116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
After spending the spring experimenting with a room full of staging possibilities, Riverside Theatre is going to honor its Gilbert Street heritage by using a more traditional setup for at least the first two fall shows. Beginning with Megan Gogerty’s solo show “Chipmunk’d,” running Sept. 9 to Oct. 2, 2022, the audience will be seated in front of the action.
“We realized for every show we did in the spring, we were doing something a little crazy. We really wanted audiences to experience a stage that they hadn't experienced before at Gilbert Street,” said Adam Knight, Riverside Theatre’s producing artistic director. “We wanted part of the pleasure of the spring to be that novelty.”
So audiences were seated around three sides of the stage for one show; on either side of the stage for another; and among the action in the risers or at tables on the stage.
“I’m excited to see what the space is like, in a proscenium configuration, more similar to Gilbert Street, with the center aisle,” Knight said. “I think audiences will see that same intimacy is there, but the comparison will be a little bit more clear — how the space has grown and changed since we’ve moved.”
“Chipmunk’d” also marks the first time Riverside’s new space will have all its bells and whistles in place, ready to roll. With supply chain kinks, the theater has had to cobble together a “hodgepodge” of rental equipment, Knight noted.
“This is the first show that will have the entire lighting and sound package, in addition to things like backstage green room furniture,” he said. “So if anything, we have learned how to stay nimble and to make sure to really focus on that audience experience — and really focus on telling the story.
“A big focus of this year is continuing to enrich that audience experience. Making sure that the lobby in the front of house feels vibrant, and we're revamping our concessions for this year. The downstairs entryway is now lined with framed posters, and it feels a lot more like a Riverside space and less like a construction zone.
“We want the whole experience to reflect and heighten the art that's onstage.
“Another thing we’ve learned to do better is just to maximize artists’ time in the space and making sure that they have everything they need going into rehearsals and going into tech. In the spring, we were playing a lot of catch up, and many times the technical elements only really came together during dress rehearsals. This year we’ve added some additional resources and staff to make sure that we get ahead of things and give the artists everything they need early on.”
Looking ahead, the season continues in a spooky vein with “The Weir,” a drama set in a small rural pub in Ireland. Seeing Theatre Cedar Rapids’ vampire tale “St. Nicholas” outdoors in October 2020 inspired Knight to seek out something eerie indoors from Oct. 14 to 30.
“I love what ghost stories do,” he said, “and this play is in a lot of ways about ghost stories. ... What’s so interesting to me about the play is that the stories, as they progress, become more and more personal. They become less about the supernatural and more about the things that haunt us as people — the things that haunt our hearts. And by the end, in some ways, the most scary thing is the face that we look at in the mirror.”
The season continues with “The Flick” from Nov. 25 to Dec. 11; “A Walk in the Woods” from Jan. 26 to Feb. 12; and “Fefu and Her Friends” from March 10 to April 12. All will break new ground or hearken to history.
At least three more shows will be added to the season, and Knight is pleased to see the space being rented or used by other organizations, too, as well as staging cabarets and an evening of “spine-tingling tales” on Oct. 31.
“It’s fun to finally have caught our breath,” he said, “and now starting fresh again, knowing what we know of the space and how it works, I’m feeling good about the year ahead.”
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