Apr. 8, 2020
Biola’s Theatre 21 kicks off a new production, “Leaving Iowa,” directed by new theatre professor Zachary Bortot.
“Leaving Iowa,” written by Tim Clue and Spike Manton, follows lead character Donald Browning as he scatters his father’s ashes and is forced to reflect on negative memories from his childhood. Director Bortot, who was recently hired as an assistant professor of theatre at Biola, believes the show will challenge the audience to cherish moments with loved ones — both good and bad.
“The script strongly plays up the comedic elements, but I find there is a surprising amount of heart beneath all of the jokes and crazy characters,” Bortot said. “I hope audiences leave with a great appreciation for the moments we share everyday, moments often taken for granted.”
“Leaving Iowa” follows the storylines of the main characters through memories, allowing the cast to play versions of their characters in their youth and old age. While this can be challenging for actors, Bortot notes that he is constantly impressed with the cast’s talent and determination.
“They are stretching themselves vocally, physically, and psychologically,” said Bortot. “I am blessed to enjoy their sense of humor each night [of rehearsals] while touching on issues dear to their hearts as we produce a piece of art they can call their own.”
The play features a cast of nine students, who began rehearsing for the production at the beginning of September. The majority of the cast and crew are majoring in theatre and have participated in previous Theatre 21 productions.
Sophomore theatre major Laurie Wichenbaugh is grateful for the relationships she has formed with the cast and crew throughout the seven weeks of rehearsals.
“It has … been so fun developing real family-like bonds with the cast, which has really helped to make relationships on stage stronger,” said Wichenbaugh, who plays the role of Sis.
Charlotte Stobbe, a junior communication studies major who plays the role of Mom, had not been a part of Theatre 21 prior to “Leaving Iowa.” However, Stobbe previously performed in Torrey Theatre, the Biola Conservatory, Chorale and Women’s Chorus. Despite her vast experience on stage, she believes that “Leaving Iowa” creates a unique space for the cast and crew to bond with each other.
“There's a freedom to be yourself in the fullest sense of that word, and a freedom to be every and any side of yourself,” Stobbe said. “What made this particular experience one of my favorite shows so far was the fabulous script and story we get to live in and tell to our audiences.”
Graduating senior theatre major Chloe Aknin has been involved in Theatre 21 throughout her Biola college career, but notes that “Leaving Iowa” signifies a transition within the theatre department.
“Our department is seeing a lot of exciting new changes right now, what with gaining new professors as well as almost doubling in size,” said Aknin. “Theatre works the best when people treat the space as their home and their fellow thespians as family. It is my hope that ‘Leaving Iowa’ really marks the start of a new era for Biola Theatre!”
Like Aknin, Stobbe recognizes the change within Biola’s theatre department and credits Bortot for the show’s potential.
“As [Bortot’s] first show at Biola, ‘Leaving Iowa’ has the potential to usher in a new epoch for the theatre department,” Stobbe said. “It's a fantastic show, put on by a fantastic director, cast, and crew, and I think every audience member will find something to love in the production and will perhaps pay more attention to the theater department in the future.”
“Leaving Iowa” opened on Friday, Oct. 23 and runs until Nov. 8. Tickets are $7 for students, $10 for staff and alumni, and $12 for general admission.
Written by Angelene Wong. For more information, contact Jenna Loumagne, media relations specialist, at (562) 777-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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