Memphis at the Adler Theatre and Peoria Civic CenterStephen King, Agatha Christie, the Headless Horseman, Dracula, Medusa, Witches, Murder, Horror, Ghost Brothers ... . Halloween's more than two months away, and our area's fall-theatre lineup is already freaking me out.

Of course, I'm also freaked out - in a good way - by the incredible variety of theatrical offerings in the Quad Cities and neighboring burgs between now and the end of November. And you might be, too, considering that among 62 titles on the horizon, autumn will feature a plethora of audience favorites, a healthy number of debuting works, five Pulitzer Prize winners, more than a dozen Tony Award winners, and literally thousands of additional winners, if you include those who attend theatre as winners. (And I do.)

As the fall also brings with it students' collective return to school, we may as well start with educational theatre in the area, especially because I've been sitting on one piece of previously secret information for too many days now ... . Spamalot! From October 4 through 6, Davenport's St. Ambrose University is doing Monty Python's Spamalot! With licensing arrangements keeping its title embargoed until August 15, SAU can finally announce the impending arrival of its Tony-winning musical comedy based on Monty Python & the Holy Grail, a production that follows St. Ambrose's studio-theatre presentation of David Mamet's twisty sexual-harassment meditation Oleanna (September 5 through 7).

My alma mater of Rock Island's Augustana College has a more classical classic in store with director Jennifer Popple's staging of The Marriage of Figaro (October 18 through 27), while the dates, if not yet the title, have been set for the fall show at Bettendorf's Scott Community College (October 17 through 26). Cedar Rapids' Kirkwood Community College, meanwhile, offers Tony-winning author Terrence McNally's comical Dedication: Or, the Stuff of Dreams (October 10 through 13) at the Coralville Center for the Performing Arts, a venue that will also house Fourth Wall Theatre's dramatic presentation Stop Kiss (August 29 through September 7), and the City Circle Acting Company of Coralville's eagerly awaited production of ... Monty Python's Spamalot (October 25 through November 3)! Here's hoping, this fall, that Iowa is stocked to the gills with coconuts and shrubbery.

Wicked at the Civic Center of Greater Des MoinesBetween its mainstage and studio shows, Iowa City's University of Iowa boasts nine theatrical offerings this autumn, with the Pulitzer Prize-winning war-veteran drama Water by the Spoonful (October 10 through 20) and Moli?ère's farcical The Imaginary Invalid (November 14 through 23) joining a septet of world premieres arriving between September 20 and November 3. Consider me officially intrigued, because in addition to works with titles such as Medusa Untold (October 17 through 20) and This Is Not a War Play (October 24 through 27), the U of I's studio season features both My Sister (September 27 and 28) and Dreams I Have About Killing My Sister (October 31 through November 3). Coincidence?

Local students not yet ready for college enrollment will also have their hands full of fall theatre, as Davenport Junior Theatre offers its take on the fairytale classic Cinderella (October 5 through 13). And numerous other storybook characters can be found this fall in the family musical A Fairy Tale Christmas (November 29 through December 28) at Rock Island's Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse, a venue that - following its presentation of the romantic comedy Things My Mother Taught Me (September 25 through November 2) - continues its holiday theme with the Tony-nominated film adaptation A Christmas Story: The Musical (November 6 through January 5).

Another screen hit turned stage hit will be on hand with the Peoria Civic Center's touring production of Elf: The Musical (November 5 and 6), while the same locale hosts additional, visiting presentations of the Bob Fosse smash Chicago (September 24 and 25), the children's tale The Little Engine That Could Earns Her Whistle (October 16), and the Best Musical Tony winner Memphis (October 26). That blues- and-rock-fueled outing also debuts locally when Davenport's Adler Theatre opens its Broadway at the Adler series with Memphis (October 28), right before entertaining - and quite possibly spooking - the bejeezus out of crowds with the Stephen King-penned Ghost Brothers of Darkland County (November 3), a new musical featuring compositions by Grammy winners John Mellencamp and T-Bone Burnett.

Ghost Brothers of Darkland County at the Adler TheatreMore scares, albeit en pointe ones, will be on hand (and foot) in Ballet Quad Cities' fall stagings of Dracula, taking place October 11 and 12 at Moline's Scottish Rite Cathedral, and October 19 at Cedar Rapids' Paramount Theatre. Iowa City's Dreamwell Theatre brings us Fictional Murders (October 11 through 19) sandwiched between the company's presentations of the purgatory tale The Last Days of Judas Iscariot (September 6 through 14) and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Clybourne Park (November 15 through 23). An Agatha Christie chiller-with-laughs takes residence in Geneseo this fall, when the Richmond Hill Barn Theatre precedes its slapstick I Take This Man (November 7 through 17) with the mystery author's legendary whodunnit The Mousetrap (October 3 through 13).

There are both adult- and kiddie-geared creep-outs set for the Old Creamery Theatre this autumn in the Hitchcock-ian Dial "M" for Murder (October 10 through November 10) and the family-friendly The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (October 19 through November 20), titles that join the Amana-based venue's Unnecessary Farce (September 5 through October 6), Lombardi (September 19 through October 6), Away in the Basement: A Church Basement Ladies Christmas (November 14 through December 22), and The Velveteen Rabbit (November 30 through December 21).

Witchcraft, and a satiric take on it, can be found in Riverside Theatre's Birth Witches (October 8 through November 3), with the Iowa City venue's fall-theatre lineup also including the erotic Tony winner Venus in Fur (September 6 through 29) and the one-woman show Coming of Age in Chore Boots (November 29 through December 8). And if it's October, it must be time to time-warp (aga-a-a-ain!) our way to Rock Island's District Theatre for the annual, audience-participation fun of The Rocky Horror Show (October 23 through November 1), being produced this fall alongside the Cole Porter revue Let's Face the Music (September 6 through 15), Ed Villarreal performing the dramatic monologue The Agony & the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs (October 4 through 13), and William Shakespeare's timeless classic The Tempest (November 1 through 24).

Shakespeare will also get a workout in Iowa City Community Theatre's take on Romeo & Juliet (October 18 through 27), which the venue precedes with Kander & Ebb's musical classic Cabaret (September 13 through 22). More modern song-filled classics can be found at the Civic Center of Greater Des Moines in its touring productions of the Oz-set smash Wicked (October 30 through November 10) and the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical drama Next to Normal (September 27 through October 13). Theatre Cedar Rapids, meanwhile, has the rock musical Jesus Christ Superstar (October 11 through 27) on its autumn docket, followed by the Neil Simon comedy Jake's Women (November 1 through 17) and the holiday favorite Miracle on 34th Street (November 9 through December 15).

Chicago at th Peoria Civic CenterIn other venues outside the Quad Cities, Anamosa's Starlighters II Theatre brings audiences the Tony-winning romantic comedy of Butterflies Are Free (September 27 through October 6), with Princeton's Festival 56 running Neil Simon's Last of the Red Hot Lovers (November 22 through 30), and Amana's Iowa Theatre Artists Company debuting A.R. Gurney's family saga The Dining Room (September 20 through October 20) and the world-premiering laughs of The Old Guy (November 1 through 24). Cedar Rapids' CSPS/Legion Arts facility brings family dysfunction to a whole new level in author Tracy Letts' Pulitzer Prize-winning August: Osage County (August 23 through 31), mere months before the Christmas Day arrival of the comedic drama's long-awaited film adaptation.

As if "Pulitzer" hadn't yet been name-checked enough in this article, you can also attach it to New Ground Theatre's Davenport staging of director David Turley's Other Desert Cities (October 18 through 27), a finalist for the prize that also won a Tony Award just last year. Davenport's QC Theatre Workshop has a revue of a Pulitzer Prize winner's output in Last Call: The Songs of Stephen Sondheim (November 1 through 17) and Paula Vogel's Pulitzer winner How I Learned to Drive (September 6 through 21) - the former, I must mention, being created by Tyson Danner and myself, and the latter featuring me among director Thomas Alan Taylor's cast. (I may as well attach myself to "Pulitzer Prize" in some way, because I sure ain't winning one for journalism ... partly, perhaps, because of my fondness for the word "ain't.")

And with the Playcrafters Barn Theatre also staging the classic Helen Keller drama The Miracle Worker (November 8 through 17) this fall, the Moline venue - from September 13 through 22 - will offer unshakable proof that a Pulitzer Prize-winning play can also be a helluva lot of fun. The proof in question? Author David Auburn's Proof. How's that for proof?

Okay, so unnecessary word repetition may also be keeping me from that Pulitzer ... .


For more information on the area's fall theatre productions, visit

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