Iowa Central’s Theatre Department Guarantees Heart, Laughs And Music with their fall show—John Lennon & Me by Cherie Bennett

by Teresa Jackson
Posted on 8/23/2013


I have selected a fall play with an iconic title for Iowa Central’s fall production: John Lennon & Me, by an award-winning playwright—Cherie Bennett.  John Lennon & Me is a beautiful play which I have held onto for several years, waiting for a group of students to fit into the roles as I envision them. It’s such a moving show, unlike any I have directed, so I am quite excited about the process. The script calls for 7 men and 8 women but is expandable to 25 and even more. With the talent we always have at Iowa Central—of course, I plan to expand!This year, the returning and incoming talent aligns perfectly with this play. I can see many of our students in many of these roles, so auditions are always an exciting time for me. I also have so many creative ideas bouncing around my head with this script, and that’s always a good indication that I’ve made the right choice.

The play has been described as “heart-wrenching, touching, hilarious, and a bonafide tearjerker.” Others have described it as “deeply-moving, stellar, magnificent, moving, and remarkably well-written.” Here is how the play is described in the Dramatic Publishing catalogue which publishes this play:

The winner of many national awards, this uproarious play about life, death, power and first boyfriends was adapted by the author from her popular book, Good-bye, Best Friend (Harper Paperbacks, 1993). Hollywood-wannabe Star, the ultimate Beatles fan, has her path stymied by cystic fibrosis, an inherited disease that assures an early death. She spends most of her time in the hospital, where she confronts fate with imagination by surrounding herself with MTV-inspired bodyguard Flunkies and “morphing” her dreaded therapy nurse into a pro-wrestler. Then, Star gets a new roommate, Courtney, who is Star’s opposite—a pretty cheerleader and apparently not very sick. Neither girl knows much about the other’s world, but eventually they come to understand each other and, ultimately, themselves. This is a powerful play about living life to the fullest and a proven hit for school, adult and TYA theatres alike.

I absolutely love good playwriting, and that describes Cherie Bennett beautifully. I love her story and how gently and creatively she tells it. What seems like a somber subject matter is actually told with joy, flair and hope. I also love a script which incorporates music—because, let’s face it, music enhances everything—and allows directors a chance to choose appropriate songs to further the story line.  With the play’s title, of course, comes the first line of brainstorming—the iconic tunes of the Beatles! Amazingly enough, I was unaware that this year marks the 50th anniversary of that group’s formation, so the choice of our Iowa Central show this year feels destined to me.

I am excited to feature not only talented, individual performers in this show, but also the source of my greatest strength as a director—the Ensemble.  As an educator, I painstakingly search for scripts that can shine a spotlight on the strengths we have within the ensemble. The playwright’s idea of the “Flunkie” Ensemble affords me the chance to showcase the dancing strengths of Iowa Central and the vocal components of the show allow me to do the same with our strong vocal program. I also want to borrow a page from Jimmy Fallon…and play with some Beatles songs performed by a group of college students playing elementary school instruments. (I am hoping audiences will appreciate the creative nods…and not hold us to Fallon’s award-winning Roots performances!) So—as usual, I am trying to play to the strengths of our entire Performing Arts Department. 

I am equally excited to welcome our new Coordinator of Technical Theatre—a former student, Katie Wallin, who joins our team as a colleague. She will continue to work with our resident technical “Dream Team” with John Kastendieck, Jr. as set designer and master carpenter, Andy Anderson as our sound engineer, and Ashley Garst of Party Productions—and also former student—as our lighting designer. I would stack our stage pictures and amazing sets up against even the most professional of theatre performances throughout the state. I am honored to work with such committed professionals.

So—even though this is a play and not a musical which usually fills the Iowa Central Decker Auditorium, I can guarantee a very satisfying evening of theatre—with amazing music in the mix—so check out our production in October. This is a show which is not only appropriate for all age groups…but one which should be seen by all age groups.

The play opens with a 9:00 a.m. matinee on October 9 which will be presented for area schools and Friendship Haven at a discounted cost. Our run officially begins, then, on October 10 at 7:00 p.m. in Decker Auditorium and continues through the 11th and 12th. Tickets can be ordered online through the Iowa Central bookstore at iowacentral.edu\bookstore or at the Iowa Central Bookstore on our campus or by calling 515-574-1081. They may be purchased at the door as well. The show’s cost stays reasonable as a thank you to our community for its support—with ticket prices only $6 for adults and $3 for students. Iowa Central faculty, staff and students continue to attend for free.

I guarantee that we will make you smile…reflect…and remember.