The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Riverside Theatre presents stellar season lineup and educational programs

Riverside Theatre announced a diverse production lineup for the season of 2023-2024, as well as a new education initiative and playwriting workshop for young students.
Lillie Hawker
The outside of the Riverside Theater is seen during day three of the Mission Creek Festival in Iowa City on Saturday, April 9, 2022.

Riverside Theatre’s fall season will begin in October with “The Trip to Bountiful,” a play written in the 1950s by famous American playwright Horton Foote, best known for his screenplay for “To Kill a Mockingbird,” as well as his play “The Young Man From Atlanta,” for which he won a Pulitzer Prize in 1995.

The play tells the story of a spirited woman whose decision to revisit her hometown sparks a beautiful and comedic adventure across Texas — and through family memories.

“The Trip to Bountiful” will be followed by the first American production of “Brontë: The World Without” at Riverside in November. Written by Jordi Mand, this play recounts the lives of the brilliant Brontë sisters: Charlotte, Emily, and Anne.

The production will be directed by Juliana Frey-Méndez, who has previously directed Riverside’s “Fefu and Her Friends,” and will focus on defining moments that inspired the Brontë women to write the stories they are now famous for; titles including “Wuthering Heights,” “Jane Eyre,” and “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.”

Riverside’s spring season will kick off in January with “The Case for the Existence of God,” in which a conversation between two men inside a small Idaho office evolves into a discussion about complex life decisions in rural America.

“The Case for the Existence of God” was written by Samuel Hunter, an alumnus of the University of Iowa’s Playwright Workshop, playwright, and screenwriter of “The Whale,” which won multiple Academy Awards in 2023.

In February, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Katori Hall’s “The Mountaintop” will tribute civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a compelling examination of the night before his assassination.

Riverside’s exciting season ends in April with the world premiere of “Herein Lies the Truth.” Solo writer-performer and Master of Fine Arts candidate at the Iowa Nonfiction Writers’ Workshop Aaron Pang tells the autobiographical story of an accident that changed his life.

RELATED: Hancher releases breakdown of new season performances

The theater’s lineup is intended to showcase a variety of local and national talent that extends beyond smaller markets, according to Producing Artistic Director Adam Knight.

“It’s the kind of thing that you’d see in Chicago or New York City or Minneapolis,” Knight said. “And I think that’s a really important role that Riverside fills in our community, providing this kind of great, intimate theater for people who love theater.”

Riverside also encourages college students to take advantage of the theater with its new membership program, which includes early access to half-price tickets and concession discounts.

In addition to a stellar lineup and membership program, Riverside Theatre has established a new education initiative with the Any Given Child Iowa City grant, provided by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

This initiative will introduce Shakespeare’s works to first-graders with a drama-based pedagogical approach that will hopefully adapt Shakespeare for younger students so they can learn the material as well as older students and adults.

“We’re not necessarily doing anything new or exciting or different,” said Kathleen Johnson, Riverside’s education coordinator. “We’re just another set of helping hands in the classroom trying to aid the great work that the teachers are already doing.”

While elementary school students will be able to better understand the works of a legendary playwright, middle school students will be given the opportunity to become playwrights themselves.

Through the Riverside Playmaker Project, professional actors from the theater will perform ten-minute plays written by 30 fourth, fifth, and sixth graders in schools around the Iowa City area. Knight said that this program was inspired by the 52nd Street Project in New York City, which has provided children with free access to theater education since 1981.

“This season is looking at a very wide lens of human stories known and unknown, and I think highlighting those stories is an important role that we play as producers,” Knight said.

Riverside Theatre’s 2023-24 season will revolve around diversifying the stories told on stage and the encouragement of youthful talent and passion for theater arts.

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About the Contributor
Stella Shipman
Stella Shipman, Arts Editor
Stella Shipman is a junior undergraduate at the University of Iowa majoring in English and Creative Writing and minoring in Cinema. A former Arts Reporter, she loves reviewing shows and covering musical performances. She hopes to encourage more students to engage in the vibrant arts community of Iowa City. This is her second year working at The Daily Iowan.