this list, and I settled on the most recent show I directed – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. For this production, I switched the Peter and Susan characters, which meant the girl got to slay the wolf and lead the army and the boy had to deal with the death of Aslan and all of the emotion that entailed. This was not a universally accepted idea – one actress withdrew from the show when she learned of the change. But the rest of the response was only positive. I love working with kids because they’re so brave. They’ll try anything as long as you encourage them. And I pushed them to really reach for the emotional moments of the show. I’ve seen lots of kid shows where the most the directors shoot for is everyone remembering their lines and saying them loud enough. Kids are capable of so much more than that – they just need to be guided to find the emotions and feel safe enough to go for it. My kids found that emotion and I was so proud to see them pull it off. And hopefully the message that girls and boys should push beyond traditional gender roles sunk in.
2) Soldier’s Daughter by the Black Doggers. Dreamwell Theatre, 2010. I loved many aspects of this show … the location, the collaboration, and the story itself. Each of the Black Doggers wrote a short ‘playlet’. I wrote the story of a father telling his daughter stories, which were each of the playlets. I made the father a soldier because the war had been going on for so long and I wanted to explore the story of a military dad and his kid. I actually sent the script to a military mom who was a good friend of mine to get her feedback and she helped me find the truth of the relationship. All of that was great, but it was the location of the show that makes it so memorable to me. We performed the show promenade style at Country Camp, a farm on the outskirts of Iowa City. The audience moved with the action to many different locations on the farm. One of my favorite moments was watching Psyche chase Eros down a hill as the sun slowly sets behind them. I guess what I loved most about this show was it was unique from start to finish – the way it was created, the execution, and the audience experience. This is the sort of show that I love – it was wonderfully different.
1) That Day in September by Artie Van Why. Dreamwell Theatre, 2007. This one is on my list for a couple of reasons. One, because the play tackled 9/11, allowing the actors and audience (and me!) to express and experience the emotions that still roil us almost 14 years later. And two, because it was a writing and directing achievement of which I am very proud. The show was originally a one-man show and I received permission to transform it into a show for eight actors. I created eight characters based on American archetypes – the policewoman, the white collar worker, the blue collar worker, the student, etc. Then I had to choose which words should be given to which character. I tried to tie the emotion of a particular group of a lines to the archetype I thought best reflected that emotion. It was a fascinating editing challenge. And I don’t think we knew exactly what we were getting into as the eight actors then had to create one character in a collaborative acting experience that I have never seen done before or since. I am so proud of the work they did and so proud of the powerful theatre experience we created for the audience.
Check back tomorrow for a Top Five from a long time Iowa City area theatre icon! And remember, if you’d like to submit your Top Five, send us an email (ictheatreblog AT gmail.com). Feel free to use the comment section to share your thoughts on any of these shows.
Matt hails from the Chicago suburbs but fell in love with Iowa City upon his arrival in 1992. After graduating from the University of Iowa with a degree in English, he decided to fulfill his dream of starting a theatre company and Dreamwell Theatre was born. Many years later, he found himself at Iowa State, where he received a Master’s in Education. His acting credits include “Paul” in Barefoot in the Park, “George” in Of Mice and Men, “Edward” in Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me, “King Philip” in The Lion in Winter, “Andrew” in Love Letters, “Gary” in Noises Off and “Philip” in Corpus Christi. Directing credits include The Hobbit, Wait Until Dark, How To Sell a Chair, Intellectual Orgasms, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and That Day in September, which he adapted for eight actors. In 2009 and 2010, he won Best Play in the All in a Day Play Festival, a co-production between Dreamwell and City Circle. He has written a number of plays that have been produced locally, most recently Soldier’s Daughter, which was co-written with members of the Black Doggers playwriting group. Matt and his wife, Sharon, have three daughters, Rachel, Samantha, and Piper.