the Promises, Promises ensemble During a recent post-show conversation, an actor friend and I agreed that perhaps the most exciting moments at any theatrical production are those few seconds before the production even starts, when the lights dim, cell phones (please God) are turned to silent or vibrate, and the venue becomes alive with possibility - with the awareness that, in this live art form, absolutely anything can happen.

Hairspray at the Adler Theatre On August 17, the Richmond Hill Barn Theatre's production of Tom Stoppard's Arcadia marked the last theatrical production I'd see this summer - the 29th show I caught over the span of 12 weeks - and in truth, I'm kind of bummed that the season is over. But it will be nice to have a few days when I'm, you know, not working, so I'm also looking forward to the fall, when instead of 29 shows, theatre-goers only have the opportunity to see ... 38.

Pat Flaherty and Jason Platt in "The Winning Streak" In Lee Blessing's The Winning Streak, the locale is left unspecified; the only information the Tony Award-nominated playwright gives us is that the events transpire in "a city in the Midwest." But audiences can be forgiven for thinking there's nothing unspecified about it.

One of the play's seven scenes takes place "at the end of a dock." Another occurs at a sidewalk café within walking distance of a cathedral and an art museum. And, most tellingly, one takes place "in the stands of a major league stadium," where - to the delight of the show's protagonist - an eternally struggling baseball team is finally enjoying an unprecedented hot streak.

Could this, in fact, be Chicago, and could the beleaguered ballplayers be the Cubs?

Certainly, there was cause for concern.

Reader issue #604 When the Prenzie Players made their 2003 debut with Shakespeare's Measure for Measure, they did so at Rock Island's Peanut Gallery, which didn't have a proper stage and could only seat, at maximum, 40 people. The show had an inadequate budget (between $200 and $300), a run of only two performances, and no word-of-mouth; Prenzie's founders - Cait Bodenbender, John "J.C." Luxton, Aaron Sullivan, and Denise Yoder - had every reason to expect Measure for Measure to fail.

Yet Friday night's show played to a full house. And on Saturday ... .

After the most successful nine-month run that Iowa City's Dreamwell Theatre has ever seen, this sm

all company - which has long performed on borrowed stages and only recently secured a space of its own - is homeless once more.

"And dream we will, for we are in so odd a world that just to live is to dream." - Segismundo, Life Is a Dream

 

In his aptly titled Life Is a Dream, playwright Pedro Calderon de la Barca suggests that even if life is no more real that our sleeping stories, the Golden Rule still applies. Actions and relationships still have pertinence, and the status of an individual is defined by the opinions of those around him. Calderon's poetic 1636 play continues this weekend as part of the University of Iowa's 2003 Mainstage season.

Even though the organization has only staged two plays in its first year, New Ground Theatre chooses to measure success by quality more than quantity. And New Ground has been rising after being started last year by a woman with an idea and funding from local organizations.

Spinning into Butter, Riverside Theatre's third production in its 21st season, is a sometimes-humorous look at very serious subjects: political correctness and racial politics in the new millennium. The work and the production have local roots. The play was written by Rebecca Gilman, who has an MFA from the University of Iowa and is an acquaintance of Ron Clark and Jody Hovland, co-artistic directors at Riverside. (Time magazine hailed Gilman as "an important new theatrical voice.") And director Bruce Levitt is a former University of Iowa faculty member and was director of the MFA. actor-training program at the school from 1977 to 1980.

Seascape, the final production of the University of Iowa's Summer Rep season (called "Making Waves: An Edward Albee Festival"), is an interesting variation on a well-worn theme of the playwright: introspection.