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Iowa City Community Theatre presents House of Wonders

BY SAMANTHA GENTRY | MARCH 22, 2012 6:30 AM

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For Richard Tiegs, directing House of Wonders is more than an opportunity to produce a new play for the community — it's a chance for him to bond with his son.

Fourteen-year-old Noah Tiegs has worked as his father's assistant director for the play, and the experience has been rewarding for the elder Tiegs.

"We're about 40 years different in age, but it's been fun working on it with him," Tiegs said. "He has become more of a theater junkie than I have."

Since he saw the première of House of Wonders, written by Kate Aspengren, now a University of Iowa adjunct assistant professor around 20 years ago at the University of Iowa's New Play Festival, he has wanted to direct a version of the play for Iowa City Community Theater.

"I enjoyed seeing the production and all of the characters seemed so real," he said. "Some of them are onstage for such a brief time, yet you feel like you've known them all your life."

The Community Theater committee selected House of Wonders as a part of the current season after Tiegs had repeatedly suggested the producing the play for 15 years.

The performance will take the stage at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at the Johnson County Fairgrounds, 4261 Oak Crest Hill Road S.E. Performances will continue through March 31 with 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday performance, and a 2 p.m. March 25 performance. Admission ranges from $8 to $15.
House of Wonders takes the audience through the trials of Holly Edwards' writer's block.

She is asked to write a story about her deceased great-aunt who was supposedly a businesswoman in Alaska. The family doesn't know anything else about the aunt, and Edwards finds it difficult to write a story without access to the facts.

She and her friends resort to using a Ouija board to channel the great-aunt, her ex-husbands, and friends to come back to tell her story.

Jennifer Gerbyshak, an instructor in the UI English as a Second Language program, plays Edwards.

She has worked with the Community Theater for three years; when she found out about this year's season, she said, she "set her cap on this role and show."

"I very much can relate to [Edwards] because I belong to several writers' workshops, so deadlines often sneak up on me," she said. "She also has a snarky relationship with her friends, which is something I enjoy."

Gerbyshak has not worked with Tiegs in the past, but she said she enjoys working with various directors because she can learn something different from each one.

"He is a lot more flexible than most directors I've worked with, but that makes the process more organic and very fluid," she said.

UI senior psychology major Kaitlyn McCoy will make her theater début in the production in the role of Cree Lesavour, a former prostitute who goes through quite a bit of emotions throughout the play.

"She didn't transition well in coming back to life, so in the play, she goes through emotions of being sad, angry, or speaking French and yelling," McCoy said.

She has long enjoyed the atmosphere of theater, she said, and when she came to the UI, she made it a goal to be involved in some sort of play. So this semester, she decided to audition, and she got the part.

"Thankfully, the cast has been very welcoming with showing me the ropes of how everything operates," she said. "I'm looking forward to the experience of performing in front of my family and friends and seeing everyone's reactions."

Tiegs is also interested in the audience's reaction.

He will set the stage in a three-quarter thrust, which means the audience will be on three sides of the stage. He encourages the audience to come with an imagination.

"Come take a romp on the spiritual side with House of Wonders," Tiegs said. "It's a wonderful comedy."


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