Indian Hills Theatre: An Opportunity

Written by Stevie Wallace


Indian Hills Community College (IHCC) in Ottumwa, IA has a theater program that allows students an opportunity to try out, whether it's their first time performing or have never experienced theatre before. It's also an opportunity to find a family away from students' actual families. The theatre program at IHCC puts on two regular productions every year, one in the fall and the other in the spring, and also provides one night of a performance for student directed plays to be performed.

 

This year's fall production lasted for three days from Thursday, November 29th to Saturday, December 1st. The show that was put on was CLUE on Stage, which, as explained by director of the theatre program at IHCC, Jennifer Boyenga, is "a classic 'who done it' thriller based on the board game Clue." Boyenga also explained that the production lasted for eight weeks, as casting happened in September and production itself happened until the end of the show.


The set of CLUE on Stage.
The set of CLUE on Stage.

The show included many more newcomers to the theatre program than veterans. In fact, most of the newcomers took up the entirety of the main cast in the show. There were a total of nine newcomers.

The main cast of CLUE on Stage during the dinner table scene.
The main cast of CLUE on Stage during the dinner table scene.

One veteran student of the IHCC theatre program stated that CLUE on Stage was her fifth show. Hannah Haring is a third-year student, majoring in early childhood education, whose roles were a French maid, Auxiliary Scarlet, and the Singing Telegram. She has also previously casted in The Man Who Came to Dinner in fall of 2016, Legally Blonde in spring of 2017, Peter and the Starcatcher in fall of 2017, which she played the main role of Peter in, and The Taming of the Shrew in spring of 2018.

 

"It's been amazing," Haring says regarding her experience at the IHCC theatre program, "I love the people here, Jbo (Jennifer Boyenga) and Ray (Assistant director of IHCC theatre) are amazing. It's been the highlight of college."

The view of the house from the highest point of the set of CLUE on Stage.
The view of the house from the highest point of the set of CLUE on Stage.

 

Once the show reaches its end, the entire cast and crew of the show are required to help out with strike, which is teardown of the whole set and also requires cleanup of the green room, scene shop, and putting away costumes. This could take several hours to do, depending on how large the set actually is. But students are always relieved to see it done once it is. However, it is always a bittersweet moment to see the set go after it being there for so long.

The cast and crew of CLUE on Stage helps tear down the set.
The cast and crew of CLUE on Stage helps tear down the set.

Boyenga has been the director of theatre for seventeen years and is "still going." She also stated that comedies, dramas, and major musicals, and period pieces are the kinds of productions that are done at IHCC. She has Mama Mia planned for the spring, which the show will take place in April.

Author Stevie Wallace posed with director Jennifer Boyenga.
Author Stevie Wallace posed with director Jennifer Boyenga.

There are several traditions that happen at almost every show. One such is a "strange drama turkey" in which Boyenga explains "it's been on stage for at least seventeen years. We don't know where it came from before that. It's either on stage or most likely on stage somewhere. Sometimes it has to be hidden away. Sometimes it has been right behind the stage, but it's always on the stage. Theatre people are always superstitious."

 

Another tradition is called Cake on an Empty Stage. "At the end of every show, Cake on an Empty Stage is a ceremony we have when everything is put away, strike has happened, the set's all down, costumes are all put away, green room's clean, everything's back and ready for the next production." Boyenga says. "It's a tradition that we've had for, again, about seventeen years. At the end of everybody's final show, we have the signing of the wall. It's full of tears and happiness and joy as everybody gets a brick in the scene shop. It's their brick, they get to design and pick out and sign the wall on their final performance at Indian Hills."

Some of the signed bricks in the scene shop as part of tradition of Cake on an Empty Stage.
Some of the signed bricks in the scene shop as part of tradition of Cake on an Empty Stage.

Once the show is done, it's back to reality. But only for a time being. And when the final curtain is closed, only the good memories stick with IHCC students for a lifetime. And, of course, the life lessons that are given while in IHCC productions.

The main sign that was left as a memorable piece of the spring 2015 production of CHICAGO the Musical.
The main sign that was left as a memorable piece of the spring 2015 production of CHICAGO the Musical.