MUSCATINE, Iowa–With the uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic weighing on the minds of many, Muscatine High School Drama Advisor Rene Mauck looked for a fall play that could turn people’s thoughts to happier subjects. She found it in, “Leaving Iowa,” the story of Don Browning, an Iowa native who moved to Boston but must return to the Midwest to try and honor his father’s final request. “‘Leaving Iowa’ is the first play I produced at MHS back in the fall of 2009 – and when I saw that old script sitting on my shelf, I knew it was the perfect choice,” said Mauk.
Along with its humor, Mauck found the show a suitable choice for social distancing because of its small cast and simple set pieces. She outlined: “I wanted a show that could have anywhere from eight to 20 characters, and in a format that would allow me to have small groups at rehearsals to begin with. I wanted something with a minimal set to build, so we could avoid those extra in-person hours. I also wanted something funny and positive, and a little nostalgic, an antidote to the hard times and negative noise that surrounds us.”
Even with minimalist sets and a small cast, Mauck found adapting rehearsals to COVID-19 guidelines a new kind of challenge. From shortening rehearsals and wearing masks to blocking scenes to reduce close contact, Mauck put care and consideration into all parts of rehearsals to make them safer. However, getting to allow student actors back on stage to perform for the community has made it all worth it for her. “Yes, it has been different, but not impossible, and certainly worth the hassle,” she emphasized.
Her students felt equally pleased to come back together. “The thing I have enjoyed most about being in this production is how much fun we as a cast have together,” shared Ana Poffenbaugh,” a senior playing Sis.
“Theatre is such a great opportunity,” chimed in Evan Maynard, a sophomore playing Dad. “You meet very talented actors, have a great time putting together a show, and learn so much along the way.”
“Leaving Iowa” will have performances on Nov. 6 and 7 at 7 p.m. To allow for social distancing, audience members must purchase tickets online at muscatinehs.booktix.com in advance. No one may buy tickets at the door. Alternately, $9 streaming passes allow for online viewing from home for those who prefer to avoid in person events.