Today’s TOP FIVE belongs to a veteran of the Theatre Cedar Rapids stage. In fact, she was doing shows before there was a Theatre Cedar Rapids. Cherryl Moon Thomason remembers a time when it was called the Cedar Rapids Community Theatre… before they lost the word ‘community’ and rearranged the rest of the words. (Many community theaters did that in the 1980s and 1990s to distance themselves from the negative reputation community theaters (often unfairly) had acquired.) Distilling 50 years of theatre into five shows is a herculean task, but Cherryl kindly acquiesced. So now, we present Cherryl’s TOP FIVE!
Choosing my top five shows is like choosing my favorite child. I love them each for various reasons. Their strengths, their weaknesses, how much they needed me, how much I needed them. Do I choose the very first show I did in High School which propelled me on this lifetime career of theatre? Do I choose the first show in which I directed my husband? The first show I did with daughter #1, the first show I did with daughter #2? Do I choose the ones that produced lifelong friendships? So, I’m resorting to metaphorically throwing darts. Many, many favorite and memorable shows are being left on the “cutting-room floor”, so to speak. Here goes – in chronological order:
I played the Mother Superior. I choose this because I never laughed so much during rehearsals & performances in any show prior to this or since! To be sure, the script was thin, but I bonded with a terrific group of women who were each immensely talented and oh, so funny. The Director and the Choreographer were doubled up with laughter half the time! We all had so much fun together, and as a result, I believe our audiences did too. Oh, and I had the very best entrance any actor could hope for in this show! It had about a 5 minute set-up where the audience was coached to cheer & applaud. And it was about the last musical I ever did!
This was the first time I ever campaigned for a role. I really wanted the chance to play Amanda Wingfield and I told the Director way before auditions. I had never done a Tennesee Williams play or a classic like Menagerie. I prepared like crazy for that audition and won the role! Being a part of that show, working with that little group of really fine actors and playing Amanda was a terrific experience. And my first Classic.
Daisy Werthen was another role I really, really wanted to play. Again, I was fortunate enough to be cast. While I didn’t campaign for this role for myself, I did campaign for my scene partner. I wanted Doug Jackson to play Hoke, and up to that point, Doug had only done musicals. I talked to him about it for months and encouraged and cajoled him. He did come to auditions, and, of course, was cast. Then he proceeded to steal that show right out from under me! He was brilliant in his first non-musical, or as we like to say, “straight” show. He was the one everyone remembered. And I will never forget that experience and my friend, Doug/Hoke.
This was Urban Theatre’s inaugural production. I played Ruth Steiner. Susan Scharnau and I did it in the living room of the Garden House on the Brucemore estate in Cedar Rapids. We squeezed 25 chairs in there and the audience was literally inches away from us. It’s a two-woman show, and as such, is very intimate anyway, but the venue pushed the limits of intimacy. We had the luxury of being able to leave the playing space to actually walk into the kitchen, fix some tea and return. We went down the hallway and out the door. The sound of the voices coming from the other room rather than “offstage” added so much to the realism.
The role of Violet was, undoubtedly, the most challenging role I’ve ever undertaken. We performed in CSPS Hall, on the floor in front of the stage, using the elevated stage as the 2nd and 3rd floors of the house. The audience was very close to the playing space, which helped to bring them into the story. This was a vehicle that utilized all the members of Urban Theatre. Since we were all friends and had a history with each other, there was a lot of trust and familiarity among us, which made us a very solid company. We performed to sold-out houses with people clamoring for tickets. We adhered to the old theatre adage, “leave ‘em wanting more,” and did not add performances. Besides, it was an exhausting show for many of us to do.
Check back soon for another TOP FIVE. And check out the previous TOP FIVES here:
Kristy Hartsgrove Mooers
Cherryl Moon Thomason has been involved in theatre for more than 50 years, since high school. The majority of her work has been at Theatre Cedar Rapids. She first came to Cedar Rapids in 1961 when it was Cedar Rapids Community Theatre. She acted and directed for the Opera House Players in Elkader during the 70s. She returned to CR in 1978 and saw it move into the Iowa Theatre building and transform into TCR in the early 80s. She performed (and was Asst. Director) in Follies at the Paramount for over 20 years, (now retired). She is a core company member of the Classics at Brucemore and have been involved in 14 productions, both acting and ADing. She’s a company member of Urban Theatre Project of Iowa and has performed with them several times. She has acted at Riverside Theatre in Iowa City, The Old Creamery Theatre, both in Garrison and in Amana, and at the Iowa Theatre Artists Company in Amana.