Cheerleaders are people too, okay?
Mom found her soul-mate on Facebook, and he lives in Iowa. So Becca says goodbye to her beloved math teacher, bulimic best friend, neighborhood pony and her mildly deficient teenage life, and she follows her wayward mother to a new, uncharted beginning. But in this fanciful, absurdist, and intoxicating musical play from the imagination of Jenny Schwartz and Todd Almond nothing can prepare them for what they’ll find.
Kolette Telow gives a soaring performance of "I Am a Hawk" from ‘Iowa’ for an exclusive Playbill video feature!
We asked our audience at first preview what they thought of Iowa. Here's what they had to say.
#IowaPH is wonderful and wacky, but don't just take our word for it—read what others on Twitter are saying about this new musical play!
‘Iowa’ cast members partner up to guess key words from the play. The challenge? No lines or songs from the script allowed. Oh, and they've gotta put a cork in it. Let the games begin!
Tim Sanford: And where did [the song "Coastal Erosion"] come from?
Jenny Schwartz: The scene with Becca and her dad. He tells her that Indonesia is sinking because of coastal erosion. I wanted to highlight the fact that the world is turning to shit in general, not just for Becca.
Todd Almond: We were in Williamstown, and I went to a little cafe and I wrote the song and brought it into rehearsal.
Jenny Schwartz: And I wept. Uncontrollably. Because of its beauty.
Todd Almond, composer, talks about ‘Iowa’ and the amazing cast that's helped shape this daffy and unpredictable musical play.
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Turns out Todd Almond has a thing for cheerleaders—so he wrote a song about it in ‘Iowa.’
Feed your ears with a taste of Todd Almond's beautiful music for ‘Iowa,’ performed by the writer himself.
Jenny Schwartz: Which character in Iowa do you relate to most?
Todd Almond: Hmm...
JS: If it’s too hard of a question you can say pass.
TA: Well, I don’t relate to the cheerleader.
The formal zaniness of Iowa, from its footloose characterizations, to the playful quicksilver of its language and its loosey-goosey narrative, bears a passing resemblance to work sometimes described as “Theater of the Absurd.” Yet while it is true that Iowa certainly runs giddily away from the clanking chains of realism, it takes no measure of the meaninglessness of reality. It takes delight in its over-the-top characters and finds them as fascinating as they are confounding. These include Sandy, a motor mouthed, scattered single mom, who has found a fiancé on Facebook, a singing pony, a made-over Nancy Drew who comes in four different races, and a janitor named Jesus, but at its root, Iowa is a sweet coming-of-age story of Becca, a teenaged girl trying to survive high school and a spectacularly daffy mother.
In his seminal 2007 book Musicophilia, neurologist Oliver Sacks describes humans’ relationship with music in very powerful terms. “Music can move us to the heights or depths of emotion,” he writes. “It can persuade us to buy something, or remind us of our first date. It can lift us out of depression when nothing else can. It can get us dancing to its beat. But the power of music goes much, much further. Indeed, music occupies more areas of our brain than language does–humans are a musical species.” Sacks goes on to explain that as much as humans communicate through language, they communicate through music. Certainly this will come as no surprise to Jenny Schwartz and Todd Almond, whose piece Iowa embodies this idea both literally and figuratively.
Jenny Schwartz’s 2007 play God’s Ear floored audiences nationally and internationally, establishing her place among the most innovative and virtuosic writers in the contemporary landscape. The story of how the death of a son shatters a marriage, this haunting, funny play manages to turn language into a spectacle, a reward unto itself, while also accessing the sharp yearning in the hearts of a family coping with loss. In this scene, Ted is on an extended business tripaway from his wife, Mel.