Today’s TOP FIVE comes to us from David Morton, an actor who is mostly known in the Cedar Rapids area though he has ventured to Iowa City on occasion. His list includes an original show, a classic family story, a play about an theatre icon, one of the most talked about shows in recent years, and, perhaps most importantly, a play that was a response to natural disaster, demonstrating again the positive impact theatre can have on our collective recovery from such tragedies. I am sure you will enjoy David’s TOP FIVE!
Writing a Top Five List is difficult. The Cultural Corridor offers thespians numerous opportunities. Over the years I have had dozens of theatrical experiences, any one of which could be considered worthy of a list such as this. When I initially moved to Iowa from California in 2003 I wondered if I would even be able to find a theatre community to work in. I realize now how ignorant I was and could not imagine living anywhere else. I am thankful to this community for welcoming me into the Corridor community. So, in no particular order…
I feel lucky indeed. This was the third time I had been invited to join this group of artists and entertainers. When I first arrived in Cedar Rapids I watched many of these artists perform. The first time I was approached to join them, I was astounded. What made this third time even more special was that Akwi Niji wrote a piece titled “The Garden” for me personally. Akwi and I spent an evening at Brucemore together talking about my life as a gardener. Because of her talent as a writer I was able to perform a monologue that was extremely personal and heartfelt. What an experience. How “lucky” can a person be? The talent in this town is astounding.
4) August: Osage County by Traci Letts. Urban Theatre Project of Iowa, 2013.
This was a project with Urban Theatre Project of Iowa performed at CSPS/Legion Arts. It was exciting because I was performing with people that I consider my best friends in Iowa. We had all wanted to do this piece for a number of years. We are all busy people but we came together under the direction of Angie Toomsen. She had to work around our busy schedules but we forged ahead to sold-out houses. I love all these people and felt honored to be part of such a stellar group of actors. Angie Toomsen understood the piece and understood us. She put us in the right roles and held us together like no one else could. It was so rewarding to be part of this particular production.
3) The Wizard of Oz based on the novel by L. Frank Baum. Theatre Cedar Rapids, 2013.
I loved this film as a kid. I believe it is what inspired me to be an actor. I used to gather many of my childhood friends and my big sister and we would play out this entire movie. I would pretend to be the scarecrow or the lion or the tin man, but mostly I liked to pretend to be the witch. Margaret Hamilton was excellent and would scare me each and every time I watched this film. When Theatre Cedar Rapids put it on their season I wondered if I should audition? Musical auditions are not my forte. I summoned up the courage. I put on mascara, lipstick and striped socks. I went in with one intention, for director Leslie Charipar to cast me as the witch. I had to sing and dance even though the witch in this particular version had no songs. I sang “Witchy Woman” acapella. (Terrified but focused.) And I was cast! I was thrilled. It was hard work, but oh so rewarding. I love that Leslie took the risk to cast me. I am not sure anyone else would have.
2) Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde by Moises Kaufman. Theatre Cedar Rapids, 2012.
Talk about a challenge for an actor. I was cast as Oscar Wilde in TCR’s production directed by Jason Alberty. It was the role of a lifetime. Oscar Wilde paved the way for many artists and indirectly, the gay movement. He was an interesting and complex man. The script challenged the cast of actors. All had to play multiple roles. Bryant Duffy was asked to portray a judge with a personality that is the antithesis to his. Jason Alberty had a clear vision of how we would tell this story using a bare stage. Having the actors change into costumes quickly, using minimal props. We moved the piece quickly from scene to scene. The writing is well done and the Grandon Studio at TCR was the perfect intimate space for such a production. The cast of actors became a true ensemble; I will never forget it.
1) Moving Home, script direction by Jason Alberty, original music by Dan Bern and Gerard Estella. Classics of Brucemore, 2008.
This experience was like no other. This show was produced for the Classics at Brucemore in the summer of 2008, the summer of the flood. We were set to produce a version of Lysistrata that summer at Brucemore. But then the flood came. Our costumes, sets and lighting were all taken by the river. So Brucemore collaborated with Urban Theatre Project of Iowa, Legion Arts, TCR, SPT and Liars Theatre to create an original piece that allowed the artists in this community to express ourselves in the midst of this tragedy. Legion Arts and TCR were both wiped out by this flood. It was horrific. But as artists we banded together. We made a difference. After the production we were able to contribute $18,000.00 to the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation’ Flood 2008 Fund. I remember thinking that if I never had the opportunity to do theatre again I would be fine with that because this show demonstrated to me what art and theatre should be about–connecting with one another, telling stories that resonate and sharing experiences that change you personally on a truly visceral level.
I have had wonderful opportunities here in the Corridor. These are only five of them. I am truly blessed to live in a place that supports the arts and I try to remember to thank my “lucky stars” every day.
Check back soon for another TOP FIVE. And check out the previous TOP FIVES here:
Kristy Hartsgrove Mooers
Jeffrey Allen Mead
Cherryl Moon Thomason
David Morton has been acting in theatre since 1979. He is originally from San Diego, California and lived in Los Angeles for 13 years and San Francisco for 7 years doing theatre and film. He moved to Cedar Rapids in 2003. He is also a horticulturist and is the Head Gardener for Brucemore Inc. which is a site for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the only trust site in Iowa. He has performed and worked with Theatre Cedar Rapids, Riverside Theatre, Urban Theatre Project of Iowa, SPT, The Giving Tree Theatre and Classics at Brucemore to name a few.