Local children’s theater shares fantasy stories in ‘Storytelling: A Pandemic Play’

Written and directed by UI alum Matt Falduto, the play will premiere virtually on March 12.



Tatiana Plowman, Arts Reporter

Although many theatre lights are still down, Young Footliters Youth Theatre will be lighting up the virtual Zoom stage for the Iowa City community from March 12 to 14, presenting an original play titled “Storytelling: A Pandemic Play.”  The show is in partnership with the Coralville Center for Performing Arts.

The show tells the story of 12-year-old Chloe, played by 6th grader Adelaide Capps, an avid storyteller. During the pandemic, Capp’s character has struggled with not being able to see her grandfather, played by Iowa-based actor Brian Tanner. The two, through a series of Zoom calls, learn more about each other by creating wild stories that are acted out by the other cast members.

For Capps, this is her first theater production ever.

“Over the summer, I really enjoyed Hamilton and so I grew an interest in wanting to be in a show,” Capps said. “There’s some really interesting technical things I’ve had to adapt to, but I am super excited and nervous about performing.”

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The show was written and directed by UI alum, Matt Falduto, who has been active in the Iowa City theatre community since 1997. Over the years, Falduto has written and directed many plays, specifically for children. This is the second production he wrote and directed for Young Footliters and their now-virtual platform.

“When writing for Zoom, you don’t have to worry about stage directions, but everything else remains the same,” Falduto said. “The kids adapted to this format very easily and are really digging into their characters.”

Throughout this process, Falduto has also been able to work with his daughters Piper and Samantha, who are both in the show.

For 12-year-old Luke Reimer, this is one of the first productions where he has done a completely virtual performance.

“Performing brings people out of their comfort zone, and with this show it lets me be someone I’m not,” Reimer said. “I get to experiment with funny accents and performing over Zoom is a bit less stressful than onstage since I can’t see the audience.”

The cast of 20 includes both area talent and one child actor from North Dakota. The entirely virtual production has allowed for all of these actors to share their love of theater together from wherever they are located.

Many of the cast members, including 12-year-old Sarah Rattner and 11- (“almost 12”) year-old Parker Beck, are “super excited” that their families that live across the country will all get the chance to watch the production.

While there have been challenges with remembering “turning on your camera” cues and synching of Zoom backgrounds, Falduto said the cast has figured out how to best work with Zoom and find the exciting moments within a virtual production.

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Fourteen-year-old Claire Lawler plays the role of Sleeping Beauty, and this is her first Zoom production.

“When I perform in person, I am so used to only seeing the audience, or having to wait backstage for my next cue,” Lawler said. “But with the uniqueness of this production, we actually get to watch the action and also act as the audience.”

Managing director of the Coralville Center for Performing Arts Evan Hilsabeck said he is ecstatic about the upcoming performance. Members of the theater helped coordinate and guide the Storytelling production through the entire process, he said, including costume designer Jackie Allen, who designed the show’s costumes and dropped them off individually at each cast member’s house to avoid contact during COVID-19.

“We wanted to reach our community and give these kids the opportunity to perform again,” Hilsabeck said. “We are very fortunate that Matt has written this production and we love helping in any way we can.”

There will be three performances occurring the weekend of March 12-14. March 12 and 13 performances will begin at 7 p.m., with a 2 p.m. matinee performance on Sunday. Tickets are sold at the Coralville Center for Performing Arts website with a suggested donation of $10 per attendee, and $50 per household.

“Creating arts with the kids and building their confidence is what I utmost wish for every production I do with them.” Falduto said.