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.