This year has been an exciting year for me because of the Towle Theater. These musicals and plays were the first ever for me to photograph. So I will always remember this year. Each rehearsal I photographed was unique. "Leaving Iowa" was that, however when I walked away there was something very lasting about the experience, even though I photographed just the rehearsal.
When you watch a performance you can get pumped up with the music, the vocals, the energy from the cast. This is all inspiring and immediate. When you go home you can talk about it, relive it to some extent, and it eventually wears off. Tonight's rehearsal seemed different to me. A nerve deep inside was touched. One that seems to be lasting. What that was, or is for me, were the childhood memories I had of being with my family on trips. These are the memories that will always be with me. They are the happy ones, funny ones. Though some memories may have been sad or unhappy the time they occurred, the remembrance seems to smooth all that out into a joyful journey.
And yes . . . SPOILER ALERT!!! If you have not seen the play yet, I strongly encourage you to do so first. This blog of my experience is never a substitute for your own experience.
So now, let me take you on a photographic journey of this play starting with photos of the cast . . .
Setting: Dad passed away about a year ago. Don is a bit uneased that nothing has been done with Dad's ashes. Living now in Boston, Don decides to go see his Mom and Sis, to get the ashes and to take them where Don believes Dad would have wanted. As Don drives with his Dad's ashes, there are flashbacks to the family vacation - memories from his past.
To help you through the photos, Don who is telling this story to us has a cap on for when he and his Sis were kids. The cap is off for the present (as an adult). As you watch the play this is apparent, however with just photos being shown it may not be so obvious.
This is also how the play pauses (taking off the hat), to allow Don to talk to us in the preset, as he reflects on his memories of the current scene. Again, this works well in the play. Your challenge is to keep up with the photos.
Tom Farley who played Don, had a great and difficult performance keeping us on track by flipping hats between his adult role and childhood role. He was the focus, with the most lines to read, along with change in voice and character for each of his roles.
Jeff Casey played Dad. You would have thought Jeff studied his part the same 4 or 5 weeks as the cast. He did not. He only had 5 days. This was because the original actor had to leave unpredictably. So Jeff stepped in. When I photographed the rehearsal, it was Jeff's third day. A lot of calling out for "line", yet even then I felt his acting was very believable for this role. Then came Saturday night, the night that I went to see the play. He pulled it off with great showmanship, character, and being very human and comical as the play called for. Jeff, you are one swell guy . . . your journey is far from over ! (Oh, and I think he had all his lines right!!!)
Donna Rettew who played Mom, made her part work well. She was the helpful mom, stern when she needed to be with the kids, and with Dad when he tried to take control when she was driving. Her being embarrassed, not remembering where she left Dad's ashes, the Amish scene, and the driving scene allowed her to show to show us her acting.
Denise Kus played Sis. I think she had the most interactive character of the bunch . . . the trouble maker. She played her part well, by acting "the innocent Sis" part, and by being sweet to Dad to get her way. I really liked her when she made the faces when picking on Don, then making it look like it was all Don's fault. Oh, the memories . . .
Sherry L. Sweeny played Woman 1. A lot of changing of character and dress, and I can only imagine very quickly. Not only do these additional parts require a speedy delivery, they also require the actor to be in total character for that moment. Changing from one to another, does tend to spin your head. Sherry kept her head on, and provided a great performance in the Civil War reenactment scene. Of course you cannot forget her presence in the diner either. However, the most powerful scene for me was at the end, when the hog farmer walked Don to the center of the country pole, telling Don about the farmer's father and how appreciative the farmer was, knowing what Dad did for him.
My friend Cleo "Michelle" Milan who played Woman 2, I am really proud of too. This was her first time performing at the Towle Theater, and I hope it will not be her last. Like Sherry, she had many characters to change to. The one that struck me as the most different, out of all the characters, was her part in the Civil War reenactment. Though differently simple, that simpleness was perfectly brought to us, liking and laughing all the way.
I do thank the cast for their energy and performacne. They brought the meaning of family events back to me, using the voice of the writers, and the cast skills as artists. I do believe every member of the audience went away moved, thinking about their lives, as the play intended. It took everyone to pull it off, and most of all, the people who started this . . . the writers.
If you desire, check out my blog on Ordinary Days, The 39 Steps, and Next To Normal at the Towle Theater.
Again, this year has been a great experience for me. I thank the Towle Theater for being a very large part of that, starting with "Ordinary Days" and ending with "Leaving Iowa". This is the first for me, as many other firsts this year, photographing musicals and plays. I hope I will be invited back for next season . . .
9/11/12 - Could not resist another photo opportunity. I saw this car with Iowa License plates in the parking lot when visiting David Mueller at Paul Henry's Art Gallery. So I took the photo with the Towle Theater in the background.
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