“Leaving Iowa” … arriving in Fort Madison

Sis (Xandra Abel) chats with her brother Don (Sterling Barnes) in OFP's May production of "Leaving Iowa."

BY DOROTHY SCHULTZ
Old Fort Players

FORT MADISON – If Iowa is a state of mind, can you ever really leave? Maybe not, but you can certainly try. Especially if it’s in a station wagon crammed with fighting kids, a dad who won’t ask directions and a peacemaker mom with a bottomless snack bag. 

The actors at Old Fort Players invite you along for the ride as they hit the road on this hilarious romp through the Iowa countryside – as if there is any other kind! Co-Directors Ty Clute and Angela Sanford had been hoping to repeat the comedic success of “Drinking Habits” (February of 2020) and this show certainly fits the bill.

“Leaving Iowa” written by Tim Clue and Spike Manton is produced by Special Arrangement with Dramatic Publishing Company of Woodstock, IL. The theater is still looking for a local business to sponsor this production. Please call (319-372-9559) if you are interested.

The idea behind “Leaving Iowa” comes from being children of parents from what is now dubbed “greatest generation.” The story is a toast to their idealism and character and a little roast of their undying dedication to the classic family road trip. 

More specifically, it is the story of Don Browning, a middle-aged writer, who returns home and decides to finally take his father’s ashes to his childhood home, as requested. But when Don discovers Grandma’s house is now a grocery store, he begins traveling across Iowa searching for a proper resting place for his father. This father-and-son road trip shifts smoothly from the present to Don’s memories of the annual, torturous vacations of his childhood. 

Don’s existential journey leads him to reconcile his past and present at the geographical center of the United States. “Leaving Iowa” is a postcard to anyone who has ever found himself or herself driving alone on a road, revisiting fond memories of his or her youth. “Leaving Iowa” premiered at the Purple Rose Theatre Company on January 22, 2004 in Chelsea, Michigan, directed by Antony Caselli.

The cast is a lively mix of newbies and veterans and even a few theater lovers just anxious to escape the lockdown. Reprising his starring role in the HTC 2018 production of “Leaving Iowa,” Sterling Barnes is an alumnus of our Young Fort Players and we are proud to see him return. Rosie Strickland was also a member of the HTC cast and is excited to get another chance at this hilarious comedy and to show off her acting chops with two new characters.

Sydney Amberger is no stranger to OFP and promises her uncanny ability to portray a whiney teenager is pure talent and based on no real-life experience whatsoever. Mallory Troutman, a veteran of OFP and Van Buren stages has been cast to play young Don. OFP veteran actors Jadi Zioui, (“What To Expect”) Matt Abel (“Bleacher Bums”) & Richar Abel (“Queen of Bingo”) join their respective daughters in this family friendly production. 

The most fun seems to be had by those actors in multiple small roles – and each quirky character is quirkier than the last. Juniper Strickland and Xandra Abel have been putting their considerable acting skills to use that they honed as members of the Young Fort Players. 8th graders Alexa Johnson and Isaiah Meeks enjoy music and sports when not on stage. Kelly Shields (“Steel Magnolias”) is happy to be back at OFP with so many familiar faces.

Cast as the parents, Amanda Greenhalge (“What to Expect”) and James Salisbury (“Drinking Habits”) have much theater and parenting experience to bring to the table. James has been heard to modestly say, “When your lines are things like, ‘Don’t make me pull this car over!’ – is it really acting?’”

Rounding out the formidable cast of colorful characters are: dedicated volunteer and theater-lover, Kim Albers; former board member, and star of the “Opal” Plays, Shelley Dowling; current OFP Vice President, actor and director Jan Jud. Michelle Slater, former board member and director of “Dial M for Murder” has the monumental task of stage managing the minimalist yet complicated set and cast; Elianna Karriker will handle the sound and lights for the production.

OFP Treasurer, Angela Sanford and former President, Ty Clute are the directing team for this talented cast and crew. 

The cast and crew have again decided to forego their usual practice of greeting the audience in the lobby after each performance. They ask that you show your appreciation by posting on social media to invite friends along and talk about how much you enjoyed the show.

Performances run May 7-9 and 14-16, 2021. Evening shows begin at 7:30 and Sundays at 2:00 pm. (Adult $15; Senior, Military, Vet $12; Student $10.) Tickets are available online and the link to purchase will be posted on www.oldfortplayers.com and the theater’s Facebook page.  For those wanting to pay cash or credit for tickets at the door, you can and should reserve your seat by phone or Facebook Messenger. Seating is limited due to COVID-19. 

This season would have been Old Fort Players’ 40th anniversary but the celebration has been postponed until the Covid lockdown ends and a full season can be scheduled. The theater is located in downtown Fort Madison at 725 Avenue G. Send a Facebook message, send an email to oldfortplayersfm@gmail.com or call 319-372-9559 for more information. Like them on Facebook (Fb@oldfortplayers) or visit www.oldfortplayers.com to keep up with everything that’s going on at the theater.

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