Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Need a Dose of Holiday Cheer?

Winter weather getting you down? Getting stressed by the hustle and bustle of this time of year? Join us at Riverside Theatre this weekend for an early dose of holiday cheer!

Small Miracles, a reading of holiday memoirs by Ron Clark, takes the audience on a journey of far-flung, heartfelt memories of growing up in a small Iowa town where the mayor/street cleaner doubled as Santa.

"What it comes down to is that Christmas is my favorite holiday,” said Clark. “So it seems only natural that I should have a whole battery of stories about the amazing things that have happened to me around this time of year."

So make plans to join us for amusing holiday anecdotes, and a look at the small miracles that happen every day.

There are only two performances, December 13 at 7:30 pm and December 14 at 2:00 pm, so order your tickets today!

Call the box office at 319-338-7672 or order online. Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 01, 2008

Holiday Shopping at Riverside Theatre!

With the calendar flipped to December and the snow lightly falling... there is no denying the feeling that the holiday season is just around the corner.

Looking for a great gift idea? Look no further than Riverside Theatre!

We've got Leaf Creations by Betsy Snow Hickok, gift certificates for the rest of our Gilbert Street season and the upcoming Shakespeare Festival, CDs, t-shirts, earrings... Click here for all the details!

For more information on any of these items, stop by the box office or call 319-338-7672.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Theatre Reviews: Megan Gogerty Loves You Very Much

Have you made it down to Gilbert Street to see Megan Gogerty Loves You Very Much, yet? Tickets are going fast - and there are only three more performances! Check out the links below for the thoughts of a few reviewers who saw the show last weekend:

Loren Keller of called the show an "often-funny crowd pleaser." Click here for more of his review.

In her review in the Cedar Rapids Gazette, Marcella Lee called Megan Gogerty "sharp, observant, sometimes caustic, but always funny" and even likened her to "a female version of Dave Barry." Click here for the full review.

Sharon Falduto, who reviewed on behalf of the Iowa City Theatre Blog, felt that Megan handled the more personal aspects of the show with "warmth but without sappy oversentimentality; when a moment threatens to get too Hallmark-ish, she brings the house down with a well-timed laugh." Click here to continue reading her review.

The show continues through November 30. Click here to order tickets online, or call the box office at 319-338-7672.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Behind the Scenes Look at Megan Gogerty Loves You Very Much

Hi, I'm Megan Gogerty. I'd like to take you behind the scenes of my new solo show, Megan Gogerty Loves You Very Much, opening Friday at Riverside Theatre.

So. Here we are. Behind the scenes. The scenes are in front of us and we, as they say, are behind them.


You probably want to know a lot of the inside dirt, huh? Some dish? Gossip? Well, let me tell you: I know where all the bodies are buried in this particular production!

[Wracks brain.]

Ooh, here's a good one. The lead actress? A real handful. She thinks it's all about her. Also, the director keeps telling her to put on more make-up. She's not sure what to make of this. Isn't one of the benefits of living in Iowa that nobody minds if you’re pale and pasty looking in November?

Of course, I'm pale and pasty looking in July, but that's another issue.

What else? [Thinks some more.] The writer keeps making changes to the text, which the actress promptly ignores.

It's rather schizophrenic, doing a solo show. Luckily, the director is also an accomplished actor and has written and performed quite a few solo shows himself, so he takes all the talking-to-myself stuff in stride.

Here's a fun game: When you come to the show, keep your eyes open for the red bird in Act Two. There is no red bird in Act Two, so if you see one, that means there’s something really wrong with you. And isn't it better to discover that sort of thing when you're among friends, enjoying yourself at the theatre?

I hope you like the show. My mother loves it. She hasn't seen it yet, but she assures me it's the best thing I’ve ever done. So I got that going for me. Which is nice.

- Megan Gogerty

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Megan Gogerty, Hillary Clinton, and Riverside Theatre

According to Megan Gogerty, her show opening at Riverside Theatre this weekend is really the story of how Hillary Clinton got her pregnant.

While she doesn't reveal all the details in her interview with Cole Cheney from, Gogerty said that "some things in national politics led me to move from California to Iowa and have a baby along the way."

Intrigued? We hope so! For the rest of the story about Megan and Hillary, as well as more hilarious personal and political tales -- make plans to attend Megan Gogerty Loves You Very Much!

Want more information? Visit!

There are only 6 performances (November 21 - 30) and tickets are going fast! Call the box office at 319-338-7672 or order online.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Raising Medusa Auditions November 8!

Calling all actors!

Riverside Theatre will be holding area auditions for the world premiere of Raising Medusa by Barbara Lau on Saturday, November 8 beginning at 2:00 pm at the theatre, 213 N. Gilbert Street.

The play is directed by Mary Sullivan and begins rehearsals March 2; production dates are April 2-19.

Roles are available for two young adult females: Maddie (able to play age 14) and Venesa (able to play punky teen as well as more mature ensemble roles). Audition requirements include a photo/resume, one contemporary monologue of 1-2 minutes, and cold reading from the script.

To sign up for an audition, please call the Riverside Theatre Box Office at 319-338-7672.

Please contact Jody Hovland at or at 319-887-1360 with any questions.

Want more information on Raising Medusa? Visit

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Theatre Reviews: Coffee and Hope

Tonight's performance kicks off the second weekend of Coffee and Hope at Riverside Theatre. Looking for a little inside information about the show? Click on the links below to read the thoughts of three reviewers that visited us on opening weekend.

According to Rob Cline's article on, Coffee and Hope is "richly layered" and the powerful stories provide audiences with both comedy and drama. Click here to read more.

Marcella Lee's peice in the Cedar Rapids Gazette said that "one would have to have a heart of stone" not to be moved by Coffee and Hope. Click here to continue reading.

In his review for the Iowa City Theatre Blog, Matthew Falduto called Coffee and Hope "a series of wonderfully written and performed monologues about a central theme that touches everyone, whether they've personally dealt with the pain of loving someone with cancer or not." Click here for the full review.

The show continues through November 9... and tickets are still available! Click here to order online, or call the box office at 319-338-7672.

Hope to see you at the show!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Delicious Way to Donate!

Looking for a delicious way to donate to Riverside Theatre? Look no further than the Motley Cow Cafe!

The Motley Cow is donating 8% of the gross sales of their Sunday brunches to Riverside Theatre during the run of Coffee and Hope.

So make plans to brunch at the Motley Cow (160 N. Linn Street) on Sunday October 26, Sunday November 2, and Sunday November 9 between 9:30 am and 2:30 pm. Enjoy great food for a great cause!

And while you're at it... why not make a day of it? Follow up your delicious meal with a terrific Sunday afternoon performance! Tickets are still available for Coffee and Hope. Call the box office at 319-338-7672 or click here to order online!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Coffee and Hope: Playwright's Blog

Kevin Harris is doing a wonderful job of directing Coffee and Hope. His fresh approach is shaking things up and leading me to further, albeit minor, rewrites in the script.

There is an old adage that "rehearsal is where we make up for the mistakes we made when casting the play." We're into the second week, and there are clearly NO mistakes to be corrected in that department. It's really comforting to have my old friends John Watkins and Tim Budd back on stage with me again. And David Combs' presence is a huge help. It has been several years since he worked at Riverside Theatre to do Edward Albee's The Goat with us and it's wonderful to have his inventiveness serving the production. Brian Bentz is the brand new kid on the block, but his passion and work ethic are making his roles as memorable as anyone's.

I only hope to keep up with them.

Being both the writer and actor at the same time has its challenges... Kevin has agreed to let me wear only one hat at a time: no script revision questions when I'm acting. Now if only I could follow that rule. It's just way too tempting when I hear a clunky phrase or word choice to not jump in with an onsite rewrite.

My fellow actors are certainly being very patient with me. We set a firm deadline for the script to be "locked in"... that was two days ago. It's good to work with professionals and friends who share my personal commitment to this project and who are willing to continue working on fine-tuning the words on the page.

Ron Clark

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

From Riverside Theatre to Broadway...

Did you see the article in today's Daily Iowan about Paul David Story? Click below to read about an acting journey that started with our Young People's Company and led to his current role as the understudy for Daniel Radcliffe in Equus. Just think... you never know which future Broadway-bound actors you could see on the Riverside stage!

West High graduate a Daniel Radcliffe understudy on Broadway - Daily Iowan, 10/8/08

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Beginnings of Coffee and Hope

April '06: As our plane touched down in the Raleigh-Durham airport, I pondered what had brought us here. The last eight months had been trying for both Jody and me - She found the lump on her breast in August '05 and by April '06 she had endured three surgeries and two rounds of chemotherapy. She was declared "cancer-free" by her doctors and we were heading to the ocean to celebrate...

On our first full day at the beach house, Jody is able to walk only about a mile. The last eight months have taken an enormous toll on her body and spirit. BUT, less than a week later, she is jogging with me for up to three minutes at a time and we walk/jog the entire distance to the point – over two miles each way. It is the most remarkable healing I have ever witnessed.

Back in Iowa I am still not sure of what to do with all I have learned and felt through this crisis. I suggest to a friend that I have an idea for a one-man show - working title: BOOB, ONE GUY’S TAKE ON BREAST CANCER. He chuckles and says it might be fun someday, but that I have only begun to climb the mountain to find the "new normal." I have no idea what he means.

April '07: I find myself back at the North Carolina beach house once again (BIG thanks to Julie and Carl for letting me repeatedly retreat there.) Now I know what my friend meant. I have met 50 brave men through Men Against Breast Cancer: all caregivers, all of them part of my "Band of Brothers." I have interviewed over 20 guys and gotten their take on what it means to be a primary caregiver for the woman you love and fear losing. With them I have climbed a mountain to help redefine what Jody’s and my life together means.

With me are reams of notes, and transcriptions of interviews ready for cutting and pasting on my laptop. I confront the daunting task of writing the first draft, including song lyrics, of the play we start rehearsing September 30. That’s September 30 2008. Coffee and Hope opens in less than a month.

The time has come to share all these guys' amazing stories – I hope the production proves worthy of their trust.

More to come soon.

Ron Clark

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Theatre Reviews: Stones in His Pockets

Wow! We had a great opening weekend for Stones in His Pockets. We also had a few reviewers stop by and see the show.

Matthew Brewbaker had a blast reviewing Stones on behalf of the Iowa City Theatre Blog. Check out his review here!

Loren Keller from encourages audiences to see Stones for "the acting magic." Click here to read his review!

If you haven't made it to a performance yet... no worries! There are 12 more shows before the end of the run. Visit our website to order tickets today. Hope to see you at the show!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Stones in His Pockets: Director's Blog

You probably think Macintosh or Cortland when you think of "Apple Boxes" - but in the film industry they're something else entirely. Scott Olinger, scenic and lighting designer for Stones in His Pockets, first introduced them in an early production meeting as a possibility for creating flexible set pieces.

Traditionally these Apple Boxes - wooden boxes of varying sizes with hand holes on each end - are used to prop up furniture or light-stands, leveling a camera dolly track, or providing temporary seats, workbenches, and steps. If the Apple Box is used to make an actor appear taller, either because of their height, or because of the way a particular shot is composed, it's sometimes jokingly referred to as a "Man Maker." Think Tom Cruise.

Our six boxes in Stones create acting levels, specify location, and even make jokes (only Tim Budd could turn acting with boxes into a laugh). The actors manipulate the boxes into a bus, bar stools, a prayer kneeler, and much more. Oh -and they do make one of the play's fifteen characters TALLER.

Jody Hovland

Friday, August 29, 2008

Stones in His Pockets: A Day in the Life of a Costumer

Working as a costume designer is rarely an experience like very many other occupations. My responsibilities change drastically depending on the show I am working on or even day to day. One day I could spend shopping at every local resale store to find the ugliest plaid pants possible and the next day spent dyeing various scarves, sweaters, and shirts just the right shades of pink, green, or blue. One of the things that keeps this job exciting is that I'll never know what will be the biggest challenge for a new play (or what kind of strange look I'll get from the salesperson when I walk up to the counter with every single pair of blue tights that they have in stock and more fake flowers than I can carry).

With the most recent show in rehearsal now, Stones in His Pockets, the challenge was unlike any other show I've worked on before. With thirteen characters and only two actors (Tim Budd and Jim Van Valen), this show is unique because we see a whole town full of people being portrayed by two men, often switching characters multiple times within one page of the script. My job is to find an interesting way to help the actors portray all the different roles quickly and easily. Initially, I envisioned mind-blowing five second costume changes from a farmer's pair of grubby overalls, work boots and woolen sweater to a posh dress, wig and sunglasses fit only for a Hollywood diva. But this time the show required different plans than my overly elaborate daydreams.

With the praiseworthy speed and frequency in which these two men change their voices and body language, the costumes had to keep up. Translation = simplify, simplify, simplify... and lots of secret pockets. Through collaboration with Jim, Tim, and our director, the fabulous Jody Hovland, to find the perfect solution - we pinned down specific hats, scarves, sunglasses and more to signify each character. By means of costume pieces that can be tucked away in pockets, behind shirt collars and under jackets the audience is given just enough information to envision the same person as a catholic priest one moment and a stuck-up movie director the next.

As we inch closer to the September 5th opening, various ideas continue to shift and change, keeping me, as always, on my toes and loving it. Besides, with all the whirlwind of activity on stage it would be hard for me not to enjoy watching how Jim and Tim develop such interesting and often hilarious characters out of the costumes they have been given... an experience truly worth seeing.

Much love from the world of sewing machines and silly hats,
Lindsey Robinson

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Stones in His Pockets: Director's Blog

Today we had what's called a "stumble through" of the entire play - five days after our first rehearsal! This is designed to give the designers a chance to see how the playing space is being used, what the demands will be on costumes, what props are still needed, and where the landscape of the play needs to be partnered with sound and lights. It's a lot of pressure for actors (Tim Budd and Jim Van Valen) who are still holding their scripts while trying to remember where the heck they're supposed to be and which of the 15 characters they're transitioning into at any particular moment.

And if that wasn't harrowing enough - then we hauled them out to rural Solon to stand in a pasture with a small herd of cows while photographer Bob Goodfellow took their picture for a media release. "We'd just like a photo of a single cow - the one with the black and white face would be great - with an actor on each side," the director naively announced. Right. In spite of having grown up in a farm family, my cow savvy was in short supply. Every time the actors moved close to the cows, they backed up, a bovine chorus line. Jim and Tim held out apples and corn, luring them closer, then tried to quickly drop the food from view so Bob could shoot a photo. Meanwhile Charlie the donkey is getting way too familiar with Bob, who keeps admonishing him, "Charlie, I'm telling you, this just isn't going to work out."

Bob's a wizard. He (and his computer) will whip those bossies into photographic shape. Stay tuned - after this, the acting might seem easy!

Jody Hovland

Monday, June 23, 2008

Thoughts from Tim

Seen in countless RT productions, such as Apartment 3A, Doubt, Lonesome West, King Lear, and others, Tim Budd is a recognizable face around the theatre.

Tim is currently playing Polixenes in The Winter's Tale (and Antipholus of Ephesus in The Comedy of Errors) and recorded a brief YouTube spot about Shakespeare's rich language found in The Winter's Tale.

Tim Budd and The Winter's Tale

Friday, June 20, 2008

Riverside Theatre is asking for help!

Riverside Theatre is seeking donations to protect the current season of the Shakespeare Festival. Due to the flooding of City Park, and our subsequent move to City High School, ticket sales for the opening weekends of The Comedy of Errors and The Winter’s Tale were drastically affected – the first weekend alone grossed less than 50% of previous seasons.

In addition, though we were able to move most of our costume stock and tools from our shop, we’ve likely lost some valuable equipment, set pieces and props.

While we feel fortunate to be able to continue with our performances, we need your help! Please consider (in addition to attending the shows) making a tax-deductible contribution to the Shakespeare Festival. Since we are a non-profit, and all of our income goes directly back into the organization, your contribution will help us meet our immediate needs: which includes paying our seasonal artists and year-round staff.

Meanwhile, our festival artists are having a wonderful time performing in our home-away-from-home at City High. We hope you'll come experience this festival with a twist - bring a blanket and picnic on the school lawn, watch the green show and then venture into Opstad for a truly unforgettable evening of theatre.

Many thanks for your support!

Sara O'Leary
Development Director

To donate online, please visit our website.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Flood Update

The Shakespeare is on, as scheduled, June 13 - July 13, at Opstad Auditorium at City High School in Iowa City. We have a wonderful new home for the summer and are so grateful to the Iowa City Community School District for their gracious support.

The Riverside Festival Stage in Lower City Park is flooded. The latest eyewitness reports that the water is covering the both the chairs and the stage at this point. We vacated our scene and costumes hops, which is in the basement of a strip mall at the corner of 1st Avenue and the strip in Coralville. We weren't able to get everything, but we did remove all tools, most of our hanging costumes and a few set pieces.

We don't need volunteers currently, but may need some assistance for clean-up and restocking the scene shop once we can get back in!

For updates on other arts and culture organizations in the area, please visit for extensive information.

Press-Citizen Review

Flood doesn't stop good production
Iowa City Press-Citizen

Despite several curve balls, Riverside Theatre pulled off opening night of its Shakespeare Festival on June 13 with plenty of laughs. Floodwaters forced the company to move opening weekend of "Comedy of Errors" to City High's Opstad Auditorium. The festival traditionally takes place at the Riverside Theatre festival stage in City Park.

The company only had a few days to switch gears. What really came through Friday was their desire to tell a good story.

Normally, opening night of the festival is close to if not sold out, leading to an audience of 400 plus. On Friday night, the audience was closer to 100 people.
Despite several empty seats, actors were on top of their game, performing as if the auditorium was packed.

A bonus is that this opening show, "Comedy of Errors," is full of laughs; something the community really needs right now.

In fact, the show is thought to be one of Shakespeare's funniest. It centers on two sets of identical twins, with identical names, who are separated during a shipwreck and appear 25 years later in Ephesus.

Both pairs of twins: Aaron Graham (Dromio of Ephesus) and Martin Andrews (Dromio of Syracuse) and Tim Budd (Antipholus of Ephesus) and Dennis Fox (Antipholus of Syracuse) did a superb job.

Ron Clark, production manager, has said: "When you are doing the classics, your job is to make them accessible."

Not only did Riverside manage to make "Comedy of Errors" accessible, but they also managed to make it quite entertaining.

At the end of the evening, Clark graciously thanked audience members for "knowing the festival is open."

While the festival will not take place under the sky, at least not for many weeks still, actors proved June 13 that it is not the open outdoors that makes the event, but professional actors who give their all to bring a different world to life.

Fourteen professional actors and eight interns traveled from as far away as California and New York to take part in the event. Come and see them before they're gone.

The festival needs just as much support at City High as at City Park.
Yes, there is an awful lot going all, but then we all need to laugh, too.

Reach Deanna Truman at 339-7360 or
• What: Riverside Theatre Shakespeare Festival.
• When: Runs through July 13. "The Comedy of Errors" opened Friday. "The Winter's Tale" opens at 8 p.m. Friday. The plays run in rotary.
• Where: The festival normally takes place at the Riverside Theatre Festival Stage in Lower City Park. However, due to flooding, the festival currently is taking place in City High's Opstad Auditorium.
• Cost: $25 to $37 for adults, $21 to $30 for senior citizens and students, $17 for student rush, $15 for youth, $17 all-age weekday rush Wednesdays and Thursdays (cannot be pre-ordered). Group discounts are available.
• Information: Call 338-7672.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Riverside Theatre Festival Preview

The Cedar Rapids Gazette printed a preview about the festival in the paper on June 8, 2008. Enjoy!

The Show Must Go On....

Yikes! There have been a lot of changes around here. Due to massive flooding and the closing of City Park, the show is on the move...back to high school.

To escape the flood waters lapping across the main road into City Park, we've temporarily relocated to the City High School Auditorium. Thanks to a use of facility agreement with the Iowa City Community School District, we will have use of the space for the entire run of the festival. However, we're crossing our fingers. If the water level subsides and City Park reopens, the shows will move back out to the park.

For more information about this move, check out Relocation FAQ.

Map of City High School

Another show has moved: The Will Power Dress Rehearsal Performance has moved to Thursday, June 12 at 8 pm, City High School.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Iowa a folder

When rehearsals begin for Shakespeare Festival each summer, all guest artists receive a packet containing information on the Festival, Riverside Theatre, and the Iowa City area and all it has to offer. We try to provide them with everything they’ll need to get into the flow of Iowa City, whether they’re from Chicago, Kansas City, or New York. This summer, it was up to me to assemble everything we’d need to fill these packets. And I had to wonder, how do you distill what’s important about Iowa City into just one folder?

First things first: the food! I’ve seen how actors can eat on rehearsal breaks or after a demanding show, so I knew food was first on the agenda. I broke it down into a few different kinds of places. The first was “Quick and Dirty,” the places where you could run in, grab what you need, and hightail it back to rehearsal in fifteen minutes. Knowing also that fast food can really weigh you down in rehearsal, I pointed them to better-for-you options like Panchero’s, Jimmy John’s, or even Oasis. Next was “Sit Back & Relax,” where a bunch of company members might want to grab a more leisurely bite on their day off or on the long dinner break. These included Hamburg Inn (a favorite for last year’s company), The Mill, or Bread Garden. Then there was “Elegant Dining,” fancier fare to celebrate a show’s opening or to take family who come into town to see the shows. Linn St. CafĂ©, the Motley Cow, and Devotay all made that list. Add to that the local coffeehouses, grocery stores and of course some after-hours hotspots, and I figure the summer should be full of good eats and drinks for the RTSF company. Several places I contacted even threw in coupons or special deals for the RTSF artists. Gotta love Iowa City!

Next: the gyms. Actors love to work out, after all, so I knew I had to send them somewhere! I had to dig around a bit on this, because the out-of-towners are only going to be here a total of eight weeks, and short-term memberships are hard to come by. However, we got the non-local company a great deal at Iowa City Fitness, which has a great location (right on the ped mall) and great hours (24-hours everyday!).

Finally, I wanted to give them a sense of all that Iowa City has to offer. I made notes about summer events in the area, from the Farmer’s Market to the Jazz Festival. I gave them information on the rec center, area libraries, and the wonderful bike library for artists who didn’t want to drive all summer. We got offers from The Bodysmith Massage and Bella Vita Chiropractic for special RTSF service deals. Trying to put Iowa City on paper was tricky, but I’m hoping that the company has a good sense of it by the time they leave and that they find all the ways there are to enjoy their summer here.

-Danielle Karczewski, Administrative Assistant

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Exit, persued by a bear

A spotlight on The Winter's Tale

The Story: (beware of spoilers)

In Sicilia, King Polixenes of Bohemia prepares to return home after visiting his lifelong friend Leontes, the King of Sicilia. Unable to persuade Polixenes to stay longer, Leontes urges his pregnant wife Queen Hermione to try. When she succeeds, Leontes immediately suspects that she and Polixenes are in love, and he becomes violently jealous.

Learning from the nobleman Camillo that Leontes plans to poison him, Polixenes flees home. Leontes jails Hermione despite her protests of innocence. She gives birth to a daughter, Perdita. Hermione's friend Paulina takes the baby girl to Leontes in the hope of softening his heart. But, believing that Polixenes is the baby's father, Leontes angrily orders Paulina's husband Antigonus to take Perdita away and abandon her.

At the trial, a priest proclaims Hermione's innocene. At first, Leontes denies it. Then news comes that Mamillius, the royal couple's son, has died in despair over his mother's treatment. Hermione collapses and is taken away. Leontes begins to recognize his mistakes, but too late, because Paulina returns and announces Hermione's death. Meanwhile, far away in Bohemia, Antigonus abandons Perdita and is killed by a bear. An old shepherd finds the baby and lovingly adopts her.

Sixteen years pass. In the Bohemian countryside, the now-grown shepherdess Perdita is in love with King Polixenes' son, Prince Florizell. The young lovers hide their relationship from the King, who would not approve. Suspicious, Polixenes disguises himself and spies on them at a sheep shearing, where the trickster Autolycus comically sells songs and attempts to cheat the audience. Discovering his son's deception, Polixenes angrily orders punishments for everyone.

The young lovers flee to Sicilia, followed by Polixenes, With Autolycus' help, the old shepherd and his son follow and reveal how they found Perdita and adopted her. The Court realizes that Perdita is Leontes' long-lost heir. At Paulina's home, the statue of Hermione is unveiled and miraculously comes to life.

Comedy or Tragedy:

Well actually, neither. It's a romance. The modern term (not a classification in Shakespeare's time) refers to a hybrid play, with comic and tragic elements. The four such plays commonly grouped as romance are Pericles (1607-1608), Cymbeline (1609-1610), The Winter's Tale (1610-1611), and The Tempest (1611).

*Like a comedy, romance includes a love-intrigue and culminates in a happy ending.
*Like a tragedy, romance has a serious plot-line (betrayals, tyrants, usurpers of thrones); it is darker in tone (more serious) than comedy.

While tragedy emphasizes evil, and comedy minimizes it, romance acknowledges evil -- the reality of human suffering.

Characterists of a romance include:

*an enveloing conflict (war, rebellion, jealousy, treachery, intrigue) that may cover a large timespan (conflict begun a generation before events of play) and is resvoled at end of play
*happy endings to potentially tragic situations (i.e. apparent resurrection, sudden conversions, etc.)
*themes of transgression, expiation and redemption; villain(s) penitent rather than punished at end
*improbable plots, rapid action, surprises, extraordinary occurrences (shipwrecks, disguises, riddles, children/parents lost and found, supernatural events/beings)
*characters of high social class, rural and court settings, extremes of characterization (exalted virtue and deep villainy)
*love of a virtuous hero and heroine, "pure" and "gross" loves often contrasted

More information about romances can be found at

Monday, May 05, 2008

Playwrights in the News

Congratulations to some of our favorite Riverdogs! Perhaps you know these folks from The Evidence or goat show?

(First posted at

May 1, 2008

UI students win awards at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival

University of Iowa Department of Theatre Arts students Sean Christopher Lewis, Jennifer Fawcett and Jessica Dart won awards at the national American College Theatre Festival, held in late April at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

Lewis won the Rosa Parks Playwriting Award for "The Aperture," Fawcett won the National Science Playwriting Award for "Twenty Moments in the Space Between" and Dart won the O'Neill Playwrights Conference Fellowship in dramaturgy.

The goals of the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) are to encourage, recognize and celebrate the finest and most diverse work produced in university and college theater programs; to provide opportunities for participants to develop their theater skills and insight, and achieve professionalism; to improve the quality of college and university theater in America; and to encourage colleges and universities to give distinguished productions of new plays, the classics and experimental works.

Through regional and national festivals, KCACTF participants celebrate the creative process, see one another's work and share experiences and insights within the community of theater artists. The KCACTF honors excellence of overall production and offers student artists individual recognition through awards and scholarships in playwriting, acting, criticism, directing and design.

Since its inception, KCACTF has given more than 400,000 college theater students the opportunity to have their work critiqued, improve their dramatic skills and receive national recognition for excellence. More than 16 million theatergoers have attended approximately 10,000 festival productions nationwide.

The UI Department of Theatre Arts is among the most-honored programs in the history of the KCACTF, receiving many of the organization's highest honors in playwriting, design, acting and production. The UI was the inaugural winner of an award for support of student playwrights, administered by ACTF for the Association for Theatre in Higher Education.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Shakespeare's Globe and the Riverside Festival Stage

I like to think that RTSF has a strong connection with the Globe Theatre in London. After all, the festival stage in Lower City Park was designed with the Globe in mind (see below). But here's one more connection. Among other shows in the upcoming summer season, the newly restored Globe in London will present King Lear and The Merry Wives of Windsor. (Sound familiar?) Not only that, but in an interview with Dominic Dromgoole (The Globe's Artistic Director) he talks about his penchant for disorder and chaos, calling Lear Shakespeare's "biggest and messiest". Perhaps they'll use deconstructed clothing as well? Well, it just goes to show that great theatre minds think alike....

A Brief History of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre:

The original Globe Theatre was built in 1599 for the Lord Chamberlain's Men in Bankside on the Thames. Although the Globe was rebuilt on the same site after a fire, it remained home to Shakespeare's company until the closure of all theatres by England's Puritan administration in 1642. In 1644, no longer in use, it was demolished.

Elizabethan playhouses were not truly circular; they were polygonal buildings. A small portion of The Globe was excavated in 1989 and researchers discovered it was originally a 20 sided building with a 100 foot diameter. The original Globe was three stories high and seated up to 3,000 people. The nobles occupied the preferred, most expensive seats in the covered galleries and on the stage itself. Below them stood the "groundlings".

The new Globe Theatre was built 200 yards from the original. Founded after 25 years of work by Sam Wanamaker, it opened in 1997. The working replica seats 1,500 people between the galleries and the groundlings.

The Riverside Festival Stage is loosely based on Shakespeare's Globe Theatre of 1600. Festival Stage designer, Paul Sannerud, (also designing this summer's productions of The Comedy of Errors and The Winter's Tale) used elements such as the flag flying overhead (the Globe's way of announcing a performance), the circular configuration of the building, the open acting platform with a balcony above, and the positioning of the audience around the trust (3/4 round) stage. The major difference between the Globe and the Riverside Festival Stage is the use of lighting. The Elizabethan theatres performed their plays in the afternoon because the sun was all they had to light the outdoor stage.

A Virtual Tour of The Globe Theatre: While it makes me a little dizzy, it's very cool.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Shakespeare Purists Beware

An interesting blog popped up today in my *Arts Journal daily email. Clicking on "Shakespeare's Words Made Poorer - The Guardian (UK) 04/29/08" took me to an article called "Lose the language and you lose Shakespeare", a rant in response to a recent book release called "To Be or Not To Be, Innit?" Satirist Martin Baum has rewritten 15 of Shakespeare's plays, described as "yoof speak". (To be honest, I'm not sure what this is or how to describe it but if you go to the website, that should give you a pretty good idea). Hamlet becomes 'amlet, The Two Gentlemen of Verona becomes Two Geezas of Verona, you get the idea.

This is nothing new. Movies through time have taken their own cultural spin on the classics (i.e. Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet). And on a personal note, my brother, at age 11, rewrote A Midsummer Night's Dream (did you see the production at the Englert?)

Another Riverside tie-in. Remember Jackson Doran? He's in a production at Chicago Shakespeare Theater called "Funk It Up About Nothin'". This "ad-rap-tation" is created and directed by GQ and JQ. In anticipation of "The Comedy of Errors", check out this YouTube video of their production of "The Bomb-itty of Errors".

Whether you're a total Shakespeare purist or love the humor in it all, there's no doubt about the relevance of Shakespeare in modern culture.

* is a website dedicated to the "daily digest of arts, culture and ideas". It's a fantastic website, one I get a lot of inspiration from.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Shakespeare's Influence

Bet you weren't aware we borrowed Shakespeare's words...

If you've ever been footloose and fancy free

If you've ever thanked someone from the bottom of your heart

If you've ever been left high and dry

If you ever took a test that you thought was a piece of cake

If you've ever refused to budge an inch

If you've ever been tongue-tied, a tower of strength, hood winked, or

If you've ever knitted your brow, made a virtue of necessity, insisted on fair play, slept not one wink, stood on ceremony, laughed yourself into stitches, or had short shrift, cold comfort, or too much of a good thing

If you've ever cleared out bag and baggage because you thought it was high time and that is the long and short of it

If you've ever believed the game is up, even if it involves your own flesh and blood

If you ever lie low, till the crack of dawn, through thick and thin, because you suspect foul play

If you've ever had your teeth set on edge, with one fell swoop, without rhyme or reason

And finally, if you now bid me good riddance and send me packing

If you wish I were as dead as a doornail

If you think I am an eyesore, a laughingstock, a stony-hearted villain, bloody-minded, or a blithering idiot, well then, by Jove, O lord, tut tut, for goodness' sake, and what the dickens!

It is all one to me, even if it's Greek to you, for you are quoting Shakespeare!

We got this from a former RT board member and lover of the bard...

Use the following site to discover where these words and phrases (and more!) came from:

cold-blooded ("King John", Act III, scene i)
hobnob ("Twelfth Night", Act III, scene iv)
puking ("As You Like It", Act II, scene vii)

Here's more than you'll ever need to know! Enjoy!

Monday, April 28, 2008


I spent a large majority of this morning working on "RiverMail": our monthly email newsletter. I love the process of the writing these emails, which begins with compiling information from the staff about upcoming events, needs, stories, whatever! These emails draw to my attention the number of things going on at the theatre at all times. At any given time, the staff is booking host homes, making sponsorship calls, scheduling interviews, selling tickets....

But you'll read all about this in the May "RiverMail". If you're not on the mailing list, it's easy to sign up. (We promise we won't bombard you with junk!)

1) Hop on our website,
2) Type in your email address in the lower left hand box titled "Join our Email List"
3) Follow instructions from there

(See, I told you it was easy...)

Friday, April 25, 2008

Our Passionate (and Long Winded) Shakespeare Actors

I've just returned from delving into the mind of actors - it was a scary thing! No, I'm just kidding. Actually, I was sorting through the answers to some publicity questionnaires that I sent to the actors. They were asked basic questions about their favorites plays, roles, first acting experience etc. I wasn't expecting to get back such fascinating stories and anecdotes although some of the actors are quite long winded - no, I won't name names! You can read whole deal at

A few things I noticed:

1) These actors have modest beginnings. Cristina Panfilio's first acting experience was a musical called When the Hippos Crashed the Dance! Aaron Graham's was a Fourth of July variety show called "American Pie" where he danced a number from Fiddler on the Roof.

2) Looking for a good read? Favorites plays that came up more than once: Hamlet. Macbeth. August: Osage County. Arcadia. And many of the actors listed Richard III as a role they're dying to play.

3) My favorite responses, however, were to the question "Why does performing Shakespeare interest you?" These actors have a way with words! (I think that's a good thing for their chosen profession...) Love for the language, the depth of its character and the challenge it presents to the actor were highest on the list. Aaron compares it to learning a unique form of music. Martin Andrews talks about the intimiate relationship with the work, a "one night stand" just won't cut it.

What's clear from these responses is passion for the craft. These actors love what they do and I think you'll see that on stage.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Major Brownie Points

Usher at the Riverside Theatre Shakespeare Festival!
A note from Nan in the box office...

Riverside Theatre is seeking volunteer ushers for the upcoming Shakespeare Festival performances of The Comedy of Errors and The Winter’s Tale, June 13 – July 13. Get together with a group of friends, co-workers or family members and enjoy a FREE evening of theatre at the Riverside Festival Stage in Lower City Park, Iowa City. In exchange for a four hour time commitment, each volunteer is guaranteed a seat on the show date of your choice, even if it’s a sell-out. You pay nothing for the seats and get oodles of brownie points for helping Riverside Theatre. Feel free to wear matching t-shirt to advertise your business or group – over 400 theatre patrons will know what a swell person/group/business you are!

Interested? Call Nan Martin at the Riverside Theatre box office at (319) 338-7672, Monday through Friday from noon to 4 pm to find out what nights are still available.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

From Iowa and Beyond

You've heard us time and time again. The Shakespeare Festival brings together local artists as well as artists from across the country. Ever wonder exactly where these actors are coming from?

Check this out.

Go to the map

Monday, March 24, 2008

ElenaP: Behind the Scenes

Home stretch!

We’re just one week away from opening the show, which means a few things:

1) I will spend most of today wandering around my apartment, muttering, “This time next week! This time next week!” This will upset the cat.

2) Somewhere in Iowa City, Tim Budd is lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, trying to figure out how to make one of his acting moments even smoother than it already is.

3) None of my friends will answer my calls, for fear that I’ll entreat them to “run lines” with me…AGAIN (thanks Ryan, Courtenay and David!)

4) It’s time for press interviews galore! My fellow castmember Jim Kropa will be on the “Culture Crawl Show” (FM88.3) this Friday at 10:20AM; Herr Direktor Ron will appear on the world famous Dottie Ray show (AM800) at 8:45 on Friday, and both Ron and I will tackle the Stephen Grace show (AM800) at 9:00AM on Monday. Tune in, whydoncha.

5) The next few days will be spent undergoing the harrowing process we all know and love called TECH. Starting on Easter Sunday, the cast, crew and designers will slowly weave the lights, set, props and costumes into the mix of the play we’ve been rehearsing. This means a lot of stopping and starting and, usually, quite a bit of laughing, too. In tech, acting rehearsals essentially come to a close. We actors really must hand the show over to its tech requirements for a few days, focusing not on our personal thespian journeys so much as hitting the right marks at the right time in the right outfits. After all, what good are actors if you can’t see or hear them? By Tuesday, however, we’ll be running the show at full steam: lights, sound, acting-- the whole nine. Just in time for opening weekend.

6) And speaking of opening weekend, let me invite you Riverdogs (and also any Rivercats, Riverferrets, Riverhawkeyes, and Riverpolarbears in the blog-o-sphere) to our opening weekend. If you’ve never seen a show on opening night, it’s usually a pretty special evening, charged up with a fresh, palpable buzz. I think the whole run is going to be pretty cool, but the first night is always extra special. Not to mention, you can tell all your friends you saw the show first! So make your reservations for March 27th to catch the opening night fever.

6) I should really be studying my script rather than blogging right now. Because this time next week…

Friday, March 14, 2008

ElenaP: Behind the Scenes

Ah, costume fittings. In my ten years of working in theatre, I’ve done approximately nine kabillion shows, and each experience of getting clothed for each production has been unique. I’ve had fittings in bar bathrooms and restaurant kitchens and in the living rooms of people’s houses (while the designers kids sat there, watching TV as I stood in my slip). One period show required me to stand completely still for what felt like three hours, in a corset and pumps, while a team of seamstresses literally sewed me into my dress. I locked my knees and passed out halfway through.

But never in said nine kabillion years did I have the costume experience that I just had for 3A.

Thanks to a real costume coup, 3A designer Lindsey Robinson won’t have to build or hunt through the stock to find Annie’s contemporary, business-woman-on-the-go costumes. All of her costumes are coming straight from one of Iowa City’s coolest boutiques—TEXTILES! On Wednesday, I got to walk into a store I love and shop for my character.

Lindsey simply pulled shirts, skirts and dresses right off the racks and, in the comfort of their cute dressing room, I tried on these (designer) dresses, and then twirled around in the three-way mirror so Lindsey could decide whether or not she liked them. It was so cool! Kind of like one of those movie montages where the awkward wallflower gets taken under the wing of some fashion-forward best friend and then gets a sassy new wardrobe that turns her into a super-diva. Cue the upbeat montage music!

What makes this partnership with Textiles an even bigger deal is the fact that Annie’s costume requirements are kind of complex. Not only must they give off the impression of a successful, somewhat style-conscious TV fundraiser, they must also be theatrically functional. The show spans a week in Annie’s life, but is written without “blackouts” or scene changes. If those were in the script, I could run offstage and put on a new outfit, but no dice. So, all the costume changes must happen onstage, and, due to the fluid nature of the script, they must happen very quickly. This means I’ll probably be “underdressed”—wearing entire outfits underneath each other, dropping layers as the show progresses. Thus, in addition to being chic, the costumes must lie flat and not make me look like the Stay-Puffed Marshmallow Woman. Tall order, huh? Makes me glad I’m not a costume designer.

Lindsey hasn’t totally decided what outfits are going to work yet, but the pieces she’s selected so far are pretty dang cool. They’ll also, in their progression, support the emotional journey of this character, as she moves from heartbreak to hysteria to an entirely new page in her personal and emotional life. Who knew a few yards of fabric could do so much work.

More to come (of course!)


p.s. I also had a great time chatting with Riverside’s board at their meeting this week, and, as I told them, Annie’s mix of songs (for which I solicited suggestions in last week’s blog) looks sadly thin so far, with only TWO songs. So, unless more people submit ideas for Annie’s character “mixtape,” I’m going to be sitting in the dressing room, listening to Ron’s suggestion (Peter Frampton!) on repeat before every show. This could affect my performance in frightening ways, people. So don’t be shy! Submit a song that makes you feel like Spring, that makes you feel thoughtful, or that makes you feel like a 30-something PBS fundraiser. Annie (and maybe even Peter Frampton) will really appreciate it!

Friday, March 07, 2008

ElenaP: Behind the Scenes

Last night, we finished blocking the play! We now have a rough sketch of each character's movements from curtain up to curtain down, a sketch that we'll now spend the next two weeks coloring, polishing, and filling in.

It's funny, but the first week on stage always feels like fumbling in the dark for a lightswitch. In many respects, the components we now have are the same things you'll soon be watching from those cushy red Riverside seats. You'll see the same people, uttering (essentially) the same lines, in (essentially) the same order. But its not a play yet, you know?

My fellow actors and I are still wandering, still searching-- finding the speed of the funnier lines, the tonality of the weightier ones, all the while aquainting ourselves with the rhythm of each reaction in our bodies. In short, blocking rehearsals are a lot of fun (we've laughed A LOT this past week as we've gotten to know both the play and each other) but the whole show still feels nebulous. We can feel the frame and structure of the wall surrounding us, but have yet to locate the smaller, integral switchplate that will illuminate the room in which we stand.

What's got my attention more than anything this week is another common byproduct of the first rehearsal week: seven days into the process, the character I'm playing is still a little under-lit, too. There are already moments where I think I can see Annie as plain as day: staring out the window on page 6, laughing at a story on page 40, threatening to punch someone on page 18. But there are moments in between where I'm not 100% sure how to play her. When Annie says "I don't know what I want to know anymore" is she feeling sarcastic or scared? When she admits that she doesn't know how to waltz, is she embarrassed? When she tells her lover that she never went to her Senior Prom, might she be lying just to get out of telling a racy story?

While some might find these uncertainties unsettling, I find them delicious! I love the detective work of theatre-- the slow, multi-pronged process of discovering a person who only exists on paper. There's lots of ways an actor can bring a character to life for herself. I read once that, Kate Winslet never feels in-character until she finds the right bra. Johnny Depp blasted a different kind of discordant music in each ear to feel more like Hunter S. Thomspon. And, of course, there's Spencer Tracy's more laissez faire approach: "just say your lines and don't bump into the furniture."

Me? I like to make mix CD's-- compilations of songs that my character (even if she exists in an era before recorded music) might enjoy listening to, or might respond to, or might find resonance in. I listen to these mixes before rehearsals or during warm-ups, or at random points in the process when I need to get in the mood.

And since this blog is all about inviting you Riverdogs into our rehearsal process, I thought YOU might want to give me a hand...

What songs might you associate with a girl like Annie? I'd describe her as a savvy 30-something PBS employee who is a little too passionate for her own good. She's an idealist, but also a little sarcastic, having just been dumped. When the play opens, she can feel both her faith--and her sanity-- slipping away. So what would you suggest? The Dixie Chicks? Mahler? Gloria Gaynor? The theme from Rocky? I'm totally open to your suggestions, folks. Character building can be collaborative! Post your songs suggestions in the comments link below, or email them to me at I'll post the playlist next week. And who knows-- if I'm feeling industrious, maybe I'll make a few mixtape copies to distribute among the most faithful "ElenaP Behind the Scenes" readers.

More soon,


Friday, February 29, 2008

ElenaP: Behind the Scenes

Hello, Riverdogs! Hope all is well in your igloos! Here’s what’s been on my mind this week.

Some may describe it as kismet, others fate; a few characters in Apartment 3A might go so far as to call it a “miracle.” I prefer to call it CONTROLLING THE WORLD WITH MY MIND. No matter which word you use, a certain thing happens to the universe of an actor about the time her rehearsals commence.

When you’re about to enter the “world” of a particular play, weirdly congruous things start happening in the real world. Maybe a song that’s mentioned in the stage directions will be on the radio when you turn on your car, or maybe the classic movie channel will decide to air a weekend of flicks all set in the same time period as the script you’re diving into. In this particular case, shortly before rehearsals started, I was going about my Sunday-in-Winter ritual:

1) Dig out the Sunday Times from its landing spot in the snowy yard.

2) Remove paper from wet and/or frozen bag.

3) Arrange sections in order of interest to me-- Arts and Leisure, Magazine,
Books, Travel, Style, Week-in-Review.

4) Line the cat box with the rest.

There, above the fold of what is my front page, was the headline: IS PBS STILL NECESSARY?

I couldn’t believe it! Annie, my character, is a fundraiser for PBS. She considers herself one of the few remaining true believers in the power of public television, even though, at the top of the show, her faith in the network (and every other aspect of her life) is slipping. Freaky, huh?

This article goes on to report that every year of his presidency, the Bush administration has threatened to cut PBS’s government subsidy by half, thus forcing PBS to petition like crazy, and putting the livelihoods of their affiliates (and thus, their employees, like Annie) in jeopardy every twelve months. The article adds that, as if that fiscal pressure weren’t enough, PBS now has 400 cable channels to compete with, as seen in Apartment 3A, where Dal, the super (played by Riverside veteran Jason Grubbe), refuses to click over to Annie’s Public TV station due to his obsession with the Disney Channel.

Well, PBS might not be necessary anymore, but weird moments like this are, at least for me. The play takes place in a Midwestern town during Lent, and so I now have an immediate sense memory that Annie can use—trudging through the late-winter slush in my pajamas and snow boots, opening a newspaper in my empty apartment and feeling Annie’s lonely, private outrage upon realizing that something she believes in is once again in peril. I can feel her anger as she reads that even the more widely-viewed PBS programs get less of the Nielsen share than “Friday Night Smackdown.” Grrrr. Well, bad news for PBS, good news for my process!

But enough “An Actor Prepares” mumbo-jumbo. I’ll write more in a few days about how we’ve spent the first few rehearsals (five words: sex scene in a church). For today, the only preparing this actor is going to do is choosing an outfit for tonight’s Walking the Wire opening. I hope to see all of you there.


Monday, February 18, 2008

ElenaP: Behind the Scenes

Hello Riverdogs!

The Riverside crew has asked me to post a weekly blog as the rest of the Apartment 3A team and I investigate, rehearse, and prepare Jeff Daniels’ smart and sweet script for its March 27th opening.

I’m really excited to get started on this piece, which is chock full of emotional layers and iced with really, really funny jokes. I’m equally excited to work at Riverside, a theatre that I consider to be one of the crown jewels of Iowa City! So check back here every week for inside info, musing, ramblings, and a running tally of the myriad occasions in which I fall on my butt (I’ve never been known as a graceful actress, and there’s a scene in 3A with some serious acrobatics).

Back in the fall, Ron and Jody let me know that I was cast in the role of Annie. In the months between the audition and the first read-thru, I’ve bided my time doing two things:

1) Reading through the script--throughout which Annie talks incessantly, shrieking, HOW IN HEAVENS NAME AM I GONNA REMEMEBR ALL THESE LINES!, then calming myself down with a gin-and-tonic.

2) Explaining to friends and family that, yes, this play was written by that Jeff Daniels (or, as my stepfather insists on referring to him, “Dumber”).

Jeff Daniels the “theatre person” has always been a bit of a buzz word in my house. My boyfriend, David, is an actor-turned playwright, like Daniels, and a “Michigander,” like Daniels. All of Daniels’ plays have seen their debut at his Purple Rose Theatre Company in Chelsea, Michigan. David’s parents have seen quite a few of these productions. They’ve decided that Daniels should become their son’s best bud, despite the fact that Daniels and he have decidedly different aesthetics.

They say things like, “Oh, David, you should call up Jeff Daniels and ask him to put on that play you wrote about the murderous 18th century vampires” or “we went to see a Jeff Daniels play that was just like that one you wrote about the West Virginia trailer park! Only this one was set in the city and everybody worked for Public Broadcasting.” These statements are even funnier if you imagine them spoken in very thick accents.

“Dumber” though he may be, Daniels’ plays have received increasing amounts of positive attention, and not just from David’s folks. 3A played off-Broadway last year, and Escanaba in da Moonlight was made into a feature film. And there’s just something so cool about a man who could easily spend his free time lounging in Beverly Hills, collecting residual checks from The Squid and the Whale, Terms of Endearment and, yes, Dumb and Dumber, but who instead chooses to make art in his little Midwestern hometown. Sounds like Daniels might fit right in among the Riverdogs, huh?

When Ron and Jody gave me this script, I read Annie’s first monologue out loud and was immediately struck by this very funny and very emotionally real woman that Daniels created. Before reading any further, I put the script down, turned to R and J and said, “please tell me everything turns out okay for this woman.” She was that evocative. In Annie, Daniels has created a character I found myself instantly caring about, which is no small feat. I hope that, in a few weeks, you all will have the exact same experience when you meet her.

I’ll write more once we start rehearsals next week. Until then, stay warm!