Smile Politely

Staying in town? Consider Leaving Iowa

The Station Theater in Champaign will be presenting the play Leaving Iowa, directed by David Barkley, from June 16 to July 2. Written by Tim Clue and Spike Manton, the play centers around a middle aged man named Don Browning who decides to return to Iowa to bring his father’s ashes to his childhood home. When he finds that his grandma’s old house has now become a grocery store, the plot changes to now travelling across Iowa looking for a proper resting place for his father while reminiscing about family vacations of his youth.

Mace Mackiewicz talked to director David Barkley about the show and process of bringing it to Champaign. Producer Carolyn Kodes-Atkinson also gave another few insights.

SP: What made you choose this particular show?

Barkley: (pictured right, as Tolstoy in Discord
Four years ago I was visiting my Aunt Nan in Virginia Beach and she said she’d taken a theater class in script analysis. The play they analyzed was Leaving Iowa. She saw a production and loved it, so she gave me the script and said I might want to get it done here. I read it and submitted it for the summer season in 2013. It was not selected that year, but when the company was looking for a director this spring and I was asked if I had a show in mind I said yes I did, “remember Leaving Iowa?”, and bam, here we are.

I have read many excellent plays I’d love to see done, but this one really hit home for me. The family dynamics and the vacations of my childhood can certainly be glimpsed in this comedy.

SP: I know that potential directors usually submit scripts for production; is the usual process changing? What prompted the decision to flip-flop on this? 

Kodes-Atkinson: It just so happened that this year we had a spot to fill and thought David’s show would work perfectly, so he was asked to direct.  You’re right, though, we do have a process in place for scripts to be submitted and they are then voted on by a play selection committee.

SP: How would you describe the play to someone who hasn’t seen it before?

Barkley: I would describe Leaving Iowa as a light comedy about family vacations and the sometimes profound impact on children of the interests of and approval from their parents.

SP: Usually the Station’s website lists the cast before the production, is the cast list a surprise? 

Kodes-Atkinson: Chris Taber plays “Mom”. Chris has been in many shows at the Station [including] Good Boys and True, as well as shows at Parkland.  Krystal Moya plays “Sis”, and she was in Mine here at The Station. David Heckman who plays “Dad” has been a regular actor at not only The Station, but also at Parkland. Jeremiah Lowery who plays “Don” will be familiar to audiences from his roles in Around the World in 80 Days and The Nightingale Not About Nightingales.

The rest of the cast play roles called “Multiple Character Guy” and “Multiple Character Gal”, but you will just have to wait and see!!!! As “MCGuys”: John Tilford is a veteran Station actor who just this year retired from being the drama director at Unity High School. Michael “Murph” Murphy, the recently retired owner of Mike & Molly’s, has been seen in many productions, most recently Floyd Collins at The Station.

 (and I swear I caught him as Eddie in a ‘Rocky Horror’ performance at least once, but the internet has failed me — ed.)

For “MCGals”, Laura Anne Welle is one, AND our set designer and painter. Nancy Keener was last seen in Open House at the Station in the fall. Kyrsten Ostrum is our newest company member.

(And since there is little public info about Ms. Ostrum, I stole her fb photo, right. — ed.)

SP: What’s been your favorite part about rehearsals and the way the play has come together?

Barkley: My favorite part of the rehearsals process is the evolution of relationships as actors embrace their character and explore the possibilities of their characters situations.

SP: Does your experience with acting help you with directing?

Barkley: My experience as an actor gave me empathy with the actor’s challenges. I know the requests I make of my actors are nearly impossible sometimes. But that means they are possible and often the results exceed the expectations.

SP: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Barkley: I would like to say thank you to everyone who has worked on this project. Our timeline was compressed and all of the performers and staff have made adjustments and sacrifices in their schedules to make this come together. Their talents, commitments and steady efforts are appreciated greatly.


Leaving Iowa will be performed at the Station Theater from June 16 to July 2, with all shows beginning at 8 p.m. Tickets are available now and are $10 for Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday showings. For Friday and Saturday* showing tickets are $15 and they can be reserved on the Station Theater’s website or by calling the ticket office at (217) 384-4000. 

*this Saturday, June 18th, is a private performance for friends and supporters of the Station Theatre, and as such, cannot be reserved online. If Saturdays work best for you, please consider June 25th or July 2nd. 

(An earlier edition of this article incorrectly credited Jeremiah Lowry’s performance in ‘The Nightingale’ instead of ‘Not About Nightingales’ entirely due to editorial error. — ed)

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