Community theater brings “Leaving Iowa” play home
I love attending plays and musicals. I’m in awe of people who can act out scenes, portray characters with emotion and credibility, and get on stage in front of a crowd. I love the creative sets and fun costumes that many plays utilize to take the audience to the world of the play. Community theater can bring these items to the local public, often at a lower cost than big-budget Broadway shows. My husband and I recently enjoyed a play at the Ridgedale Players, a small community theater in Troy.
I’ve driven or walked by the theater hundreds of times so when my husband suggested we catch an upcoming play, I thought it was a great idea. Ridgedale Players started in 1931, making it one of the oldest community theaters in Michigan. The theater holds approximately 120 seats, along with a small room near the entrance where patrons can mingle and purchase snacks and drinks.
We purchased tickets to see the current play, Leaving Iowa. The plot centers around Don Browning who returns to his childhood home to take his father’s ashes to the family farm. The story toggles between the present day road trip and memories of family vacations. The play is both comedic and sentimental. Overall, I thought it was well-done and the actors did a good job.
Some of the most entertaining parts included ‘flashbacks’ during one of the family’s trips. The actors portraying Don and his sister did an excellent and entertaining job bringing those characters to life, as did the actors playing their parents. I think I laughed the most during a scene where the mother is driving and the dad (sitting in the passenger seat) reaches over to honk the horn. Her reaction is classic and reminded me of personal driving experiences with my husband!
The play’s story line brought back many memories and nostalgia of childhood family trips: My sisters and I sitting in the backseat, Mom and Dad in the front, the antics between sisters, my older sister sleeping with her mouth open, my dad threatening to ‘pull this car over’ if we didn’t behave. When I look back now as an adult, I recognize those family vacations as more than just that – they were definitely adventures that we were creating as a family.
Where I thankfully differ from the character of Don is that my dad never hesitated to tell us how much he loved us or how proud he was, and I know that he knew he was one of my heroes. On the day of his death, I can confidently say that while we could have spoken so many more words, we knew how we felt about each other and there was plenty of love. My biggest regret is that he is not still here to make new memories and go on new adventures with our family, and that we can no longer feel his strong arms around us in a hug.
One interesting note: The play discusses the center of the contiguous United States, which the U.S. Geographical Survey determined to be near Lebanon, Kansas (closer to the Kansas-Nebraska border). If you’re in the area, a marker and American flag highlight the area.
What was the last play you saw?
Leaving Iowa runs through Nov. 22, 2015 at the Ridgedale Players. Tickets start at $15 and can be purchased by calling (248) 988-7049 or online at www.ridgedaleplayers.com.