Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I and Love and You and 700 Friends and The Avett Brothers

Well, The Avett Brothers lived up to my expectations.

Exceeded them, actually, with one of my favorite shows I've seen at the Englert. Alright, I'll admit I'm biased because I'm a big fan. Still, it's been quite awhile since I've seen a crowd so energized by a show in here, and with good reason - The Avett Brothers brought it.

With a style that was loose without being sloppy, forging elements of bluegrass, rock and pop music, and a stage presence that oozes confidence, the two brothers, a friend, and a guest cellist had the crowd on their feet for much of the night. Nicole Atkins and The Black Sea were perfect openers.

Check out the pictures here.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Sunday Night Pictures: The French Connection (1971), 10/4 @ 7 p.m.

First off, thanks to the Englert for bringing movies back! And, of course, for giving me the space to talk about some of my favorite movies. I hope these posts get you to come out each Sunday night to catch some old, and new, classics on the big screen, where they're meant to be enjoyed.

It's a privilege to kick off these introductions with William Friedkin's 1971 Best-Picture (and Actor, Screenplay, Editing, and Directing!) Oscar winner, The French Connection. To really appreciate this, we have to forget everything we've seen over the last 30 or 40 years or at least use this film to recognize where so many of today's cop-and-robber archetypes came from. TV shows like The Wire, Homicide, and even Law & Order (and its numerous spawn) have solidified the ground that The French Connection broke. Guys like Dirty Harry or films like Lethal Weapon couldn't have existed were it not for Gene Hackman's portrayal of real-life detective "Popeye" Doyle.

Police procedurals until The French Connection were much starker contrasts between the good guys and the bad guys. Doyle was the first cop who'd stop at nothing to collar the crook, including going outside the law, thus complicating our traditional notions of heroic behavior. "He isn't after the smugglers because they're breaking the law," Roger Ebert says, "he's after them because his job consumes him." Try not to think of Al Pacino's character in Heat. Doyle, all the way.

Again, all this is old hat now to 21st-century audiences. But Doyle isn't just the tough-on-crooks type. He's cruel to the innocent as well as those he's convinced are guilty. He's a racist bully who, at least when it comes to the heroin smugglers he eventually (and literally) brings down, is on the side of the angels. And we still haven't seen his like since.

Of course, no mention of the film can be made without the two-and-a-half minute nailbiter of a car chase under New York's West End, B-line train. (Check out the Trivia link at IMDb for some of the story behind this sequence.) It perfectly encapsulates Hackman's portrayal of Doyle's unstoppable nature.

(Un)fortunately, this YouTube clip is grainy and dark. You're just going to have to see the real thing on the big screen this Sunday night.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Movies return to the Englert this fall!

I am very excited to announce that movies are returning to the Englert screen this fall!

M.C. Ginsberg presents

This is something people have been asking for ever since the Englert re-opened in 2004, and thanks to the support of M.C. Ginsberg, we're finally able to make it happen. We have 11 movies lined up, spanning over 60 years of classic film.

Most of the movies are only five bucks at the door (no advance ticketing), and there should be a little something for almost everyone, including a special Family Day early showing of The Sound of Music in November (kids under 12 free!), and an end-of-semester showing of Napoleon Dynamite in December (only $1 for UI students).

All movies will be shown digitally via a DLP projector on our 30-foot screen. Drinks and snacks will be available.

Here is the complete lineup and details:

SEPT 6 - THE GRADUATE - 1967 - PG | 7 PM - $5 | Dustin Hoffman (in his first major film role) turns in a landmark performance as a naïve young man recently graduated from college who is seduced by a middle-aged neighbor (Anne Bancroft). He, in turn, falls in love with her daughter (Katharine Ross). Mike Nichols won a Best Director Oscar, and Simon and Garfunkel achieved immortality with a score that includes "Mrs. Robinson."

SEPT 13 - FIGHT CLUB - 1999 - R | 9 PM - $5 | An insomnia-stricken corporate drone (Edward Norton) meets roguish rebel Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) and together they form a cathartic but brutal underground society where men fight each other freely. But the line between reality and sleepless haze starts to really blur when propagandist Durden transforms Fight Club from a group of men rebelling against conformity into a nihilistic cult with greater malice in store. Helena Bonham Carter co-stars.

OCT 4 - THE FRENCH CONNECTION - 1971 - R | 7 PM - $5 | Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle (Gene Hackman), a foul-mouthed, violent narcotics detective, pursues a suave French drug dealer (Fernando Rey) through New York City with Captain Ahab-like zeal. Director William Friedkin took the provocative stance that both the narcs and the smugglers use similar thuggish ends to get what they need. This thrilling Best Picture Oscar winner (based on a true story) is famous for its riveting car-vs.-elevated-train chase.

OCT 18 - SUPER TROOPERS - 2002 - R | 9 PM - $5 | Bored, occasionally high and always highly ineffective Vermont state troopers Mac (Steve Lemme), Thorny (Jay Chandrasekhar, who also directed), Foster (Paul Stoter) and Rabbit (Erik Stohlanske) must prove their worth to Governor Jessman (Lynda Carter) -- or lose their jobs. After stumbling on a drug smuggling ring, they plan to make a high-profile bust, but the rival police of Earlville are out to steal the glory in this irreverent comedy. Don't miss the cast LIVE in Nov. 7th's Broken Lizard show!

OCT 25 - EVIL DEAD 2: DEAD BY DAWN - 1987 - R | 7 PM - $5 | Stranded in a cabin in the woods, Ash (Bruce Campbell) and his girlfriend accidentally invoke a spell that causes the Evil Dead to rise and kill! As a lone man pitted against hordes of walking corpses, can Ash survive until the safety of sunrise? Director Sam Raimi's whip-crack direction and Campbell's comedic skills induce hair-raising fear and gales of laughter.

OCT 31 - THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW - 1975 - R | MIDNIGHT - $15 - includes prop bag | Come to the lab, and see what's on the slab! This notorious horror parody -- a fast-paced potpourri of camp, sci-fi and rock 'n' roll, among other things -- tracks the exploits of naïve couple Brad (Barry Bostwick) and Janet (Susan Sarandon) after they stumble across the lair of transvestite vampire Dr. Frank-N-Furter (a brilliant Tim Curry). Co-presented by Riff Raff Theater.

NOV 8 - THIS IS SPINAL TAP - 1984 - R | 7 PM - $5 | This satire about a fictional heavy metal group named Spinal Tap spoofs nearly every facet of rock 'n' roll -- from vacuous modern songwriting to half-baked album promos to pyrotechnic concerts. Michael McKean, Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer portray the washed-up, aging British rockers whose tresses and egos outstrip their talent. Chronicling the band's evolution and its calamitous comeback tour is filmmaker Marty DiBergi (Rob Reiner).

NOV 15 - SAY ANYTHING - 1999 - PG13 | 7 PM - $5 | A budding romance between noble underachiever Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) and high school valedictorian Diane Court (Ione Skye) is threatened when Diane's overly possessive, disapproving father (John Mahoney) interferes with their relationship. With a prized scholarship to study abroad hanging in the balance, Diane must find a way to make both men happy. Writer-director Cameron Crowe steers this 1980s teen flick into instant-classic territory.

NOV 22 - THE SOUND OF MUSIC - 1965 - G | 3 PM - $5 - KIDS UNDER 12 FREE! | The hills are alive with the sound of singing siblings and nuns! In Rodgers and Hammerstein's greatest collaboration, a feisty postulant named Maria (Julie Andrews) is sent to care for the unruly, motherless Von Trapp children. She soon tames them -- and finds herself falling for their stern father (Christopher Plummer). Oscar-winning director Robert Wise used stunning Austrian locations to transform the stage musical into a cinema classic.

DEC 6 - NAPOLEON DYNAMITE - 2004 - PG | 9 PM - $5 - UI STUDENTS ONLY $1 WITH ID! | This indie favorite follows Napoleon Dynamite (Jon Heder), a quirky, ninja-loving teenager growing up in the far reaches of Idaho. Napoleon's life gets complicated when his shady Uncle Rico (John Gries) shows up, a shy girl (Tina Majorino) starts showing him some attention & his best friend Pedro (Efren Ramirez) runs for school president.

DEC 20 - MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET - 1947 - NR | 7 PM - $5 | When Santa falls down drunk in the Thanksgiving Day Parade, reluctant Macy's supervisor Doris Walker (Maureen O'Hara) offers the job to a bearded Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn, who won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar) purporting to be the real Santa! During the Christmas season, he shares a flat with Doris's neighbor (John Payne), who has eyes for Doris. Kris hopes to unite the two while winning over Doris's skeptical 6-year-old daughter (Natalie Wood).

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Wizard of Oz visits the ICPL

Who says theater has to take place in a theater?

Last Thursday, over 136 community members participated in an interactive
THE WIZARD OF OZ storytime at the Iowa City Public Library. Actors from the upcoming production helped tell stories and play games, while library staff appeared in various costumes and led the entire audience down “the yellow brick road” through the library.

If you missed out on this event, don't worry -- you can still enjoy all of the great music, dance, and fun of
THE WIZARD OF OZ! Contact the Englert Box Office now to purchase your tickets.


Thursday, July 16th at 7:30 PM
Friday, July 17th at 2:00 and 7:30 PM
Saturday, July 18th at 2:00 and 7:30 PM
Sunday, July 19th at 2:00 PM



Photo: Audience members join the fun at a special THE WIZARD OF OZ storytime at the Iowa City Public Library. (Back row, left to right: Diana Upton-Hill, Melina Lagios, and Patrick Moyer. Front row: Henry and Frances Bottorff.)

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Power of Referral

This Thursday night's presentation by Joe Ehrmann just sold out within the last hour.

Joe who?

I had never heard of Joe Ehrmann... and my guess is that at least half of the sold-out audience hasn't heard of him, either. (This is unsubstantiated - just my feeling)

So why did they shell out twelve bucks and give up a Thursday evening to see him? Because Kirk Ferentz and Nate Kaeding told them to.

This event is backed by Kirk and Nate, as a fundraiser for the Children's Hospital of Iowa. For the last week, in all the papers, there's been talk of this event and the fact that Kirk and Nate are bringing him to the Englert.

Joe Ehrmann is a motivational speaker - a former football player who had a rough life, turned himself around, and now shares his story to inspire others who may be in a rough spot in their lives. I'm sure Joe will give a great presentation, the people who come will likely leave inspired, and the Children's Hospital will see the benefit in terms of dollars and cents. All in all, hard to argue that this is a solid event.

But had we (the Englert) booked Joe Ehrmann ourselves - without the support of Kirk Ferentz and Nate Kaeding - I doubt we'd even be halfway sold out right now. Same Joe Ehrmann, different result. The reason? The power of opinion leaders. Think Oprah's book club. Or a celebrity wearing a certain designer's gown to the Oscars. In this town, Kirk and Nate are celebrities - and when they talk, people listen.

The power of opinion leaders to influence the success of an event or business is huge, and should never be overlooked. The challenge for us is to find those opinion leaders for every event we have, so that when they talk - people will listen.

Congrats to everyone involved with this Thursday's event!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Englert Night Out

It's been a little busy around here, but I wanted to take a second to post some pics from last Thursday's Englert Night Out - our annual recognition party for donors and supporters. Around a hundred people turned out for good conversation, delicious desserts from a variety of area restaurants, and even a few awards.

As usual, Todd Adamson snapped some great photos. Check out the ones below, and see more here.

There's also a video below that I put together, sort of recapping the last year and giving a preview of events to come this fall (all of which go on sale Monday, June 15th, by the way)...

The other video I need to upload yet is of our Englert Impact Award winners: Christina Patramanis (volunteer) and Zephyr Printing (sponsor).

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Parking problems

Since the Englert opened in 2004, the City of Iowa City Parking Department has always offered Englert patrons a great deal in the city garages: four hours of parking for a buck when they present their ticket stub.

The City also was kind enough to let us issue free parking passes to some of our Friends of the Englert for the past couple of years.

Both of those programs are on hold for the time being, unfortunately. We're working with the City to get something going again, but until then, ticket stubs and "free parking" passes will not be accepted at City garages.

Truly sorry for the inconvenience, and we hope to have this worked out soon. Thanks for your patience, your continued patronage of the Englert, and for coming downtown Iowa City!

Monday, April 27, 2009

10,000 Eggstravaganza

The Englert partnered with Life Church, Iowa Children's Museum, and Iowa Valley Habitat for Humanity to put on the biggest Easter egg hunt in Johnson County. It was a FREE event for the community and we had a great turn out. A BIG THANK YOU to all the Englert volunteers who helped make this a HUGE SUCCESS!

10,000 Eggstravaganza 09' from on Vimeo.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Ralph's World

It was definitely Ralph's World on Saturday when he invited all the kids up on the Englert stage. The whole band was very laid back as they welcomed the kid's questions and participation as Rockin' Rollers. I have to admit that I was singing and moving as well. It was great seeing all the kids dance and sing the familiar songs.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Be cool.

This Wednesday's GZA show will mark the first time in a long time that we've allowed beverages inside the theater.

Since I started here almost four years ago, this topic has been an ongoing source of much debate. Let's be honest - we're basically talking about beer in the theater, with the occasional bottle of Coke, instead of the other way around.

On the one hand, allowing beer into the theater helps create a vibe and environment that certain fans love and even expect when seeing a show - especially a hip-hop show like GZA or a rock show like Lez Zeppelin. Plus, the additional fundage from "beer money" is hard to ignore when you're barely breaking even on the show in some cases - and that's if it sells out.

On the other hand, what about spills? Won't that drive up the maintenance costs? Will it damage our historic building? Will people get out of control with that much access to alcohol? What about security? And what about the fans who don't like that kind of environment - are we making the vibe better for one group of fans at another group's expense?

The answer... Who knows?

We're not alone - most historic theaters do allow beverages into the theater these days, and have seen only modest increases in maintenance. No one we talked to cited security concerns. And when I was at Hoyt Sherman Place in Des Moines last month, it was great to be able to sit back and enjoy a glass (er, I mean, plastic cup) of wine while listening to Andrew Bird.

So we're going to give it a go, starting this Wednesday night. All I can say is:

Please - BE COOL.

Let's make this a positive change, not something we regret and can never do again. Cool?


Friday, February 27, 2009

A Hard Day's Night

I just got back from the Beatles tribute show, where I attended as an Actual Audience Member, sitting in the fourth row with some family members.

Some observations from "the other side":

  • At least one playbill in circulation has two of some pages, and none of others. I know this because it was my playbill tonight. My hunch is that it's not the only one, unfortunately.
  • Whatever we did in concessions tonight, we probably could have doubled it by letting people bring beer & wine to their seats.
  • The Beatles did a cool thing where they had everyone get out their cell phones and call someone who wasn't there, so they could hear the music. This probably didn't happen with the real Beatles.
  • I wonder if the teen girls who rushed down front to dance during the last few songs were disappointed to find that the guys on stage are actually old enough to be their fathers.
  • Sarah called during the show to ask a question about tickets for The Vagina Monologues (which starts in about an hour as I write this). It is impossible to carry on a phone conversation about tickets in the fourth row in the middle of a concert. Nearly as impossible as carrying on a phone conversation about tickets at kickoff at Kinnick Stadium, which I have also done.
  • I find it odd that the Beatles tribute band was selling actual Beatles T-shirts, but CDs of the tribute band.
Out of the hundreds of events I've been to, I've gone as an Actual Audience Member only a handful of times. I have to say, not only was it fun to fly "under the radar" and sit in a seat with everyone else - it made me look at the same theater and even the same show in a different way.

The Beatles were a great band, and these four guys -- who have been doing this for an astounding 25 years -- truly do pay tribute to them. This is their fifth trip to the Englert, and I imagine they will be back next year. Just like the real Beatles, people can't seem to get enough of them.

Friday, February 20, 2009


I was on KRUI last night, during their weekly "arts hour." Nathan was a good interviewer - conversational, asked good questions.

One question was "If you could have anybody in the Englert, regardless of how 'big' they are or how much they cost, who would it be?"

Dead air space. Mumble, mumble... uh...

Total mental blank. Of course, I actually think about this all the time. I listen to a lot of music. I have a lot of answers for this. But live, on the air, I have nothing.

I buy time. I talk about how Iron & Wine was at the top of that list (which is true), and talk about the disappointment I felt when they played here last year but I had to miss them (on the way to Bonnaroo, where I would see them a couple days later).

Still nothing.

"Ya know, like, well, really, anybody who's big and you might think is too big to play the Englert. They would be cool. Like U2. Or Ben Kweller."

Huh? Now, I do think it would be cool to see U2 or Ben Kweller at the Englert. No doubt. U2 and Ben Kweller, however, are not even in the same galaxy in terms of "bigness and stardom." And that's the best I could come up with?

I manage to add Dave Matthews Band, Kings of Leon, then The National (which would be a dream come true). By this time, as ideas actually come to me, Nathan is ready to move on. Because really, it's time. He has a job to do. That job is keeping it interesting, keeping it flowing.

So, almost 24 hours later, I'd like to finish my thought:

How 'bout some Radiohead? TV on the Radio? Morrissey would be awesome. Elvis Costello. The Shins. Rogue Wave. Decemberists. Bon Iver. Ryan Adams. Silversun Pickups. The Hold Steady. Band of Horses. Or let's go back to high school (for me) and get The Cure, R.E.M. or Depeche Mode. Or turn the place into a club and get Girl Talk.

There. I feel better now.

Cool thing is, I don't think some of these bands/artists are out of reach. We certainly do our best to try.

As I write this, there are just a handful of tickets left to Mason Jennings, which is awesome. I really dig on "In The Ever" his new(est) release. If you can't make the show, tune into KRUI 89.7 or stream it at 3:00 today for his in-studio performance.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A business tougher than ours.

I just got back from The Gazette, where I was asked to do a usability test on one of their new products, iGuide. It was flattering to be asked to be part of the test, and I tried to do my "job" by not holding back and being as blatantly honest as I could be.

I had a great conversation with Rob, the guy running the test. He's been at the Gazette for 10 years, and we talked a lot about how the old business model for media businesses like theirs is dying, and replacing it with a new business model is difficult because it requires a culture shift.

Now, it is tough to succeed in the theater business. Anyone who thinks we're walking away from each event with sacks of cash would be horrified at how razor-thin the margins are, and how contributions from individuals and businesses will always be a part of our business model. But as tough as this is, it can't be nearly as tough as being in the newspaper business.

I feel for Rob and for the Gazette, who are scrambling to be relevant in this new age of media and still be able to pay the bills - and to even turn a profit. Gazette probably has it better than most, with the paper, KCRG,, Hoopla and the new iGuide. Slightly more diversified than some others.

But still - circulation heading south*, paid advertising heading south*, trying to develop new products to replace that revenue... many of these products are online, in an environment that is notoriously hard to monetize (Rob hates this word, most likely because it runs rampant around the office). Money going out, paying the web developers, but not enough money coming in*. May be months/years before the sites catch on, become part of the community, and start bringing in a little money. Of course, that's if they're lucky.

It must be very difficult.

No point to this post, other than to say that I enjoyed doing the testing (it's fun to be on the OTHER side of that scenario, as I start redesigning our own website), Rob was a cool guy, and I wish them the best with their new venture. I think we all benefit -- as businesses, consumers and citizens -- from smart and innovative local media coverage. The challenge -- after making it relevant -- is making a living from it.


  • Check out Todd Adamson's blog for some great pics he took of Dr. John and The Neville Brothers last Friday night!
  • I gave Dr. John a ride to and from his hotel. He was very gracious, had an almost unintelligible drawl, and told me a story involving Eddie Bo, Little Richard, adultery, murder, death row and lawsuits -- and even threw in some singing -- in the 5 minutes he was in my car.
  • A pretty small number of tickets for the Alley Cabaret's performance of The Vagina Monologues go on sale Monday, which is unusual (the rest of the Cabarets have tix at the door only). It's directed by our newest board member, Ryan West.

* UPDATE: I should note that these comments are about the newspaper industry in general, and not the Gazette specifically. I have no idea what the Gazette's numbers are. But it's been
widely reported that the industry as a whole is experiencing challenges.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Nothing to worry about.

In staff meeting today, we went 'round the table and each shared one thing we were excited about and one thing we were worried about with respect to this Friday's sold out Super Duper Groovefunkathonic Concert Extravaganza: Dr. John and The Neville Brothers.

This is a huge show for us on many levels:

  • It's expensive. I'm not gonna lie - it's tied for the most expensive show we've done here. Legendary artists demand - and get - large sacks o' cash to play.
  • Despite that, it's a fundraiser, with a silent auction and a raffle (the prizes are cool: two winners, and each winner gets backstage passes to all of the Summer of the Arts events AND two "Golden Tickets" to the Englert that will get you in the door for anything all year).
  • It's our first collaboration with Summer of the Arts.
  • It's essentially two whole shows, back to back, each with all of their own gear (which is coming in from Chicago that day), their own management and their own quirks.
  • Each act has an incredibly long and comprehensive rider (do you know how long we spent trying to find someone who had a specific rare kind of fish who could also cook it a particular way? No, you don't.).
  • We have more coffee makers and tea pots (thank you, Board!) than what would reasonably seem to be necessary.
  • It's sold out.
  • People are literally begging for seats.
  • There will most likely be a lot of people in line that night for standing-room-only tickets, so crowd control will be key.
  • There are a lot of sponsors, which means a lot of work to make sure everyone gets their benefits and is thanked in the right way.
  • It might snow.
  • ...and so on.
it is safe to say that this show has dominated our collective attention over here for quite some time. There are certainly a great many details that have to go exactly right to pull off the event without a hitch, and a great many of those details are outside of our control.

Despite that, around the table today, the worries people expressed were all minor enough that I think I can say that we're not really that worried at all. We're anxious, sure. But more than anything I think we're excited.

Excited to see this place bursting at the seams with people. Excited to experience two musical legends on our stage. Excited to do what we do.

In other news:
  • I'll be at the Twestival tomorrow night, at least for a little bit. We donated a couple pair of Mason Jennings tix to be given away. If you're into Twitter, stop out. If you don't know what I'm talking about, start here.
  • We just booked Lez Zeppelin for April 8th! Tix on sale... soon.
  • We're getting some people together tonight for a first meeting about a reeeeeeally cool thing happening this October.
  • I have 8, um, tubes? things? of lip balm on my desk, courtesy of one of our board members who works at Raining Rose in CR.
  • One of our window microphones in the box office is broken - again. C'mon, Telex people. Get it right this time. Please. Thank you.

Friday, February 6, 2009


This was from last weekend, which is ancient history in "web time," I know, but I still thought it was worth mentioning.

First round of auditions for Wizard of Oz went great. I know David Kilpatrick (Producing Artistic Director at Old Creamery Theatre) was very excited by the enthusiastic turnout, and the many talented people who auditioned.

I personally was very impressed by Paul Dieke, the music director. He had a wonderful and kind way of both complimenting and coaching the kids. Someone would come up, sing their song. Paul would stop them, compliment them. Coach them. They'd do it again, he'd stop them. Compliment. Coach. Again. Stop. Compliment. Coach. By the end, each kid's performance was substantially better than when they walked in the door.

This bodes well for the quality of the show.

Katherine, our student designer (and part of the brilliant Donate Design program at the University of Iowa) has been busy whipping up logo and poster ideas for the show, and I'm really excited about the direction things are heading. When we settle in on final versions, I'll throw them up here.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Strength in numbers.

Twenty one. That's the official "man count" at last night's sold out performance of Menopause the Musical. Six hundred and ninety-nine women, and 21 guys.

Apparently all of our bathrooms became women's bathrooms.

People loved the show. We'll try to bring them back. Kudos to the Iowa Women's Foundation for making it happen this time.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

We're off to be the Wizard...

Had a great meeting yesterday with David Kilpatrick from the Old Creamery Theatre and a handful of other Englertians to talk about this summer's production of The Wizard of Oz. This will be the first time we've worked with Old Creamery, after having done other Big Collaborations with City Circle/Iowa Children's Museum a couple of times (Seussical and Schoolhouse Rock).

Now, I'll be honest - I have never been a huge Wizard of Oz fan. Maybe it's because I had to sit through a hundred thousand endless rehearsals when my sister was a munchkin in a tedious high school production way back in the day. Or maybe it's because I always looked at the movie and thought the special effects weren't all that, well, special.

But I have to admit I'm excited about this collaboration. First, because I know it's going to be a good quality show with the peeps at Old Creamery on board. Secondly, because there are soooo many marketing opportunities, it has that side of my mind racing in overdrive.

But mostly, talking about auditions and performances and rehearsals and all that, it reminds me of how much fun I had doing community theater when I was a kid. Putting on a big show in one's spare time is unlike anything else I've experienced: getting a group of people for one purpose, for a short amount of time, having a lot of fun, working ridiculously hard on something, and then it's suddenly over. Incomparable.

Just for the record, Old Creamery is professional - not community - theater. But we are looking for a special someone in the community to be our Dorothy.

Which brings me to this: auditions. Not just for Dorothy, but for the whole show and in fact the entire Old Creamery season.
This show will combine the best of our region's talent with professional actors to create a great experience for the audience. (btw - it's not necessary to be a member of Actor's Equity, but members are of course welcome)

This Saturday, January 31st
9 AM to noon - kids
1 PM to 5 PM - adults
Anyone ages 8 to 70+ are welcome to audition

What to bring:
- Two contrasting monologues
- If you sing, two short selections from contrasting songs (an accompaniest and CD player will be provided)
- Picture and resume, if you have them

So, think you or your kids are the next Judy Garland? Start your story here, on the Englert stage. Come on down, give it a shot.

Monday, January 19, 2009


I've found that people generally fall into one of two camps:

1) "Boy, it seems like the lights are always on down there at the Englert. There's always something going on."

- or -

2) "There's never anything going on at the Englert. You guys don't have enough events."

In 2008, we had 190 "event days."

The most obvious event day is a performance, but it can also mean a rehearsal day for a big event like The Nutcracker, or a private reception in the Gallery, or other random things. Some of these events are "Englert Series," meaning we book the performer, promote the show, assume all the risk, etc. The rest - the majority, actually - are community events (theater, etc.), rentals for private events, collaborations with other non-profits, etc.

Here's a look at how our event days have grown over the last three years:

Is this a lot or a little? Well, like most things, it depends on how you look at. We started off 2008 with the following assumptions and goals:

1) There are 365 calendar days in the year, but they're not all "bookable." Take away holidays, maintenance days and home football days (scheduling against the Hawkeyes - even after the game - hasn't worked yet in four years), and that takes it down to around 338.

2) We're Iowa City, not New York City. So out of those 338 available days, we have to account for the fact that we have a relatively small market, there are a lot of other things going on, and people just aren't going to go to the theater 5, 6 or 7 nights a week. We projected that on average, we could have 4 events per week. Some weeks less, some weeks more.

3) That brings us to 188 bookable days. Our actual goal was 160, with 188 being the "max" end of the range.

We did 190. Some of that was due to displaced organizations looking for performance space after the floods. Some of it was due to more Englert Series shows than ever before.

Is that enough events? Too few? What kind of impact did it have on our budget? What about our staff? What about fundraising?

Can we do more? If we just do more events, won't we eliminate the need for fundraising? For investments from sponsors and the City?

So many questions! Answers (or at least our point of view) to come...