Iowa Residency

From Michael Rohd, Artistic Director of Sojourn Theatre – our partners on TOWN HALL (working title), our new work-in-progress:

It’s in the middle of the country, its (supposedly) purple, Field of Dreams is an ‘Iowa’ movie & its got some great Universities.  Its one of the only states I’ve not spent time working in, and it’s a long drive across.

That’s a good bit of what I knew going in.

This past week Bobby Bermea, Rebecca Martinez and myself from Sojourn Theatre joined Rachel and Frank (and stellar intern Carly) for a research trip on Town Hall.  We were hosted by University of Northern Iowa’s Oral Communication program and Sojourn friend Karen Mitchell of their faculty. We were also hosted, in other parts of the state, by TEAM friend Ryan West of West Music in Iowa City.

The residency was arranged so our two companies could have more time together, and so we could do prep work for our visit to the Iowa Caucuses. Which originally were scheduled for February 6…but Nevada moved.  And then New Hampshire moved.  So, like the next domino in a tightly packed set, Iowa moved.  To January 3.  Right during the tech period in NYC for The TEAM’s Mission Drift.

So this trip became important as research and also so that those of going back could work on the relationships that will allow the January time to be as productive as possible..

We taught classes, we interviewed individuals. We met with Democratic Caucus organizers who told us amazing stories from the 2008 caucuses, but also took us back through the years, all the way to the 1960 Caucus.  One of our interviewees has been helping run the Caucus since then, and was able to discuss changes he’s witnessed. For the better, and the not so better.

We were invited to the County Republican Headquarters where we held one of several interviews with individuals  who are at the heart of the Party in Iowa. These were especially valuable, as it can be so easy to take on this sort of project with lots of assumptions…people were generous with their time, candid and made it very clear that in January, we’d be welcomed at the UniDome for the largest Caucus event in the State- one where all 8 Republican candidates are expected to attend.

We also did some research at the Isle of Capri casino. Interviews. Observaton.  Oh- also winning.  We did some winning there.  $75 worth.  Which meant when Frank arrived that night to join us, we were able to all go out to Applebee’s for a meeting- and by meeting I mean a giant Ribs and Wings meal that was stellar, and almost paid for by our gambling loot.  We talked, we planned…and we ate barbecue.  God prep for our time in Kansas City, one of the nation’s barbecue capitols…

Speaking of Kansas City, mid-week, Rachel (and Carly) drove to Kansas City to speak at a new Works Fundraiser Kansas City Rep was hosting to help support their 2012-2013 season…which of course includes Town Hall.  Rachel, by all accounts and to no surprise, did a great job representing our show and making the case for New Work in general.  She drove 10 hours within a 20 hour span, and we were all grateful.

Worth noting- Those of us in Sojourn met Ryan West for the first time, and we felt pretty fortunate t meet such a smart, warm guy who is so obviously committed to both his home state of Iowa and the power of theatre to make meaningful contributions to civic life.

Also worth noting- every time our two companies get together, it feels like the fondness between us grows, great work happens, and I personally get more excited for the project, and more inspired by my new collaborators.  Every time.

We will be together in a few weeks in Kansas City for a research trip.  Between now and then, the work continues.  A return to Iowa follows, some time in DC.  And then more development in NYC.  As Rebecca said when we left, ‘ I want to keep going now- I’m ready now.’  Me too.

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