1st Annual Iowa Play Festival | Six Iowa Directors, Six Iowa Playwrights

The First Iowa Play Festival features directors Neil Cunningham, Alana Waksman, Savannah Quinn, Michael Rosner, David Patterson, and (not pictured) George Kelley. (Photo by Carolyn Waksman)

What do you get when you organize six playwrights, six directors, twenty or more actors, and a fantastic state-of-the-art stage with a mission to celebrate Iowa theater arts? According to multi-hatted talent and Iowa Play Festival producer David Patterson, you get a “a real miracle.”

David and his creative partner and wife, Savannah Quinn, are the founding forces behind the Iowa Play Festival opening this month at Fairfield’s Stephen Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts. From Thursday, July 8, through Sunday, July 12, the Festival will feature a half-dozen edgy and artful one-act plays written by Iowa playwrights.

This tale of merging and emerging art began a few years back when David and Savannah were living in L.A. and both were actively involved in the theater and film scene. When their son River was born, they knew it was time to get out of Los Angeles. As they began searching for a new home, they explored places from Hawaii to Oregon, but couldn’t find the right spot.

One day when David came home from work, Savannah blurted out, “Guess where we’re going to move?” She had read the Mother Earth News article “12 Great Places You Never Heard Of” (August 2006), and one of those great places was Fairfield, Iowa.

“She had done about two hours’ worth of research at the time and was certain—positive—this is where we needed to move,” David says. At the next opportunity, they were off for visit on a Fairfield-bound train. They were charmed as many are who get a taste of what Fairfield has to offer.

“One of the biggest selling points for me was the fact that a new theater was opening.” David says. “It was hard leaving L.A. behind when I felt I was just breaking ground as a writer. But I also knew that Iowa was a haven for writers, and Fairfield was exactly where we needed to live.”

Their family of three arrived in December of 2007, just in time for the inaugural run of Way Off Broadway’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum at the newly opened Sondheim Center in the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center. “It was exciting,” David recalls. “I was working at Small Planet restaurant at the time and all the New York actors were coming in and it felt alive. I couldn’t wait to become part of the experience.”

David got busy and wrote a few short films. They shot a children’s pilot called Fairyfield—a pilot inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Then they shot a small gangster-style short film called Contractual Obligation, a process David calls “fun and challenging,” but he “really missed the theater experience.”

When the community-based film Sister Patchouli came to town, David’s suspicions that Fairfield was full of actors proved right. After that, David wondered how to harness all this talent. “I wanted to bring the local acting community together,” David says, “and give Iowa writers a chance to showcase their talents.”

Last January he put the word out through websites and Iowa theaters requesting submissions of 10- to 20-minute one-act plays. David was looking to capture the mature, real-life voices he knew were out there. When he had a good collection of plays, over 40 submissions from all over Iowa, he went looking for directors.

“I was initially going to pick the plays myself,” says David. “But letting the directors choose for themselves created a unique show.” The directors read through the plays and picked the one they wanted to direct. Once the six directors had selected six plays, he knew he had a show. The writers are from all over Iowa: Robert Lynn of Dubuque, Jen Silverman of Iowa City, Lindsay Tornquist of Mt. Vernon, William Coleman of Des Moines, and David Patterson and Patricia Saunders of Fairfield. Some of the plays are comedies, some are tragedies, and all are fresh, stimulating, and homegrown right here in Iowa. From there, the actors came on to the scene and voilà—the first annual Iowa Play Fest was born.

Times, Dates and Tickets

The plays are geared for mature audiences. The show opens on Wednesday, July 8, 2009, with a $10 ticket Preview Night special. Regular ticket prices for the remaining shows are $19.50 general admission and $13.50 for students. All performances  begin at 7:30 p.m., except for Sunday, which is a 2 p.m. matinee. For further information, see www.iowaplayfestival.com. Tickets are available at the Sondheim Center box office: (641) 472-2787 or www.iowatix.com.

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