UI Theatre will bring audiences back together in ‘HOW CAN I KEEP FROM SINGING’

In an aptly timed performance, the University of Iowa Department of Theatre Arts’ upcoming gallery production, ‘HOW CAN I KEEP FROM SINGING’ will focus on coming back together after a long time spent apart.



Photo of Thayer Theatre, where the UI Department of Theatre Arts has blocked out spaces for social distancing in movement classes.

Parker Jones, Arts Reporter

As in-person events make a comeback into daily life, so does the realization of what it means to be together. UI Theatre’s newest gallery production will feature relatable themes surrounding a return to togetherness.

From Nov. 5 to Nov. 7, the University of Iowa Department of Theatre Arts will present HOW CAN I KEEP FROM SINGING in the David Thayer Theatre of the UI Theatre Building.

The play, written by second-year MFA playwriting student Amanda Keating, tells the story of a small-town community choir reuniting after its estranged members spent years apart from one another. When the old friends return to sing new songs, they find that it is much harder to perform together than expected, but that the payoff is ultimately worth it.

The play was originally performed as a virtual reading in May, during the 2021 Iowa New Play Festival.

Keating wrote the play in spring 2021, though she’d had the concept in her mind for much longer. She said she had always wanted to write a play about a choir because of her own background in singing, but wasn’t sure if the timing for such a story would be appropriate during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I held myself back from writing this play, right before vaccinations became available,” Keating said. “But I eventually figured it was the absolute right time and wanted to focus on what it means to be together and sing together.”

Second-year MFA directing student Sarah Gazdowicz directed the play, and said that it was exciting to get to work with performers and crew in person. The play will serve as the first non-virtual production she has participated in over a year.

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“I’ve really enjoyed the return back to a physical space to do theatre,” Gazdowicz said. “It’s a play about people returning to spaces that they love, which will really feed our souls, and touch on the emotions of loneliness, of grief, and of what this experience has been like.”

Gazdowicz also noted that although *HOW CAN I KEEP FROM SINGING* is a play that features songs, it is not a musical.

Kolton Stremler, a second-year undergraduate student majoring in theater, plays the role of Ken, a member of the reuniting choir. The sophomore echoed Gazdowicz’s thoughts, noting that he felt especially excited by the opportunity to work with fellow cast members in a physical environment.

“It’s great being in person. Being back close to the audience, being able to have that sort of intimacy,” Stremler said. “All of the characters in there, their struggles are very relatable. I think that offers a lot of opportunities for a very unique style of storytelling.”

Ultimately, Keating said it is her first production to be performed in person, and that she is relieved to finally be able to see her work come to life.

“It’s really difficult for people to be apart, working in an art form founded on people being together,” Keating said. “It’s been really challenging for people these past few years, so being in a room with an audience, I’m excited to share it with people.”