A Review of Outside Mullingar

outsidemullingarby Matthew Falduto

Some plays are a call to political action. Some expose some truths that need exposing. Some are just really funny and allow us to escape from real life for 90 minutes. But what I believe plays can do better than any other artistic medium, is reveal our humanity. There is an immediacy to live theatre that sets it apart. We see our fellow human beings experiencing emotions, revealing themselves through the characters they create. We relate, we empathize, we reflect. This is what theatre can do best, and there’s an excellent example of it happening in Amana right now: Iowa Theatre Artists’ production Outside Mullingar by John Patrick Shanley. Continue reading

ITAC Presents Dates with a Nut

dateswithnut*press releases from ITAC*

Amana – The Iowa Theatre Artists Company (ITAC) together with the Ox Yoke Inn® have created a very special “Dinner plus Theatre” summer package in Amana with the ITAC comedy, Dates With A Nut. Reservations are being accepted at the Ox Yoke Inn® for a unique dining and theatre experience. While the meal is served at the restaurant, patrons will then travel to the theatre for their dessert and the show. Dates With A Nut is an original comedy by ITAC co-producers, Thomas P. Johnson and Meg Merckens, both of South Amana. The play takes place in a “party room at a midwestern restaurant,” which prompted discussions earlier this year between the ITAC staff and Bill Leichsenring, Owner of the Ox Yoke Inn®. “We’ve had a great time coming up with the menu and logistics for this first-time partnership of our two businesses,” states Johnson. “We think our audience will enjoy having a great meal at the Ox Yoke and then coming over to ITAC for pie at our “restaurant” on stage. Not to mention that the play is really, really funny.” Continue reading

ITAC Offers New Acting Program for Seniors

Amana – A new project is being offered at the Iowa Theatre Artists Company in Amana that is designed specifically for people 55 and over who are interested in having fun doing something they have always wanted to try but never got around to it: Acting in front of other people. The group is called Over the Speed Limit Players and will begin to meet in May.

Tom Johnson, one of the co-producers (retired) of ITAC in Amana, describes the project, “Initially, it will consist of six two-hour weekly sessions where the group works on improving their voices, on creating characters, on learning stage movement, and on learning more fun stuff about the theatre arts. No experience is necessary to join the project. The only requirement is an interest in live theatre from the perspective of either a performer or an audience member. It will be a lot of “on-your-feet fun,” Johnson added. “If, like me, you are a little forgetful these days, don’t worry, no memorization will be required.”

The project’s first phase starts on Tuesday, May 19 and continues through June 27th. The group will gather at the ITAC theatre in Amana for 6 weekly acting lessons, each of which will be followed by a short social time. The first phase will culminate in a concert theatre presentation, open to the public, called Never Too Old To Laugh, on Friday, June 26th and Saturday, June 27th.

There is a $50.00 membership fee for each participant. This fee entitles each member to six group-acting lessons, scheduled private coaching, and two free admissions for friends or family to the production of Never Too Old To Laugh. Johnson states, “Come and join the group. If you don’t enjoy the first session, we’ll give you your money back.” He adds, “We don’t anticipate many asking for a refund because we think the whole experience is going to be a lot of fun for all involved.”

Johnson, who taught speech and theatre at Iowa State University before starting the Old Creamery Theatre Company in Garrison, Iowa in 1971, will conduct the sessions. Veteran stage performer, Meg Merckens will also participate in at least one of the sessions.

To sign up for the project, or for more information, interested folks “who are at the speed limit (55) or well over the speed limit, traveling however fast or slow,” are invited to contact ITAC at itac@southslope.net or 319-622-3222.

ITAC announces Garage Sale AMANiA” Fundraiser

Amana – The Iowa Theatre Artists Company (ITAC) will hold its sixth annual Garage Sale AMANiA (and Wee Flea Market) on Saturday, March 28. The hours of the sale will be from 8 am until 4 pm at the ITAC building in Amana.

“Each year just gets better and better,” states Co-Producer, Meg Merckens. “We hope to fill the hall with a huge number of area sellers, as in years past, and to have several hundred attend. The record has been over 500 coming through the doors. We hope that we can break that record this year!”

For information on renting tables and selling garage sale items, please call 319-622-3222 or send an email to: itac@southslope.net. Tables are still available. The sale will take place downstairs in the dance hall and lobby and upstairs in the theatre lobby. A $1.00 admission fee will be charged to attend this large indoor sale on Saturday, March 28. All proceeds from the admission price and the rental of tables will go toward the fundraising goal of the not-for-profit Iowa Theatre Artists Company. Individual sellers are responsible for their own sales.

Merckens adds, “This year, the Clear Creek Amana Color Guard will once again be included in the day’s event and will be fundraising for their organization with a bake, beverage and lunch sale. This selling event has always been a fun way to raise money for some very worthy organizations and projects as well as offer some terrific bargains for area residents.”

The Iowa Theatre Artists Company is a small, professional not-for-profit theatre operating as a 501(c)3 organization since 2008. 2015 will mark ITAC’s eighth year of producing live theatre in Eastern Iowa, and its seventh year in the former Barn Restaurant in the heart of Amana. Though co-producers Tom Johnson and Meg Merckens have announced their retirement from producing full seasons of theatrical productions, ITAC will continue to offer special projects and workshops in the coming year, as well as presenting musical concerts and offering their space for traveling theatrical troupes. The building also serves as an event center for wedding receptions, graduation and birthday parties and other special occasions. For more information, visit their website.

Morning’s at Seven Opens on ITAC Stage on October 24 in Amana

Meg Merckens and Clark Skaggs

Amana – Paul Osborn’s classic American play, Morning’s at Seven, opens on Friday, October 24 for a three-week run on the Iowa Theatre Artists Company’s stage in Amana. Written in 1939, it has received two revivals on Broadway, the most recent one in 2002, with New York City papers describing the show as “absolutely entrancing” with “charm to burn.”

Set in the backyards of an “American town” in the late 1930s, the story revolves around the seemingly quiet lives of the four aging Gibb sisters, who have lived in close proximity to each other all of their lives. Osborn skillfully paints a sweetly funny portrait of the four sisters, their eccentric mates and quirky offspring and the long-held secrets that divide them but ultimately strengthen their family ties. Bringing this endearing, funny and “oh-so-familiar” family interaction to life is a cast of some of the strongest veteran actors in Eastern Iowa, along with two very talented young performers. Audiences in the Cedar Rapids area will recognize and enjoy favorite, local stage actors, Cherryl Thomason, Marty Norton, Jim Kern, David Morton and Susie Streit. Equally acclaimed are two actors from the Amana area, Meg Merckens and Tom Milligan. Two younger Iowa theatre artists, Robert Kemp and Jessica Murrillo, who hail from the Iowa City area, represent the up-and-coming stage talent of Eastern Iowa. It’s the largest non-musical cast in ITAC’s seven-year history to grace the theatre’s stage in Amana. Mike Cervantes of Cedar Rapids is making his directorial debut with this production. “We wanted to present a festive season of theatre this final year in our building, and choosing this particular production with such an outstanding cast of actors is turning out to be a perfect fit,” stated Producing Director, Tom Johnson.

Performances are Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30 pm, and Saturday and Sunday afternoons at 2:30 pm from October 24 through November 9. Reservations are strongly encouraged for this three-week run in the intimate 99-seat ITAC theatre. Prices are $22.50 for Adults, $20 for Seniors (60 and up) and $10 for Students (through college). For reservations call: 319-622-3222 and for more information about ITAC, visit: iowatheatreartists.org.

Source: ITAC Press Release