Friday, October 16, 2009

The Diary of Anne Frank opens Oct. 22

Experience the fears, joys, and day-to-day existence of a Jewish girl who comes of age while hiding with her family in an attic in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam.

Join us for The Diary of Anne Frank, October 22nd through November 8th.

Thursday, Friday, and Saturday
shows at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday shows at 2:00 p.m.

For tickets: call (319) 338-7672
or order online.

Photo credit: Natalie Kropf and Andrew Dawson in The Diary of Anne Frank, at Riverside Theatre October 22-November 8. Photos by Bob Goodfellow.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Behind the Scenes of "A Dog's Life"

Looking for some behind the scenes information about our season opener, A Dog's Life? Enjoy this mini-interview with the playwright, Sean Grennan.

1. How did you get started as a playwright?

I was an English major in college but my father was a local Chicago TV personality so I kind of naturally drifted towards the performing side of things. Family business and all that. However, I'd always been interested in the written word and just started combining that with my stage work. At some point in there, about twenty years into my performing life, I was hosting a lot of open mics and writing material for benefits that actually seemed to work. I found that as or more gratifying than performing myself so I was hooked. My first show was a wild fluke of luck that turned out well called Phantom of the Country Palace. Once I saw things I'd written actually work on stage, I was off. By the way, this will seem snarky but another motivator over the years was that I'd acted in a lot of new and fairly awful bad plays. The kind of things where you're out on stage saying things that just don’t work. It actually gave me confidence to try my hand at what is really a pretty arrogant endeavor, imagining that what you write might be of any interest to anyone but you and maybe your mother. It kind of became a case of, "I could do better than this!"

2. Why a show about dogs?

I am, inarguably, a dog nut. Someone got a problem with that? I honestly don't think there are any bad dogs. Lots of bad, thoughtless, inconsiderate owners (let's get a drink and talk) but really OK, very few bad dogs. I know that doesn't make me at all unique. Lots of folks feel the same way. Dogs, pets generally, have a style of relating/communicating/showing affection that is completely unconditional and guileless that's beyond my small abilities to describe. So, I thought that despite this not being maybe the most "commercial" idea I've ever had, there might be something there that a fairly large group of folks could relate to. Experiences that I thought a lot of people would recognize. Besides, I had/have a huge crush on my guy Jack so this show is a sort of tribute to that as well.

3. Did you always intend to have a focus on the experience of one dog/one owner?

Leah Okimoto (the composer) and I talk about ideas for new shows all the time. Jack attended a lot of these meetings and quietly advanced his agenda. Or something. We decided that focusing on one dog and owner would keep things as simple and accessible as possible. We've also tended to write small cast shows so this made sense from that standpoint as well. The character of "Joel" of course, stands in for me but also for the rest of the audience. Keeping it mostly about them, with "Big Dog" and "Little Dog" for a little balance and comedy, seemed a good way to go.

4. Tell us about your experience writing lyrics… to be sung by dogs.

Lyrics for humans are tricky. Lots to get across in as unique, succinct, more or less natural a way as you can. Musical forms to observe and obey except when you don't. And oh, make it rhyme. I thought writing for the dog characters would be harder but it wasn't bad. The great thing about dogs is that they don't worry about their IRAs and they don't remember that mean thing that someone said to them in gym class 20 years ago. They're all about right now. We could all learn a great lesson from this. At least I could as soon as I get that kid back for calling me a "dork" during dodge ball.

So, for instance, Jack's song in the car, "It All Goes By So Fast" is, at least to me, the essence of what dogs think. It's all "Look at that! Let's go do that! Wow, everything smells so good and we could go chase something right now and isn't it all great!?" A lot of what he "talks" about is what's right in front of him now. You know, the important stuff we ignore while we worry or at least focus on everything else.

5. What’s the one thing the audience should know about the show?

That almost more than anything I've ever done in the theatre, this one is right from the heart. As I said, this is not our most lucrative piece but is nonetheless my favorite. (How un-American is that?) Leah and I wrote a show called Married Alive! about the institution of marriage that we feel pretty close to. So how could I put this above a show about my life with my lovely wife? (Please don't tell her...) Not to diminish Leah's and my respective marriages (no, we're not married to each other), while that show has great resonance for us, something basic and funny and touching about this show seems to have even more. And it pretty much wrote itself. Like the relationship with dogs itself, A Dog's Life is a little more straight-on honest, less complicated, simple, in the best way. We've even kept the form and the tone fairly light to reflect that.

(Another thing and this is an alert to stop reading if you already think I'm crazy about dogs cause it's just going to get worse...) My relationship with Jack is one of the more significant ones of my adult life. Just is, so get over it. From the moment I saw him at the shelter he seemed to say, "Take care of me and I'll take care of you too." He more than lived up to his side of the bargain. This show may be, in part, my way of trying to do the same.

Jack Grennan, the inspiration for the musical.

Jack and Sean enjoying a day at the beach.


For more information about A Dog's Life, at Riverside Theatre September 11 - October 4, call our box office at 319-338-7672 or visit our website at

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Announcing the 09-10 Season!

*drumroll* And now... the moment you've been waiting for since the Shakespeare Festival closed this past weekend... our 09-10 Gilbert Street Season! We've got it all. Dogs, a wedding, Jesus and even Stephen Hawking:

** A Dog's Life
September 11 – October 4

** The Diary of Anne Frank
October 22 - November 8

Walking the Wire: Monologues at Riverside
November 19 - November 22

The Tag Sale Project
December 12 and December 13

** End Days
January 29 – February 21

** Killadelphia: City of Numbers
March 5 - 14

** Mary's Wedding

April 1 – 18

It's also time to buy your 09-10 Riverdog Pass! This pre-paid season pass is only $99, and includes: one ticket to each of the shows above marked with an **, discounted tickets to the remaining shows, FREE coffee and discounted concessions, and perks at local Iowa City area businesses. Become a Riverdog today! Aroo!

For tickets, call the box office at 319-338-7672 or click here to order online.

For more information about the upcoming season or the Riverdog Pass, visit our website today!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Top 10 Shakespeare Quotes for the 4th of July!

Shakespeare loves the Fourth of July! If you want to sound smart at your Fourth of July party and impress your friends, commit a couple of these quotes to memory and break them out at propitious moments...

1. I am a foe to tyrants, and my country's friend.
Julius Caesar: V.iv.

2. I do love my country's good with a respect more tender, more holy and profound, than mine own life.
Coriolanus: III.iii

3. In right and service to their noble country.
Titus Andronicus: I,i

4. Who is here so vile not to love his country?
Julius Caesar: III, iii

5. I thank you all and here dismiss you all, and to the love and favor of my country commit myself, my person, and the cause.
Titus Andronicus: I, i

6. Having my freedom, boast of nothing else.
Richard II: I, ii

7. Gnawing with my teeth my bonds in sunder, I gain'd my freedom.
The Comedy of Errors: V, i

8. Let's all cry peace, freedom, and liberty!
Julius Caesar III, i

9. This liberty is all that I request.
The Taming of the Shrew: II, i

10. Leave us to our free election.
Pericles, Prince of Tyre: II, iv

**Text and graphic courtesy of
The American Shakespeare Center.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Reviews And More Reviews...

Still trying to decide if this year's Shakespeare Festival shows are for you? Check out the reviews below:

According to Rob Cline's review in the Cedar Rapids Gazette, "the entire audience was under enchantment throughout the lovely evening" that he attended A Midsummer Night's Dream. Read more of his review by clicking here.

Dennis Fox as Richard III does not disappoint, according to James Trainor's review for He says that Fox "plays the role with characteristic charm, wooing the audience with his wicked schemes. He is an expert with text, keeping time with the manic pace of the play like a well-wound clock." Read the rest of his review here.

Rob Cline also reviewed Richard III this past weekend, and went as far as to say that one scene from the production is "among the most memorable ever staged in the Shakespeare Festival’s 10 seasons." Want to know which scene deserves that gracious praise? Click here.

Check back with our blog, as some of our reviewers have gotten rained out. We'll be sure and link to more reviews as they come in. Happy reading!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Mini-Interviews With RTSF Interns...

When you think of the Shakespeare Festival, you probably think of the acting company, and the directors, and maybe the costumers. Maybe you think about the people that work in the box office that sell you a ticket, or the people in charge of the lights and sound during a dramatic scene. What you should be thinking about is the intern company. These young theatre artists are essential to the Festival, expanding our range of talent and energy. We are grateful to every one of them! Below (for your reading pleasure) are mini-interviews with two of this year's acting interns.

Meet Jacob Perkins:

Hometown: Anderson, South Carolina

Roles in RTSF '09: Edward Plantagenet/Murderer 2 - Richard III

How did you get involved with acting?: I did my first production playing John Henry in Carson McCullers' Member of the Wedding and never looked back. I was five years old.

Favorite role/play?: Angels in America by Tony Kushner. Harper Pitt is one of my favorite characters ever written.

Who is your favorite Shakespeare character?: Tie between Juliet, Paulina from The Winter's Tale, and Goneril from King Lear.

Why does performing Shakespeare interest/challenge you?: Shakespeare asks his actors to go to extraordinary and imaginative places. His characters are fully three dimensional and they allow you to pour all of your heart into them.

What should the audience know about Murderer 2?: I'm playing a murderer that kills Clarence. Clarence is played by my real life teacher, Steve Cardamone. Revenge for all of those homework assignments!

Meet Margo Chervony:

Hometown: Skokie, IL

Roles in RTSF '09: Dorset in Richard III

How did you get involved with acting?: I used to act out the movies I watched and scenes from plays that I'd seen even before I was two years old. It's always been a natural part of my life.

What was your 1st acting experience?: I played Linus in a children's theatre production of You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown when I was six.

Favorite role/play?: My favorite play experience were playing Eurydice in Metamorphoses by Mary Zimmerman and playing Lenny in Crimes of the Heart. I love the plays of Tennessee Williams, Tom Stoppard, and Shakespeare.

Who is your favorite Shakespeare character?: The Macbeths, or someone in King Lear. It's hard to pick.

Why does performing Shakespeare interest/challenge you?: At the heart of every character is a Shakespearean character that usually gets stiffed. Acting Shakespeare is getting to tap into the wild emotions that everyone has and actually letting them out. It's great fun, a great work-out, and important for every actor to try.

The 2009 Festival Intern Acting Company

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Midsummer Opens on Friday!

The 10th Annual Shakespeare Festival is here... are you ready?

"A Midsummer Night's Dream" opens on Friday the 12th at 8 pm - and tickets are still available.

Join us for one of Shakespeare's most magical comedies. Take a dreamy romp through an enchanted forest as four mismatched lovers and a hapless acting troupe collide with the king and queen of the fairies. The production is sponsored by Oaknoll.

To order tickets, call the box office at 319-338-7672 or click here!

Hope to see you in Lower City Park!

*Photo credit: Laura Ambrose and Martin Andrews in "A Midsummer Night's Dream". Photo by Bob Goodfellow.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Happy 10th Birthday Shakespeare Festival!

Happy Birthday to us!

This year, the Riverside Theatre Shakespeare Festival is in it's 10th season, and we're celebrating! You're invited to join us on Saturday, June 6th from noon - 4 pm at the Gilbert Street Theatre.

We'll be serving refreshments, displaying posters and photos from festivals past and showing off previews of costume renderings for the upcoming shows! Plus, you won't want to miss the chance to win prizes, and 10% off all Shakespeare Festival tickets purchased at the party!

Have questions? Call the box office at 319-338-7672.

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Have a holiday story to share?

As we're getting ready to slide into Memorial Day weekend... it seems like a great time to talk about our other favorite holidays. Do you have a favorite? What about a favorite story to share?

Riverside Theatre invites playwrights to submit monologues for performance in Walking the Wire: Monologues at Riverside. This annual celebration of original work features monologues of ten minutes or less by both established and up-and-coming playwrights. The focus for this season’s monologues is: HOLIDAY TALES. Whether it’s Christmas or Kwanzaa, Hanukkah or Ramadan, Mardi Gras or Cinco de Mayo – we’ve all got a story.

Submissions must be postmarked July 15, 2009 or emailed as a Word document and dated by midnight July 15; final selections will be announced no later than September 1. The monologues will be performed November 19-22 at Riverside Theatre.

Want more information about submission guidelines? Click here!

Can't wait to read your holiday stories!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Upcoming Thursday Theatre Talk!

Interested in a little behind the scenes information on the upcoming Riverside Theatre Shakespeare Festival? Then make plans to attend the Thursday Theatre Talk on May 14th at 5:30 pm at the Gilbert Street Theatre. It's free, open to the public, and I guarantee you'll learn something.

Join directors Ron Clark and Kristin Horton as they discuss A Midsummer Night's Dream and Richard III with Shakespearean scholar Miriam Gilbert. And hey... there will probably be some actors there. You can get a sneak peek at them too!

Hope to see you Thursday!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Claudia McGehee on "Scratching the Bard"

After an overwhelmingly positive response to this year's festival artwork, we asked artist Claudia McGehee to write about her process creating the peice for us. Enjoy!

When Riverside Theatre contacted me to work with them on their Shakespeare Festival 10th Anniversary campaign, I was thrilled. They already had a great idea to creatively spring off from- to illustrate the Bard surrounded by woodland creatures and fairy folk, all enjoying a twilight play at the Riverside Theater. I’ve spent many a summer evening myself in those seats at Riverside. The exceptional performances and the enchanting atmosphere of the open-aired theater are magic memories. Making this illustration would be a pleasure!

How does the illustration process begin for a project like this? First, I research some of the images I’ll be drawing. I take photos of the theater itself, look at the few images of Shakepeare that exist, read a little Shakespeare to really get me in the mood, and then start drawing!

I start with a pencil sketch first. I wanted to have a wide variety of creature companions- recognizable North American woodland critters like the bobcat, bear, ducks, squirrels, deer, opposum, etc. When Jody Hovland told me about how occasionally, a frog or two from the City Park pond find their way to the theatre on play night, I knew I had to include them, too! A few sprites inspired from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the theatre box office, a glowing sunset and twinkling stars complete the sketch.

Next, I transfer the sketch to a piece of scratchboard, my favorite art medium. Scratchboard has a white clay under layer which is covered with black ink. The artist scratches off detail with a sharp tool, like an exacto-blade. They “scratch” off what they want white and leave what they want black, with results that mimic a woodcut. Later, the white areas can be colored. Here are a couple photos of the Shakespeare piece in the process of being scratched out.

When the scratching is complete, I have a black and white image that I then scan into Photoshop on my computer. I may “clean up” a few details here (erase lines I don’t like, add a few that might help “punch up” an area). Then I print this image onto watercolor paper. At this point, it’s like a page from a coloring book; I color in the image with watercolor and dyes.

While I paint, my board is covered with lots of stuff; paint bottles and palettes, an extra piece of paper to play with colors, samples of other pieces I have done to give me ideas for color combinations, a water bowl, a coffee cup, and sometimes a visiting cat!

The actual rendering of the final art takes several steps that I do over a couple days. The initial research and composition work stretch over a couple weeks.

All in all, it was a very satisfying project. I like how the moon turned out, almost like an audience member itself! I loved drawing the many different animals, the rabbit and owl and frogs especially. And I hope the Bard doesn’t mind having luna moth colored tights on! I really enjoyed the opportunity to be part of this wonderful Iowa City icon.

- Claudia McGehee

For more information about Claudia, or to see more of her work... visit her blog at

Monday, April 27, 2009

More Will Power Photos...

Enjoy a few photos from the Will Power stop at North Central Junior High:

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Shakespearean Insults... Middle School Style

This week and last week, our team of Will Power Actors/Teachers have been visiting classrooms in Iowa City and Cedar Rapids. They've been engaging the students in voice, movement and improvisation activities to help them learn about Shakespeare's language and characters. They also do a short performance of a scene from the upcoming festival production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

One of the activities the students have really enjoyed is the "Shakespeare Insult Generator" that's included in their Will Power Play Guide. Some of our favorites?

"Thou goatish rump-fed dewberry"

"Thou yeasty dizzy-eyed bugbear"

"Thou spongy onion-eyed canker-blossom"

Now that you've been thoroughly insulted... enjoy some photos of Northwest Junior High students during their Will Power visit!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Student response to Raising Medusa....

Earlier this week, we had students from Tate, Mt. Vernon, and Washington High Schools attend a matinée performance of Raising Medusa. They seemed to enjoy themselves, and those that stayed after the show for a talk-back with Barbara Lau and the actors asked intelligent questions and seemed to have been very engaged with the production.

While I don't have photos of the students... enjoy a few photos of the artwork on display in the lobby (created by Mt. Vernon HS art students) and a few of the comments on our tag board response wall.

Please... feel free to add your responses to the play after you see Raising Medusa. There are still six performances left. Reserve your tickets now by calling 319-338-7672. Hope to see you at the show!

Monday, April 06, 2009

Reviewing Medusa...

Still trying to decide if Raising Medusa is a show for you? Check out some of the reviews below.

In his review for the Cedar Rapids Gazette, Rob Cline called Raising Medusa "a loving and lovely examination of a mother and teenage daughter struggling to connect." Read the full review here.

Vicki Krajewski called the play "a well-written, skillfully-voiced carnival of language both poetic and dramatic that will leave you thinking about your own family drama" in her review for The Iowa City Theatre Blog. Click here for the full review!

According to James Trainor and his review on, "what’s remarkable about Raising Medusa is that it puts forth both perspectives (mother and daughter) boldly, with humor and pathos, even as the tension degenerates into brutal conflict." Read his full review here.

Come experience Raising Medusa for yourself - now through April 19. For tickets, call the box office at 319-338-7672 or order online at!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Musings from Barbara Lau...

Installment #1 / April 1 '09 – 32 hours from SHOW TIME!

How does one raindrop flood the yard? How does a child spill into herself? Raising Medusa poses these questions and images early on in the play. The central Mother and teenage daughter characters also wrestled over: "Who, exactly, has abandoned whom?" "Who ARE you?" "Why must you love me so damn much?"

It has taken four years and an assortment of characters, including a feisty Greek Chorus, to begin to answer those questions for myself and an audience. This process resulted in a huge leap of genres for me as well – from publishing essays, articles and poetry to writing a full-blown, two hour play. Here’s the "back story."

Being primarily a poet, I initially envisioned writing a series of poems and monologues voicing a mother's emotional struggle as her only daughter grew into a rebellious teen. After writing about 15 poems – some published in fine journals such as The Southern Poetry Review and Southwest Review -- I realized something vital was missing. Like me (mother of two daughters) the mother in my poems needed to stop, drop & listen -- to her daughter’s distinct perspective and experiences.

This insight opened the door to the daughter’s voice, producing some tense point-counter point poems between the pair. Next came the idea of including a wise, feisty Greek Chorus to negotiate between them. In keeping with Classical theatre, my Chorus would also cast this conflict into a larger, universal arena, plus provoke Mother and daughter to express the messy truth about their flawed but oh-so-human conditions.

Next came the idea of evoking the image and persona of the mythological Medusa -- the ultimate symbol of a beauty to beast metamorphosis in Western literature. By this point, I realized I was dealing with a number of intriguing characters and a nascent plot. In fact, my imagination and characters were no longer content to merely squat on the page. They demanded a stage on which to strut and fret, rise and fall.

With this seemingly impossible, but delicious, concept in mind, I approached Jody Hovland of Riverside Theatre. I knew Jody a bit, having seen her act in numerous Riverside productions. Also, my husband, composer Don Chamberlain, teaches with her at Cornell College. He has produced the sound / music for various Shakespeare dramas and other plays for them. After reading my new group of poems and monologues, Jody felt the writing and themes were strong and fresh. She could not exactly promise, “If you write it, they will come [see it at Riverside].” However, she urged me to attempt a play combining these characters and the poems. Iowa City playwright and actor Maggie Conroy also came to my aid, offering valuable feedback as I lumbered through three in-depth revisions of the script.

In two days, this odyssey from poet to playwright, page to stage, will come to fruition. I’m deeply honored to have Riverside and our five terrific actors help me birth this play. My husband is contributing a riveting fusion of sound and music, too. In addition, many thanks to the NEA Foundation; the grant we received has affirmed the play’s worth and helped to fund the production. How did I get this lucky??? Pinch me, somebody!

-Barbara Lau

Barbara Lau’s first book of poetry, The Long Surprise, won the 2000 X. J. Kennedy Poetry Prize. Her poems also have appeared in The Southern Review, The Iowa Review, Southwest Review, North American Review, River Styx and other journals. Originally from Austin and San Antonio, she holds a MFA / Poetry from Warren Wilson College, an MA in Literature from the Univ. of Illinois, and a BA from the Univ. of Texas. She teaches at Kirkwood Community College, Cedar Rapids. She received an NEA grant to complete and stage her first play, Raising Medusa, in April 2009. Lau lives in Mt. Vernon, IA with husband Donald Chamberlain and amazing daughters Grace & Lily.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sirius Rising at Riverside Theatre

Join us next week for a play reading for Sirius Rising, a play by Cedar Falls playwright Gwendolyn Schwinke on Tuesday, April 7 at 6:30 pm. You're also invited to stay after the reading for a talkback with the playwright.

Sirius Rising is a play about the practical magic of long-term relationships woven together with the Egyptian myth of Isis and Osiris. As a flood of epic proportions descends on a rural farm community, four women discover that human connection is their only shelter against the storm.

According to Schwinke, audiences will get the chance to see familiar characters during the reading. "I wanted to bring to the stage the farm women that I know: smart, strong, full-blooded and funny," said Schwinke. "Although the characters are dealing with more extreme situations than most of us face, they remind us that we can live through tragedy with courage, humor and love."

Sirius Rising has been selected for inclusion in new-play festivals at Seattle Repertory Theatre, Judith Shakespeare Company in New York City, The Jungle Theatre and The Playwrights' Center in Minneapolis.

The reading will feature four of the actors appearing in Riverside Theatre’s current production of Raising Medusa - Kristy Hartsgrove, Jody Hovland, Nancy Youngblut, and Jaclyn Johnson; as well as Ron Clark.

Playwright Gwendolyn Schwinke grew up on a farm in Missouri, has lived in Minneapolis and New York City, and now teaches Theatre at the University of Northern Iowa. She feels that her play offers something for everyone. "It’s a little bit murder mystery, a little bit ancient myth, and a little bit love story. And there's a lot of humor in it."

For more information about this free reading on April 7, please call the Riverside Theatre Box Office at 319-338-7672 or visit Hope to see you there!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Jaclyn Johnson, Raising Medusa, and Threes....

First things first! I am Jaclyn Johnson and I have the distinct pleasure of acting in Raising Medusa which opens on April 2nd. I play multiple roles in this production but I am predominately known as Chorus Member Three. Voice 3 is what they call me for short. I like being a Three. Three is an influential number; things (good or bad) come in threes, the "rule of three in comedy," there are three Fates, three Graeae, three Gorgon sisters (no apologies here, I'm on a Greek kick). I think threes are special. So I will begin with a three...

Three weeks ago I climbed into my trusty Toyota Camry and began driving south. Four and a half hours later I arrived in the fair Iowa City and after settling myself into some lovely and inspiring temporary housing, I nestled into a clean, new script. It was beautiful, with clean pages, aside from the multi-colored steaks of high-lighter that popped words and directions my way. These gleeful affections were fleeting however, and in no time that clean script went to the dogs. Now it sits atop my desk, barely noticed, messy with X's and arrows, old blocking notes and new blocking notes, inserts, re-writes, and scotch tape. Three weeks from the day I drove down, I have a new script. More multi-colored streaks and deliberate blocking reminders delicately written in margins grace the pages. Again, the days are numbered. Shortly after I get this majestic, clean script, it is time to be off-book. Sure, I still enjoy the beauty of it while I sit at home working lines, but gone are the days of reading and walking, gone are the days of "wait, I gotta find my pencil," gone are the days of "what page is that?" Here are the days of "LINE?"

So here we are, over three weeks in, new scripts in bag, and there are new lines to learn, old lines to unlearn, blocking that doesn't work any more and moments that need clarity. It always makes for exciting rehearsals. I wasn't going to acknowledge, mostly for my own benefit, that while we are over three weeks into rehearsals, we are also less than a week away from opening. I've done productions that had a week to complete everything from first read-thru to opening night, and I know it will be plenty of time. Yet, at the end of each rehearsal, once I am headed home to think about the scenes we worked today and the issues we will face tomorrow, I know I have a lot of work to do.

With a group of such bright, fun and inspiring colleagues, this rehearsal process has been crazy good fun (and good pretzels). I am having a blast contributing to this production. Since this is a new play, there are constantly more and more questions popping up. While that can be frustrating at times, with all this constant discovery, a metamorphosis is occurring right before my eyes. I'm certain even Ovid would be impressed. *wink* And thank Zeus it evolved so much. Even though I like my nice clean script, I don't really want to show it off. I would much rather share the play with you. I've always been better at acting than I am at highlighting and penmanship.

This is my third (wow! Those magical threes!) premiere production I've done with Riverside Theatre. First I was Lydia in Keith Huff's Prosperity in 2005. Then Barbara Miller in Bruce Wheaton's Kinnick. Third, the lucky number Three in Barbara Lau's Raising Medusa. I thank her for giving me my first Greek Chorus personality. I have previously played multiple characters in plays and it is always such fun! In Raising Medusa, I play five characters in the show, three of which are reoccurring. Although I'm anxious about getting all my costume changes right, I will be proud to present Barbara's words to an audience later this week. I hope you are able to share this creation with us. It is a beautiful orchestration of poetry and theatre, power and love, strength and security.

- Jaclyn Johnson

Raising Medusa
opens this Thursday at 7:30 pm - reserve your tickets today! Call the box office at 319-338-7672 or visit

Friday, March 27, 2009

An Interview with Barbara Lau...

Looking for more information about Raising Medusa? Check out an MP3 of today's interview with playwright Barbara Lau on KCCK's Culture Crawl. Barbara talks about the process of taking her play from poems to a full blown theatre production.

Raising Medusa opens at Riverside Theatre next Thursday, April 2nd at 7:30 pm. Tickets are on sale now - call the box office at 319-338-7672 or visit

Check back next week for more behind the scenes looks at the play, as well as links to local press coverage. Hope to see you at the show!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Thursday Theatre Talk - Raising Medusa

Curious about Raising Medusa? Wondering how this play is going to blend realistic contemporary scenes with traditional elements of Greek theatre? Wondering who Medusa is... and what she has to do with a rebellious teenager?

Then make plans to attend next week's Thursday Theatre Talk - March 26th at 5:30 pm!

Join host Miriam Gilbert, University of Iowa Department of English and Robert Ketterer, UI Department of Classics, for a FREE discussion of the classical myth, as well as the larger question of why dramatists and composers turn so often to the classics for inspiration and adaptation. This "TTT" starts at 5:30 pm at the Gilbert Street Theatre.

Want more information about the show? Visit our website!

Tickets are on sale now - for more information, call the box office at 319-338-7672.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Walking the Wire Opens Tonight!

Don't miss Walking the Wire! It opens tonight, and will be here for one weekend only! Still not convinced that a "tasty" evening of monologues with a food theme will satisify your "hunger" for theatre? Read below for some preview articles from local newspapers.

Check out articles in the Press Citizen, on, and in The Daily Iowan.

Tickets are going fast... call 319-338-7672 (or order online) and reserve yours today!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Behind the Scenes: Walking the Wire

I find myself dashing through the thick Iowa corn field, Jody’s words chasing behind me, “Would you like to act in the monologue you wrote?” I burst through the stalks and see Ink Pond just yards away. I collapse by the side of the water and stare deeply at my reflection. “What do I do?” I ask myself. The water shifts and my reflection answers me, “You must look inside yourself.”

Ok, so perhaps I am starting this blog a little far fetched. I admit, I never ran through a cornfield nor stared intently at the mossy green waters of Ink Pond seeking answers. But it seems so much more dramatic than me sitting in my dorm room pondering the question in my head. I’m getting to far ahead. Time for a flashback, perhaps?

Why, hello! It’s so nice to meet you for the first time ever! My name is Lindsay Tornquist and I am a Theater Major at Cornell College. I consider myself an actor, but I’ve recently gotten into playwriting. Actually, one of my monologues, "A Piece of Cake", was chosen for Riverside Theater’s show Walking the Wire. I’m very excited!

Enough exposition. So where’s the conflict here? Well, I love theater and have been acting since I was old enough to understand what that is. However when I came to Cornell College, suddenly (in a wonderful coming-of-age type of way), I’ve been trying out other areas of theater, like costuming and directing and…[cue dramatic music]… playwriting. I took my first playwriting class about a year and a half ago with playwright C. Denby Swanson. I haven’t stopped writing since. This year I took a class with Naomi Wallace and fell even deeper into the spiral of writing. My monologue was chosen for Walking the Wire and suddenly I’m stuck in a dilemma- Jody asks me if I want to act in my own play.

GASP! What do I do? I am an actor. So one would assume I would want to act. But I want to see someone else perform my work. Hear someone else say my words. But can I really let that opportunity go? What do I do?

And we’re back to the reflection in the water. “Lindsay,” My water reflection says to me, “what do you want to do?” I dramatically splash the water, but the ripples stop and the reflection is still there. I finally look back and reply, “I don’t want to act in my piece.”

Alright, we’ll consider that the climax of the story. Now for the falling action. So I decided I wanted to fully try on these playwriting shoes I’ve found and let someone else perform my piece. I may consider myself an actor, but I must have the courage to look myself in the face and say, “I am a writer,” also. As a great teacher of mine, Bill Schulz, once told said, “A writer writes. If you write, then you are a writer.”

Resolution! As in all stories there is a happy ending. The actress who was chosen for my piece, Ashley Boots, is not only an amazing actress, but also friend of mine. As soon as Jody told me Ashley would be in my show, I could image it perfectly in my head. I couldn’t be happier. As I get up from the pond, I give one last look at my reflection. My watery self smiles as the real me turns and strides back through the cornfield, the orange sun slowly setting into the brilliant amber horizon ahead.

-Lindsay Tornquist

Lindsay's piece, "A Piece of Cake", will be performed by Ashley Boots during Walking the Wire: Monologues at Riverside - Food! The show runs from March 5 - 8, and tickets are on sale now. To reserve your seats, call the box office at 319-338-7672 or visit

Monday, February 16, 2009

Behind the Scenes: Walking the Wire

For me, and for a lot of other actors I know, the stand alone monologue is among the most daunting of pieces to prepare. Above all, it’s a true test of skill. Public speaking without a net. So, “Walking the Wire” is an apt description of the feat you will witness March 5 – 8.

So, how do we do it? Well, it all begins with the piece. Monologues—a fancy term for solo speech—generally have a beginning, middle, and end. It could be an anecdote or a confession, a song or a tirade. And I should note that an actor’s process will differ entirely from one to the next, but for me…I get my monologue, roughly five minutes in length (which is an eternity in theatre), and to boot—an original piece. I like that these pieces are brand new because there will be no expectations for how it should be played. I am free to explore the material and put my signature on it. So, once I get the piece, I read it a couple of times and mull over my initial impressions. Then, read it aloud and see how the words sound. It’s amazing how different a piece rings from one’s mind to one’s lips.

One would think that one five minute piece would be a simpler task than a two hour play. For me, it really isn’t. I tend to rely heavily on the rehearsal process. In rehearsals, I learn a lot in a short amount of time. For WTW, we have two individual rehearsals with Ron before the week of show—thus the majority of the time we spend creating the piece is self guided. I prefer dialogue to monologue, because I can use the impulses and reactions from the other actors to guide the scene. Most of that work is moot for a solo piece, so it challenges me to work outside of my comfort zone.

But what about memorization? Is it hard to learn a five minute speech? It can surely be tricky, but it helps to have a system. I have two methods. First, I always write out my lines by hand. That way, I have to slowly churn each word onto paper and check that I’m learning the lines correctly. Second, I tend to learn a lot of lines “on my feet” while working the piece in rehearsal. Once you get a pattern of movement and blocking associated with certain lines, it really helps to solidify them. After a time, you just have to trust that the lines are in your head and will come out in the right order.

When breathing life into a monologue, an actor should answer the questions: why must I (as the character) say this? why now? And more questions tend to arise from there depending on the character. The foremost aspect of creating a monologue, for me, is to find the truth of the character in this moment they’re sharing. This is really hard to explain. It involves being open and receptive as the actor to the suggestions and frequencies of the character. Having empathy, perhaps. One thing that Ron has encouraged me to explore with my piece is to build a rapport with the audience. Good advice. Casting the theatre audience as my character’s audience is really going to help me find that truth and ground myself in her story. It’s a story that will sound familiar to a lot of audience members, which will only help that rapport.

The beauty of Walking the Wire is that you will see one of a kind performances and one of a kind playwriting in a one of a kind theatre. We’ll be using our own breath to make the characters in this variety show come to life. Come and get ‘em while they’re hot!

-Sarah Hinzman

Sarah will be performing a piece by Shirley King, "Sandbags and Sandwiches", during Walking the Wire: Monologues at Riverside - Food! The show runs from March 5 - 8, and tickets are on sale now. To reserve your seats, call the box office at 319-338-7672 or visit

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Behind the Scenes: Walking the Wire

To be honest, I was hoping to find someone else to perform my piece. Then I saw Megan Gogerty during Riverside Theatre’s production of Megan Gogerty Loves You Very Much, and was inspired. She is adorable; memorizing and performing a wonderful solo show that she’d written. I decided to opt for bravery, facing head on this question: “Does the audience hate me, what I’ve written, or both?”

I foresee only two problems:
1) I am not adorable. 2) Memorization.

I could use my age as an excuse for the lack of memory. I used to look only for things, “Where are my car keys?” “Have you seen my glasses?” Now I also look for phrases and words. “Where is the, you know, white stuff that you use to stick things together?” “Hand me a, that thing, it’s ah, you use it for eating.”

It’s like playing a very tiresome game of charades or catch phrase, by myself and I’m always on the losing team. I’ll use anyone nearby as a resource, even strangers, peering closely into their faces and asking, “What was I saying?” I could use age as an excuse, but performers of my demographic, talented women like Rachel Lindhart and Jody Hovland, dance through pages and pages of memorized text, as dense as Shakespeare, and linguistically challenging as…oh the guy, he writes, it’s French, begins with oh, maybe an M?

So, I am committed. I printed my piece and I read it and say the lines walking my Labradors over the frozen farm field in the morning and at night. They are no help when I ask,” What comes next?” But I think their argument is more substantive, they would have phrased some of it differently, would have chosen different metaphors thanks and do you still have cheese in your pocket?

-Janet Story Schlapkohl

Janet will be performing her piece, "Sacrificial Turkey", during Walking the Wire: Monologues at Riverside - Food! The show runs from March 5 - 8, and tickets are on sale now! To reserve your seats, call the box office at 319-338-7672 or visit

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Don't Miss "Diamonds or Denim"!

Looking for a fun night out with your sweetie in February? Then don't miss this year's "Diamonds or Denim" event on February 27, 6:00 pm, at the hotelVetro suites and conference center. Tickets are $45, $35 of which is tax deductible, and all proceeds go directly toward supporting high quality programming at Riverside Theatre!

This year's event will feature hors d’oeuvres from local restaurants and caterers, and a silent and live auction. The 24-item live auction includes trips, furniture, dinners, and more. The silent auction features over 100 items donated by local businesses. The evening will also feature a special performance by Dan Knight and Betsy Hickok, who are partnering to offer a concert for bidding on the live auction.

What sort of items will be featured in the live auction? Click here!

The event will close with a raffle drawing for prizes including a 14 karat two-toned white and yellow gold diamond bracelet valued at approximately $2,800, and a week of fun in the sun at Ann Feldmann's vacation home near Phoenix, Arizona. Roundtrip airfare for two and $200 in golf and dining certificates complete this package, which has an approximate value of $1,150. Winners need not be present to win. Raffle tickets are $10 each or 3 for $25 and can be purchased at the Riverside Theatre box office.

Get your event and raffle tickets today! Call (319) 338-7672, order online, or stop by the Riverside Theatre box office, located at 213 N. Gilbert Street in Iowa City.

Hope to see you there!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Want a preview of Guys on Ice?

Still trying to decide if Guys on Ice is the show for you? Enjoy this video clip, courtesy of The Daily Iowan. (You'll need Quicktime to view the video.)

Now what's more fun than singing and dancing in snowsuits and boots?

Join us in the ice fishing shanty from now until February 22. Reserve your tickets today by ordering online, or by calling the box office at 319-338-7672.

Hope to see you at the show!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Summer Thoughts on a Snowy Day...

Need some summer thoughts on a snowy day?

Think ahead to the 2009 Riverside Theatre Shakespeare Festival!

We are proud to announce (and feeling warmer just thinking about) the 2009 Riverside Theatre Shakespeare Festival. This summer’s 10th annual festival will feature Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Richard III. Both shows will run in rotation from June 12 through July 12. Tickets will be on sale in April.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by Ron Clark, is one of Shakespeare's most magical comedies. Join us for a delightful romp through an enchanted forest as a quartet of mismatched lovers and a gang of hapless actors cross paths with the king and queen of the fairies.

Watch Richard III wage his own private war as he murders, manipulates, and marries his way to the throne. Kristin Horton directs this story of a self-proclaimed villain battling to obtain and retain the crown in one of Shakespeare’s most diabolical history plays.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Richard III will be performed at the Festival Stage in Lower City Park. (We are thrilled to be back in the park after last summer's flooding!) The space, which seats over 400 people, is based on Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre of 1600. Based on a concept by theatre designer Paul Sannerud, the space was designed by Neumann-Monson Architects.

Looking for more information about Riverside Theatre or the festival? Please visit! And keep thinking warm thoughts!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Guys on Ice: Choreographer's Blog

I sat down with Jody at our initial meeting. She told me about the show and what she was looking for in terms of choreography. I had not yet heard the music but was informed that one dance would include the use of snowmobile suits. And I thought to myself, "Well... I'm up for a challenge."

I immediately thought of Ralph from A Christmas Story not being able to move in his snowsuit. But the one thing that stuck with me from that meeting was when Jody said that the show had a lot of heart.

So I got home, read the script from front to back. I laughed, I cried, I fell in love with the characters. I turned on the music and started dancing around my kitchen scribbling notes to myself. I love that the movement needs purpose. It needs to flow and complement what the actor is feeling and portraying to a larger crowd. The dance cannot overpower the music, and it cannot be so intense that the actor loses their breath. So imagine me in my kitchen singing and dancing, completely out of breath, but determined to find movement that worked.

I went into the first rehearsal with a bunch of notes and ideas, but knew that this process was going to be more of a collaboration between the actors, director, and me. It was fun working with Ron and John on stage! The first two rehearsals we set four songs, and it's amazing that once the material soaks in, they danced with ease! They adapted the movement, and it started becoming their own. One thing I love about these actors is that they fully become their character, and are not afraid to take risks! And the direction from Jody was always comforting; she knows what works and has so many great ideas.

It has been so refreshing being with an enthusiastic cast that's willing to do anything! Also, live music (Ruth) is amazing to work with!

I was sitting in on a rehearsal the other night, and got so giddy seeing "Ode to a Snowmobile Suit." It was splendid! The stage and set has grown, the characters have developed, and the dancing looked so natural. Nothing felt forced and, as a choreographer, I felt so proud that they had accomplished that. I am really excited to see the full production from start to finish because, Jody was right, it has a lot of heart!

- Erika Christiansen, Choreographer for Guys on Ice