UI professor Megan Gogerty turns pain into joy with new Riverside Theatre production

“Chipmunk’d,” written and performed by Megan Gogerty, premieres at Riverside Theatre on Sept. 9. With themes of love, sex, life, and death, the show melds together intense topics with an edge of humor.

Contributed.

Contributed.

Jami Martin-Trainor, Assistant Digital Editor


Megan Gogerty, associate professor of instruction at the University of Iowa, said she has experienced a terrible year.

Without going into too much detail, Gogerty said she faced difficulties in her personal life. Rather than letting it negativity get the best of her, Gogerty wrote a one-woman play that will premiere on Sept. 9 at Riverside Theatre.

“I wanted to make lemonade out of those lemons,” Gogerty said.

“Chipmunk’d,” written and performed by Gogerty, will have showings until Oct. 2. With themes of love, sex, life, and death, the show melds together intense topics with an edge of humor.

The show follows a character — also named Megan Gogerty — who gets bit by a chipmunk in her backyard. As the play progresses, the audience can see how one bite from a small rodent sets off a series of events that grow increasingly absurd.

Gogerty said for the past few years, her audience has faced numerous trials and tribulations. She said that her audience is tired and exhausted, and she wants to give her audience a laugh.

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“It feels like things are so large and that we’re so small,” Gogerty said. “I wanted to tap into that and explore that, but I also want to pack as many jokes into 80 minutes as I can.”

To strike that balance between humor and serious topics, Gogerty said that she simply looks to tell the truth. As a playwright, she said that her job is to amuse herself and be honest with the world.

While honesty is one element, Gogerty also said revision helps in striking the right balance regarding tone.

“I’m a big believer in revision, that way I don’t have to be smart all at once,” Gogerty said. “I can choose to be smart in little bits, and then squeeze them together.”

Over the years, Gogerty has performed solo pieces with Riverside Theatre on several occasions. Adam Knight, the artistic director at Riverside Theatre, said Gogerty first started showcasing her work at Riverside, so this performance is a sort of return to home.

“Over the years, she’s become a nationally known writer and performer, performing all over the country,” Knight said. “It’s wonderful just to have her back.”

Gogerty’s thoughts on performing alone are mixed — she explicitly used the word “hate” to describe her feelings towards rehearsals, stating she detests performing for no one.

As much as she despises rehearsals, Gogerty she loves performing to an audience. Adding a second member of a play who gives feedback and real reactions makes the rehearsals more than worth it, according to Gogerty.

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Knight also attested to the unique nature of a solo play. He said Riverside Theatre typically excels at one-person performances, keeping the audience enthralled regardless of cast size.

“That’s something I think Riverside particularly does well, which is provide this kind of high-level acrobatics where one person can keep the audience around for the completion of the story,” Knight said. “That’s not an easy thing to do.”

As a stand-up comedian, as well as a playwright and actress, Gogerty said her work tends to have a common theme — taking painful topics and making them lighter.

“One of the things that I like comedy to be is an alchemy that turns pain into joy,” she said.

While comedy is a central theme in “Chipmunk’d,” it is not the only message Gogerty assumes attendees will take away.

The show balances a great deal of human conditions, all told from the perspective of a single person. From existential dread to sex and humanity, Gogerty said she did not shy away from anything when working on this piece.

“There are so many juicy surprises, and I think people are gonna go and dig it,” Gogerty said.

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