The Iowa City Community Theatre is holding interviews for directors for the 2016-17 season this month. Directors pitch shows to the committee which chooses the shows for the season. Directors can pitch multiple shows, and thanks to the use of sign up genius, we can see what shows directors are interested in. Just for fun, I thought I’d pick ICCT’s season for them based on the sign up sheet. (Note: I am doing this without the benefit of hearing what great ideas the directors have for their shows. So yeah, my choices really don’t mean much…but it’s fun!)
I’m picking six shows, which is the number of the current season as well. The current season has four musicals and two straight plays, but I refuse to be boxed in to those numbers. Maybe it’ll be a season with no musicals! (Okay, not really.) I know most of the directors on the list – in fact, Barry Schreier is the only person on that list whose work I’ve never seen. Who are you Barry Schreier and why don’t I know you??
So who is on the list? Janet Schlapkohl of Combined Efforts Theatre is pitching an original show called A Carol for Our Times, which is an adaptation of Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. As Janet is an MFA award winning playwright, chances are it’s a good show. Might be a good December show.
Next we have Brian Tanner pitching Neil Simon’s Laughter on the 23rd Floor and David Lindsay Abaire’s Rabbit Hole. The contrast between those two shows could not be more stark. There is no laughter in Rabbit Hole, which deals with the death of a child. I’ve seen a couple of productions in recent years, and I don’t think I’m ready to see another one. I don’t know Laughter, but generally speaking I like Neil Simon plays. Might be a good fit. And Tanner, a stand up comic and former member of the improv group, Comics in Action, certainly knows humor.
In case ICCT wants to venture into Shakespeare, Jen Brown, a lover of all thinks Shakespearean, is pitching Coriolanus. It’s fun to see a lesser known Shakespearean play on the list. I’ve never seen a production of it, so that’s a point in its favor to my eyes…
Rachel Howell has suggested three plays – Six Degrees of Separation (which feels dated to me now), The Diary of Anne Frank (done by ICCT in 1985), and Proof. Rachel knows Proof well as she starred in a TCR production of it a few years ago. It’s a great play. I like the idea of doing the Diary of Anne Frank, too, as it offers some parts for younger actors and we have lots of talented kids in the area.
Former ICCT president David Pierce is pitching Glengarry Glenn Ross and and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? David knows Glengarry well as he directed it for Dreamwell a number of years ago (I played Williamson). I’m a little surprised that ICCT would consider a play that uses the word ‘fuck’ so liberally. During our production, someone counted the number of times it is said in the play… 152 variations of the word exist in the script. Woolf is a classic in the American theatre canon and if they can find two strong actors for the leads, that could be a great show. Krista Neumann, are you available?
Adam Nardini just wrote that he plans to pitch a small list of musicals. No surprise that TCR’s Javert would pitch musicals – the man can certainly sing!
As I said, I don’t know Mr. Schreier but I sure do love his taste in theatre. He’s pitching Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde, Superior Donuts, Clybourne Park, and Amadeus. I wonder if Mr. Schreier is a TCR fan – the first three shows on his list were produced there in the last few years. Of the four, I’m most interested in Clybourne Park because even though it was done at TCR just last season, many Iowa Citians don’t make the trek to Cedar Rapids. And it’s a really important and powerful play. It’s hard to cast in this town though – we never seem to be able to find enough African American actors, which is a real shame.
Eric Teeter (who I just saw in Dreamwell’s excellent production of 1984) is suggesting The House of Blue Leaves (done by ICCT in 2002), Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and the holiday show Greetings!. I’m not a huge fan of Blue Leaves, but Greetings! sounds like a unique holiday option. Here’s the Samuel French description:
Andy has a sweet Catholic mother, a sour Catholic father and an intellectually disabled younger brother named Mickey. When he brings his Jewish atheist fiance to meet the folks on Christmas Eve, his worst fears about family blow-ups are realized. But when Mickey, whose entire vocabulary has been limited to “oh boy” and “wow,” suddenly spouts the word “Greetings!” the entire family’s belief system is turned upside down. For it seems an ancient, wise and witty spirit who is set upon healing the family’s wounds has borrowed Mickey’s body!
Bev Mead has suggested some community theatre classics – Arsenic and Old Lace and Blithe Spirit, both of which ICCT has produced twice, but not since the late ’80s. Her other suggestion is A Lesson Before Dying, which is based on the novel of the same name. Not the happiest of plays, that one. Of these three, Arsenic and Old Lace is always a crowd pleaser.
Rachael Lindhart is pitching… oh it doesn’t really matter. Just have her do the play. If you have a chance to have Rachael direct something for you, you just say yes. But for the record, the play she wants to do is George Washington Slept Here.
Veteran director Josh Sazon is offering two shows in two distinct categories. On one hand, he has Boeing, Boeing and Barefoot in the Park, which are both 1960s era comedies. Or if you want to go musical, he has Nine and Pippin on his list. I have a fondness for Barefoot in the Park, a delightful Neil Simon comedy that my wife and I did twice when we were young enough to play the leads. We’re not old enough to play Velasco and Mrs. Banks yet, so as a personal favor, how about waiting ten years for that one, ICCT? I don’t know Boeing, Boeing and the description doesn’t excite me – a play about a Lothario airplane pilot? Enh. I’m far more interested in the musicals Josh has suggested. I saw a fantastic production of Pippin at Revival Theatre Company last season, so I’d lean toward Nine, which I have never seen and have heard only good things.
Jaret Morlan, who you might remember from his stunning performance as Lennie in Of Mice and Men last year, is interested in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. It’s a decent musical and one ICCT did in the 1980s as well as 2001. I saw the 2001 production and it was quite good. I have to admit the idea of the show doesn’t excite me, but I see a dearth of good musicals being proposed so this might have to go on the list.
Mike Wilhelm, an excellent actor, is proposing La Vida Es Sueno/Life is a Dream (Pedro Calderon de la Barca, translated/adapted/developed by the cast) and Christopher Durang’s The Marriage of Bette and Boo. I like the Durang play a lot, but I’m most intrigued by the other show, particularly the fact that he says it will be developed by the cast. The theme of the play is the fate vs. free will. Sounds fascinating and Mike has the chops to pull it off. If it doesn’t happen with ICCT, Mike, send me an email.
Finally Christina Patramanis, who directed a couple of shows for Dreamwell in the last few years, is suggesting Stephen Dietz’s version of Dracula. This is the no brainer for me on this list. Dracula is big draw, you can do it in October, and Dietz’s version is an excellent adaptation of the source material.
Okay, time for the moment of truth… what season would I pick?
Well, first I narrowed it down to this short list:
A Carol for Our Times
The Diary of Anne Frank
La Vida Es Sueno/Life is a Dream
George Washington Slept Here
Arsenic and Old Lace
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown
Shockingly, there are only two musicals on the list – Nine and You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. (Adam, if only you had listed your choices in the signup…) I guess I have to put them both in the season since ICCT likes musicals. Next, I think it’d be good to have a holiday show, and Greetings! fits that niche. Like I said before, Dracula just makes sense from both a financial and creative standpoint, so there’s your October show. We need a comedy, so I’ll add in George Washington Slept Here. With only one slot left, what do I choose? A crowd pleasing comedy like Arsenic and Old Lace? A powerful drama like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Should I go Shakespeare? Ahh! It’s too hard to decide, so I’m going with my gut – La Vida Es Sueno is original and interesting. Time to take a chance on something different.
The ICCT season if I’m picking it (in season order starting in the fall):
You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown
La Vida Es Sueno
George Washington Slept Here
Well, that was fun. Good luck, ICCT Play Selection Committee – it’s never easy picking a season!
What shows would you like to see? Reply in the comments.